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The Miles Tae Dundee

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

The Miles Tae Dundee was a landmark exhibition exploring the history of immigration to the city, held at the McManus Galleries. Originally conceived in 1988, it involved a two-year research and community engagement project, which included interviews with 50 local residents about their experiences.

The exhibition was the centerpiece of the Dundee City Festival in summer 1990. Taking its title from the popular folk song, The Road and the Miles Tae Dundee, it focused on nine major ethnic groups, each of which became the focus for a week of activities tying into the exhibition – Chinese, Jewish, Ukrainian, Scottish, South American, Polish, Italian, Indian and Irish.

The text in the exhibition was translated into Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Urdu and Hakka Chinese, as were accompanying leaflets and posters. The show was launched with a spectacular Chinese lion dance and further events included demonstrations of Chinese cookery and calligraphy, and Bharatanatyam and Kathak dance. By the end of its run it had attracted a remarkable 23,000 visitors.

One of the lasting legacies of the exhibition was a book written by museum staff Janice Murray and David Stockdale. It traces the history of immigration to Dundee and tells some of the stories told in the exhibition. Staff at the McManus have kindly allowed us to reproduce relevant extracts from the book here as a pdf for you to download. As well as a more general history, it captures the stories of Mohammed Syed and Vali Sacranie in Dundee.

Mohammed Syed

Born in Sarishabari, then East Pakistan, a place known for its jute production, Mohammed came to Dundee in 1968 in order to gain a Diploma at the Dundee College of Technology (now Abertay University). Once qualified his intention was to return home to work in the jute industry. However, due to the Bangladesh War of Independence and the unrest there, Mohammed stayed and made Dundee his home.

Vali Sacranie

Born in 1937 in Malawi, Vali Sacranie’s family was originally from Kathiawar in north-west India. Choosing to study Law, Vali moved to London and enrolled in college. He stayed 10 years before making the move to Dundee in 1969 to join the Okhai company, which would go on to take over Keiller’s. Over the next decade Vali, his wife, and children found themselves living between Malawi and Dundee. In 1984 they made the decision to settle permanently in Dundee.

The Miles Tae Dundee
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Front cover of the book - The Miles Tae Dundee

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