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Robert Aitken Mudie Esquire

Robert A. Mudie combined two businesses as a coal merchant and shipowner in the forefront of steam navigation, not only around Britain but as far as the Arctic Circle. When a councillor he turned down the chance to be Provost.

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Personal details and history

Full name

Robert Aitken Mudie

Date of birth


Place of birth




Marital status


Name of spouse

Elizabeth Mudie 24-12-1839[4]


James (1840),[5] Francis (1843),[6][2] Robert (1847),[7] Patrick Spence (1848)[8] and Jane Ann (c.1854).[1]

Home address

32 Constitution Road, Dundee, c.1844-1847.[9]
8 Wellington Street, Dundee, c.1850-1851.[10][2]
3 Somerville Place, Dundee, c.1853-1870.[11][12]
Seabourne House, Broughty Ferry, c.1871-1885.[13][3]

Age at death:

Place of death:

Seabourne, Broughty Ferry[14]

Date of death:



Western Cemetery Compartment 2, 93a,b.[15]

Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers

Religious affiliation

Willison Free Church, Barrack Street, where he was an elder for upwards of forty years and superintendent of the Sunday School for about 25 years.[16]

Political affiliation


Clubs / societies

He was a member of the Guildry.[16] Committee, Dundee Mutual Marine Insurance Association, c.1853-1865.[17] Director, Freight Assurance Association, c.1853-1854. [18] Committee of management, Tay Ferries (for Dundee Town Council), c.1858-1862.[19] Director, Public Baths (West Protection Wall), c.1858-1859.[20] Director, Dundee Sea Insurance Co., c.1864-1865.[21] Commissioner, Dundee Shipping and Dundee Shipping Freight Insurance Associations, c.1867-1872.[22] Director, Dundee Industrial Schools Society, c.1867-1868.[23] Committee, Dundee Bible Society (Auxiliary to the National Bible Society of Scotland), c.1869-1885.[24] Harbour Trustee (for shipowners), c.1871-1875.[25] Director, Chamber of Commerce, c.1871-1872.[26] Commissioner, Union Steamship Mutual Insurance Association of Dundee, c.1874-1877.[27] Director, Union Iron Steamship Mutual Insurance Association of Dundee, c.1878-1885.[28] Director, Dundee, Perth & London Shipping Co., c.1875-1885.[16][29]

Public offices

He was a member of the Town Council for three years from 1856-1859.[16] He was approached with a view to his elevation to the Provostship but he declined.[16] He was a Justice of the Peace for Forfarshire c.1881-1885.[30] Committee, Dundee District of Forfarshire Prison Board, c.1858-1859.[20]

Related subscribers

Subscriber no.52 – James Carmichael & Co. – Mudie was a former engineer at the Ward Foundry.

Career and worklife


Coal Merchant and Ship Owner[31]



Place of work

Yard in East Dock Street, Dundee.[23]

Work address

Ward Foundry, Dundee, c.1844-1847.[9][16]
32 Castle Street, Dundee, c.1850.[10]
8 Butcher Row, Dundee, c.1853-1865.[12]
8 & 10 East Dock Street, Dundee, c.1867-1872.[22]
26 & 28 East Dock Street, Dundee, c.1874-1885.[32]

Career to date:

Robert A. Mudie first appeared in the local directory at the Ward Foundry, Dundee, the engineering firm run by James Carmichael.[33][16] He is described as an engineer and ironfounder at the same time as he is recorded as the owner of the schooners Vine and Violet.[34] For a short time he worked with Thomas Nicholson, 32 Castle Street,[16] insurance agent and treasurer of the Dundee & Newtyle Railway.[10] In 1850 he is decribed as a ship agent and also a coal merchant and dealer, having abandoned his engineering career.[10] He soon went into business on his own account as a coal merchant.[16] Several of the country carriers had their Dundee departures from Mudie's yard at 8 Butcher Row and presumably were involved in distributing his coal.[35] Over the next few years he built up his ownership of vessels, old and new: Vine, schooner, built 1841 (1846-1847); Violet, schooner, built 1843 (1846-1854); Elizabeth, schooner, built 1847 (1850-1865); Jean & Jessie, schooner, built 1799 (1850-1857); Ulva, brigantine, built 1829 (1850-1854); Cairngorm, schooner, built 1847 (1853-1865); Fruiterer, schooner, built 1826 (1853-1854); Lady Panmure, schooner, built 1839 (1853-1854); Fair Maid, schooner, built 1833 (1856-1868); Lion, schooner, built 1821 (1856-1859); Mary Read, brigantine, built 1835 (1858-1859); Tay, schooner, built 1825 (1858-1859); Lady of the Lake, schooner, built 1859 (1861-1870); Violet, schooner, built 1857 (1861-1870); Danube, brigantine, built 1860 (1864-1868) and Mary Wighton, schooner, built 1859 (1864-1872).[36] About 1867 Mudie made his first move into steam with the Vesper, steamship, built 1866 (1867-1872).[36] There followed: Curfew, steamship, built 1867 (1869-1872); Viking, steamship, built 1869 (1869-1870); Maormer, steamship built 1870 (1871-1872) and Thane, schooner, built 1871 (1871-1872).[36]

More information

Robert Aitken Mudie was the first to employ a steam collier on the east coast. His steamer, the Vesper, was built by the Dundee shipbuilders Gourlay Brothers & Co. in 1866 and ran between Dundee and the Tyne. Another of his steamers, the Viking, also built by Gourlays in 1869,  ran between Dundee and Archangel.[16][37] Mudie’s and Gourlays’ offices were right next door to one another in East Dock Street and it is likely that the men had known each other for many years.[23] In the late 1860s Robert took his sons into the business to become Robert A. Mudie & Sons. James Mudie and Robert Mudie junior appear to have been the sons involved, carrying on the business after their father’s death.[38] Patrick Spence Mudie went into partnership with Samuel S. Boase in Boase & Mudie, jute and flax tow spinners and power loom linen manufacturers, Bank Mill, Blackness Road/Milnbank Road, Dundee.[26] The early 1870s saw most of the family move to Seabourne House, Broughty Ferry,[39] although James moved to a separate house there, Rowanbank.[39] By the middle of the decade Robert Mudie junior had moved out to 3 Prospect Place, Broughty Ferry,[40] but Patrick Spence Mudie carried on living at Seabourne House beyond the death of his father.[41]

After 1872 R.A. Mudie & Sons did not appear in the directories as owners of particular ships, although some of them appeared under James Mudie’s name. The business was still described as steamship owners, but by 1884 the coal merchant description had been dropped.[42] Mudie had retired from active involvement in the firm leaving it to sons, James and Robert, to carry on the business.[16] Having served on Dundee Town Council and Police Commission in the 1850s[43] Robert Aitken Mudie turned down the chance to be on the Broughty Ferry Police Commission in 1875 when he was nominated and elected, but declined acceptance.[44]

Inspired probably by his early career at the Ward Foundry, Mudie played a leading part in the commissioning of a statue of his former employer, the famous Dundee engineer James Carmichael, erected outside the Albert Institute to mark the centenary of his birth in 1876.[16]

Robert Aitken Mudie died on 5 January 1885 leaving an estate valued at £61,239 0s. 7d.[45] He left a widow, four sons[16] and a daughter,[45] married to a Dr. Grant.[16] Dr. Grant it was who attended Mudie at his final illness.[16] Mudie’s son, James, was by this time chief magistrate of Broughty Ferry.[16] His second son, Frank, minister of the High Street Free Church, Arbroath, died the following year.[46]


  1. 1861 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282/1 ED19 p.1. Ancestry website.
  2. 1851 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282 ED54 p.1. Ancestry website.
  3. 1881 Census Scotland. Monifieth. 310 ED6 p.13. Ancestry website.
  4. Old Parish Record. Dundee. Marriage. 24 December 1839. 282/220 400. ScotlandsPeople website.
  5. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Baptism. 28 October 1840. 282/180 343. ScotlandsPeople website.
  6. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Baptism. 1 January 1843. 282/190 120. ScotlandsPeople website.
  7. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Baptism. 24 January 1847. 282/190 283. ScotlandsPeople website.
  8. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Baptism. 4 November 1848. 282/190 391. ScotlandsPeople website.
  9. Dundee Directories, 1844-1847. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  10. Dundee Directory, 1850. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  11. Dundee Directories, 1853-1870. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  12. Dundee Directories, 1853-1865. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  13. Dundee Directories, 1871-1885. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  14. Statutory Record. Monifieth. Death. 5 January 1885. 310/00 005. ScotlandsPeople website.
  15. Index to lair holders, Western Cemetery. Compartment 2, 93 a,b. 4 March 1869. Friends of Dundee City Archives website.
  16. Dundee Advertiser, Tuesday, 6 January 1885. British Newspaper Archive website.
  17. Dundee Directories, 1853-1865. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  18. Dundee Directory, 1853-54. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  19. Dundee Directories, 1858-1862. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  20. Dundee Directory, 1858-59. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  21. Dundee Directory, 1864-65. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  22. Dundee Directories, 1867-1872. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  23. Dundee Directory, 1867-68, p.173. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  24. Dundee Directories, 1869-1885. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  25. Dundee Directories, 1871-1875. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  26. Dundee Directory, 1871-72. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  27. Dundee Directories, 1874-1877. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  28. Dundee Directories, 1878-1885. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  29. Dundee Weekly News, 16 July 1881. British Newspaper Archive website.
  30. Dundee Courier, Thursday, 1 September 1881. British Newspaper Archive website.
  31. Dundee Directories, 1853-1881. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  32. Dundee Directories, 1874-1885. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  33. Dundee Directory, 1844-45. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  34. Dundee Directory, 1846-47. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  35. Dundee Directories, 1856-1862. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  36. Dundee Directories, 1846-1872. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  37. Scottish Built Ships, The History of Shipbuilding in Scotland. Caledonian Maritime Research Trust website.
  38. Dundee Directories, 1869-1886. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  39. Dundee Directory, 1871-72. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  40. Dundee Directory, 1878-79. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  41. Dundee Directory, 1885-86. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  42. Dundee Directories, 1874-1886. Local Studies, Dundee Central Library.
  43. Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser, 11 November 1856. British Newspaper Archive website.
  44. Dundee Courier, 12 March 1875. British Newspaper Archive website.
  45. Calendar of Confirmations, 1885. Local & Family History, A.K. Bell Library, Perth.
  46. Dundee Courier, 6 October 1886. British Newspaper Archive website.

The information above about Robert Aitken Mudie has been collated from a range of digital and hard copy sources. To the best of our knowledge it is correct but if you are relying on any information from our website for the purpose of your own research we would advise you to follow up the sources to your own satisfaction. If you are aware of an inaccuracy in our text please do not hesitate to notify us through our Contact page.