Fish-seller Mag Gow was an infamous drunken Dundee woman, who appeared in court on over 200 occasions over the course of 30 years.

Dundee Courier 26 July 1861. Mag Gow’s 99th court appearance.

Dundee Courier 18 Sept 1861. Margaret Gow, residing in Fish Street, convicted of disorderly conduct. Admonished.

Dundee Courier 20 Sept 1861. Mag’s second appearance in court in 3 days. Described as having spoken “courteously” to the court. – sentenced to 21 days in prison.

Dundee Courier 22 April 1862. The “incorrigible” Margaret Gow’s 140th conviction. This time she gets 40 days in prison for disorderly conduct.

Dundee Courier 28 April 1862. The Courier apologises to Mag Gow for reporting that she had 140 convictions when, in fact, she had only 104. The Courier did not intend to “injure the reputation of one of the softer sex” and apologises to “the wounded feelings of Mr James Gow and his truly estimable daughter.”

Dundee Courier 10 July 1862. Margaret Gow in court for having been drunk in the Overgate. Sentence – 5 shilling fine or 5 days in prison.

Dundee Courier 11 Jan 1866. Margaret Gow’s 145th appearance in court. Bailie Hay complains that Gow is injuring the character of the community by increasing the percentage of crime in the town.

Dundee Courier 10 May 1866. Margaret Gow had been found “lying insensibly drunk in Overgate” and had to be “hurled to the Police Office in a barrow.” Sentence – 5 shillings or 7 days in prison.

Her 200th court appearance was reported in the Glasgow Herald 20 May 1870. She was charged with being drunk and disorderly and was “adorned with a black eye” She was sentenced to 2 days in prison, just long enough for her to sober up. The judge, who obviously knew her well, remarked “Nobody is so inoffensive as Margaret Gow when sober; but when you get drunk you lose your senses.”

A letter to the editor of the Dundee Courier 12 Aug 1879, attacked the Liquor trade for supplying Mag Gow (described as “a public character” and “a poor creature”) with drink, when every publican in Dundee knew of her problems. The writer pointed out the heavy cost to the ratepayer for dealing with her, compared to the few shillings profit gained by the publicans. At the time of writing, Mag Gow was in the Dundee Lunatic Asylum.

There is a Margaret Gow, fish cadger, aged 48, in the Dundee Asylum in the 1881 census, which must be her. If the age is right, her problem with alcohol started in her teens.

Another woman, Mary Ann Stewart, appeared in court for the 139th time on 3rd Sept 1894. (Dundee Courier and Argos, 4 Sept 1894, p2) The report on Stewart describes her as being second only to Mag Gow for number of appearances.