Dundee Harbour Porters Philanthropic Society

Scope and Content

Petition by the Dundee Harbour Porters Philanthropic Society to the Harbour Commission of Dundee, requesting an increase in 'Plank money' to compensate for the increased work caused by changes in trade since the extension of dock accommodation, 1873.

Administrative / Biographical History

Dundee was undoubtedly an important trading port and royal burgh within Scotland from the 13th century onwards. The burgh received various privileges from the Crown to bolster its status and to ensure that revenues were secured. On 10 July 1447, for example, King James II (1437-1460) granted letters patent to Dundee Town Council permitting them to collect shore dues on goods coming into the port. The Town Council also undertook repairs and regulated use of the harbour. By the early 19th century, the harbour's state of disrepair brought calls for action.

Under the Dundee Harbour Act 1815 (55 Geo. III, ch.cxcvii) the Dundee Harbour Commission was established. The Town Council had proposed to establish a Harbour Commission itself in order to improve the harbour but the planned improvements were opposed by the town's merchants. Consequently, an independent Commission was established with the arrangement that control of the harbour would return to the Council in 21 years' time. In 1815 King William dock was built by the Commission. However more improvements were required and the Commission was criticised. Under the Dundee Harbour Act 1830 (11 Geo. IV & 1 Will. IV, ch.cxix) the Harbour Commission was replaced by Dundee Harbour Trust which was to take responsibility for the harbour in perpetuity. The trustees (21 in number) were a mix of councillors, guildry and incorporated trades' representatives and others. Further improvements included the completion of the Earl Grey dock (1834), Camperdown dock (1865), Victoria dock (1875), and Fish dock (1900). A variety of other improvements were effected by the trustees during their period of responsibility. The linen and jute trade were principal users of the harbour.

The Dundee Harbour and Tay Ferries Consolidation Act 1911 (1 & 2 Geo. V, ch.lxxx) brought significant changes in the constitution of the Trust. Town councillors and incorporated trades' representatives were now joined by county councillors and representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, shipowners, harbour ratepayers and others, the trustees now numbering 32. In the 20th century there were changes in typical users of the harbour, and some of the docks were filled in and wharves were used to cater for short-sea and coasting shipping.

Dundee Harbour Trust was replaced by Dundee Port Authority in 1975 after the Dundee Harbour Order Confirmation Act 1975 (ch.xvii) and the Dundee Port Authority Order Confirmation Act 1975 (ch.xviii). The Authority would comprise 10 or 11 members, including local councillors, trades' union representatives, a local Chamber of Commerce representative, and some others. It was succeeded by the Port of Dundee Ltd (company no. 155442), which was constituted following the Dundee Port Authority Transfer Scheme 1995 Confirmation Order 1995 (S.I. 1995/3023). Forth Ports plc (the former Forth Ports Authority, privatised in 1992) acquired Port of Dundee Ltd in 1995.

Access Information

Open for consultation subject to preservation requirements. Access must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act and any other appropriate legislation.

Acquisition Information

The petition was deposited by Dr R. Anderson, Department of General Practice, University of Dundee, in 1980.


Compiled by Jenny Cutts, Scottish Archive Network project and modified by Caroline Brown, Dundee University Archives, September 2003.

Other Finding Aids

Descriptive list available at Dundee University Archives. Subject source lists and databases are also available.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction is available subject to preservation requirements. Charges are made for this service, and copyright and other restrictions may apply.


J H Thompson and G G Ritchie, Dundee Harbour Trust Centenary 1830-1930 (Dundee, 1930)

Geographical Names