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  • Writer's pictureGreg Stewart

The White Lady of Coffin Mill

A building in Dundee bears the nickname 'Coffin Mill', not because of any connection with the construction of coffins, but because to fit in with the surrounding streets, the building ended up resembling the shape of a coffin.

The Coffin Mill is in fact the Logie Works, a textile mill built in 1828 before being extended several times to form the unusual shape. It is one of the biggest jute mills built in Dundee. Jute production brought great wealth to the city which was enjoyed by the mill owners and senior employees, while people flocked to the city looking for employment drove the workers wages down. Working in a mill was hard, manual labour, predominantly carried out by women. Rather unusually, this changed the traditional roles earning Dundee the nickname 'She Town' due to the women going to work while the men staying at home looking after the house and children were known as the 'kettle bilers'.

The work also carried great risks and, with little attention given to health and safety, horrific injuries were not uncommon which is where the tale of the Coffin Mill haunting originates. It is said that in the first week of September, 1875, one of the young women working in the mill got her hair caught in the loom and was dragged in and crushed to death. Another version of the story is that she was so badly injured she ran in agony from her work station and fell from an iron bridge linking the buildings while a completely different version does not mention the injury, but that she fell pregnant and was told by her employer to lose the baby or lose her job and in despair she jumped to her death from the bridge. Perhaps the variations in the story reflects the lack of value that was placed on the employees although it is likely it has been mixed with a similar story of an employee being dragged to her death at the nearby Verdant Works.

Since the incident it was reported that her phantom figure could be seen crossing the iron bridge during the first week of September, the anniversary of her death. Many tales of sightings circulated around the city over the years, earning her the title of the 'White Lady', and a newspaper report published on 5th September,1945, titled 'Ghost Walks Bridge', tells of the mass hysteria that eventually struck regarding the story. The article tells that hundreds of people had gathered the previous night trying to catch a glimpse of the White Lady make her lonely walk. Eventually, the crowd became so large the police attended and were successful in persuading most to go home.

Later that evening word spread that the ghost had been seen resulting in many people returning to the scene. The police had the street lamps lit to try to disperse the crowd, but this resulted in them simply moving to a darker area. As the crowd became impatient at the lack of activity, they began to throw bottles and stones at the building to try to entice the ghost to come out! Left with no other option, one of the police officers entered the mill, accompanied by the night watchman, and they walked through every part of the building shining light from every window, to assure the crowd there was no ghost.

While the people may have left disappointed that night, stories of sightings of the White Lady continue, and with the mill now converted into residential apartments it is entirely possible there is activity within which is not discussed openly by the residents.

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