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Peter Priggins’ nightmare before Christmsas

This picture was taken a few years after Peter's troubles and shows Dundee High Street in 1900.
This picture was taken a few years after Peter's troubles and shows Dundee High Street in 1900.

The demons of Dundee’s nights tormented poor Peter Priggins throughout 1862 and finally drove him to delirium on Christmas Eve.

Peter was an upright man who prized his peace and quiet but had the misfortune to live in the city centre.

His studied late each evening but come bedtime his horrors began. That was when “shebeens yawn and cheeping houses give up their drunks”.

In exasperation Peter (I suspect that was a pseudonym) wrote to The Courier. “The drunken brutes who have left those dens of iniquity howl out as they are rolling home to their bestial lairs.”

One night he went out to remonstrate with the crowd and encountered a hundreds of drunks watching a prostitute fight with a customer.

Shocked Peter wrote: “The prostitute was gesticulating in the most unpleasant manner in the face of the man whom she characterised by the foulest of names…and horrid oaths in the uttermost pitch of her harsh voice.”

That year Peter settled into a quiet Christmas Eve but around 11pm he was to witnesses public order come close to breaking point.

Worshippers streaming into a Catholic chapel were flanked by young locals engaged in “unseemly conversation” and unleashing “unearthly yells and shouts of vulgar” popular tunes.

As the organ struck, Peter noted: “They were crowing like cocks, mewing likes cats, bawling out aspirations that they were in the land of the bobbies (police custody). From 11pm till 1am this unseemly medley of sounds continued without the slightest attempt on the part of the police to put a stop to them.”

An indignant Peter asked: “Is it necessary that a peaceable citizen shall doff his worm slippers, leave his comfortable fireside and sally out into the streets to find a guardian of the peace and urge him to do his duty?

“I went to bed and, overpowered with feelings of indignation I fell asleep and had a nightmare in the form of a thousand drunk men, each of women threatened to annihilate me.”

 

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