Janet Keiller

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Janet Keiller

19th Century

Jute, Jam and Journalism – Dundee is renowned for these three pillars of business. As far as the jam goes, we can thank Janet Keiller and her husband, John, who ran a cake and sweetie shop in the city. One day, faced with a consignment of unwanted bitter oranges sold to John by an opportunist Spanish shipmaster who knew a good con when he saw it, Janet boiled them up to make the first chip marmalade. This new product was a great success and took its place beside the cakes and confections.

In 1797, when she and John were both sixty years old, Janet set up in business with her son, James, trading initially as ‘James Keiller’ and changing to ‘James Keiller & Son’ in 1804.

When the menfolk died, she and her daughter-in-law Margaret successfully ran the business. In 1850, Margaret organised a move to the shop at the corner of Castle Street, where you can see Janet’s plaque. A factory nearby ensured a good supply of jams and marmalades and the big Keiller factory in Albert Square, which opened in 1870, remained there until 1972.

Image of jam-making pans in Keiller’s factory. Copyright Dundee Local Studies Library