Inverbervie Probus Club

Allan Duncan gave an enlightening talk about the Grey Lodge Settlement in Dundee at the monthly meeting of May 6.

Grey Lodge, formerly known as the Dundee Social Union, was established in 1888 by Professors Alfred Ewing, Thomas Carnelley, Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson and Steggall of University College; all were actively involved in local research into social problems. It is based in Hilltown, Dundee and modelled on Toynbee Hall in London.

The charity works with all age groups across the community with the aim of improving education and welfare. Mary Lily Walker, born in 1863, became one of its first and most enthusiastic members when, as a young woman, she became conscious of the appalling living conditions of the poor in the city and was the first to gather evidence on housing and the health of women working in Dundee’s jute factories.

At this time infant mortality in the city was 50% for under one year olds and only one in five children lived to the age of three. To improve this situation she set up pioneering restaurants across Dundee at which mothers who agreed to stay off work and breastfeed their babies could get free meals.

Mary was well educated and her academic achievements were outstanding, and although she was offered a senior position in a new settlement in England she chose to stay and carry out her work in her native Dundee and became the first woman councillor of the city.

Todays Gray Lodge has developed partnerships with similar organisations in various parts of the world. With some 600 people of all ages passing through the centre each week it is very busy for the dozen or so staff and 60 volunteers as they provide a diverse activity programme from crèches, dancing clubs and self-defence clubs 7 days a week. Grey Lodge needs to raise a quarter of a million pounds annually.

In 2013 Grey Lodge was honoured by a visit from Prince Charles for the centenary of Mary Lily’s death.