Twinned Towns: Dundee and Alexandria, Virginia

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IN 1962, Dundee was twinned with Alexandria, Virginia - two cities, that despite being half the world away from each other, have remarkable similarities in population and heritage.

After many communities were torn apart and left devastated by World War II, legal and social links - or twinning agreements - were drawn up between towns, cities and sometimes even countries.

South East area of Dundee taken from the Law

South East area of Dundee taken from the Law

It was hoped that by sharing in their cultures, they could help promote peace, and encourage trade and tourism.

The ties between Dundee in Scotland and Alexandria in Virgina, USA, go back as far as the 17th century and remain today.

In fact, the land which now forms the city of Alexandria was actually bought by a Scotsman, John Alexander, in 1669.

It was purchased by Alexander from an English captain for “six thousand pounds of tobacco and cask”.

Alexandria has been a successful twinning. We’re building it up and creating more school and college exchanges

Alastair Scott, chairman of the Dundee Alexandria Twinning Association

The port of Alexandria was created after three Scottish settlers, William Ramsay, John Carlyle and John Pagan, sailed up from Dumfries, Virginia, in search of a better trading location.

After petitioning the House of Burgesses to create a town to accommodate the port, the town of Alexandria was created in May 1749 when Governor Gooch signed a bill, forming the town.

In 2014, the City of Alexandria had an estimated population of 150,575, with a relatively high standard of living.

Due to its location only six miles from downtown Washington, D.C., the suburbs are generally of high income, filled with high-end boutiques, fine restaurants, antique shops, historic buildings and theatres.

But in a time when many councils are petitioning for an untwining of their town to save money, Dundee is actively promoting and celebrating this connection.

Chairman of the Dundee Alexandria Twinning Association (Data), Alastair Scott, thinks for young people, maintaining and actively promoting this partnership is essential.

“Alexandria has been a successful twinning. We’re building it up and creating more school and college exchanges,” he said.

“There has been some medical research in the past - but our main connection is the links in education, with Universities like Nova College and Virginia Tech.

“It’s allowed a lot of Dundee students to get a feel for the American way of life.

“It’s a very supportive community. We are very active in the Alexandria twinning - there’s been a lot of back and forward with sports teams, in music - choirs and a band have gone over.”

{ READ MORE: Find out where Glasgow is twinned with}

Data also have events within Dundee, to raise the profile of the group.

“We celebrate Independence Day on July fourth and have a hotdog stand and a band and raise money to send kids across to America - which is obviously very expensive.

“We have a big Thanksgiving dinner every year in the Dundee college, and this year we’re having an emancipation day, to celebrate the end of slavery in America in April 16 1865, where we’re trying to have a dinner for it.”

But this isn’t just a one sided thing - while the exchanges take place both ways, with American students coming over to experience life in Dundee as well, the town of Alexandria is very vocal in its Scottish heritage.

“In Alexandria they have a Scots weekend, where a whole lot of Scots - not just from around the county but also the state - and march through the streets of Alexandria. And the Sister Cities committee is one of the main flag bearers in that parade. It’s well thought of.”
“We are enthusiastic supporters of twinning in Dundee because of the positive way it fosters relationships and encourages collaborative projects,” said Lord Provost Bob Duncan on the association site.

“It’s been almost 70 years since we were first twinned with Orléans and we actively encourage people to visit our twin cities to this day.

“Dundee prides itself on being a cultural city and twinning reinforces that. It is promoted in our schools and we help to arrange exchange trips for pupils.

“It is always a pleasure to welcome visitors from our twin cities and I extend an open invitation for them to discover Dundee.”