'Ring O' Roses' – Dundee, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

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'Ring O' Roses'

Each section of this public work of art represents one of the city's guilds.  


Nestled on the northern bank of Scotland’s longest river, The River Tay, is the country’s fourth-largest city, Dundee. During its heyday of the Victorian Era, it was known for its three J’s - Journalism, Jute, (a glossy fiber), and Jam (orange marmalade to be more exact). Today, it is home to world-class museums, several universities, and an impressive collection of over 600 works of public art.

One such piece is titled, “Ring O’ Rose” by J Keith Donnelly, a University of Dundee graduate. The piece resides outdoors, high on a wall facing the A991/East Marketgait. It’s a large metal disc divided into nine sections that represent both the city’s industrial beginnings and troubled past. Each individual section is meant to illustrate one of the Nine Trades or city guilds. They are symbolized by a hand holding a heart,( representing a rose petal) depicting a particular guild. This is in reference to the nursery rhyme, Ring Around the Rosie.

The aforementioned song is an allegory to the plague that devastated the city in the 1640s. The Wishart Arch, located nearby, was a defense barrier both for invading armies and a way to quarantine the infected. The Nine Trades, which was founded in the 15th century and is still active today, was instrumental in seeing that those affected were given both aid and comfort.

The Nine Trades included: bakers, bonnet makers, cordiners(shoemakers), fleshers (butchers) glovers, hammermen(metal workers) tailors, waulkers (dyers), and weavers. The 500-plus members continue their charitable work, raising and donating money to local causes that promote the success and achievements of Dundee.

“Ring O’ Rose” was installed in 1996 at a cost of £12,000.00, about $14,00.00 in today’s money. It was commissioned by the Dundee Public Art Programme and funded by Scottish Enterprise Tayside, Dundee District Council, and Tayside Regional Council.

Know Before You Go

There is a pedestrian walkway, that will allow one to view the artwork, free from automobile traffic.

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July 6, 2022

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