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Farr pupils debate Dundas legacy


By Caroline McMorran

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History students at Farr High School are examining the impact the 18th century politician Henry Dundas had on the slave trade.

The pupils are taking part along with other schools in the UK and Canada, in a project run by Edinburgh based educational charity Parallel Histories, which promotes a new way to study conflict.

History teacher Emma Cooper and one of her students stand behind pupils Donovan Easthope and Zhade Mackay. All three students are taking part in the Dundan project.
History teacher Emma Cooper and one of her students stand behind pupils Donovan Easthope and Zhade Mackay. All three students are taking part in the Dundan project.

While focusing on Dundas, it aims to encourage wider debate about statues and street names and the role of history.

The controversial peer is commemorated by the Melville Monument in Edinburgh, which was vandalised during a Black Lives Matter protest last June. A plaque is now going to be added to it paying tribute to African slaves.

Farr pupils are being asked to consider whether Dundas helped or hindered the end of the slave trade.

The school’s history teacher Emma Cooper said: “The students know about the debate around the Duke of Sutherland’s statue above Golspie and the controversy around the signage on the Melville Memorial is very meaningful to them.

“This is a project which helps make history come alive and they are so keen. I am so pleased at how well they are navigating Hansard, digging through newspapers and asking me questions I never thought I would hear like: ‘Miss, do you have a copy of Dundas’ personal diary? I think it might be useful.’”

After researching Dundas, the students will write two arguments – one for help and one for hinder – and assemble the evidence to support each case.

Ms Cooper said: “We will then have the opportunity to debate the question with other schools taking part in the project."

Students will be surveyed to ascertain whether their attitudes to Dundas and statues had changed as a result of the project.

"I think we will all be interested in the results," said Ms Cooper.

Michael Davies of Parallel Lives said: “Farr High School only has a roll of 71, so it’s a real credit to them that they are up for this challenge on top of everything else at the moment, including the need to be both masked and socially distanced.”


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