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A Family of Volunteers

By June 2nd, 2020No Comments

At the Devil’s Porridge Museum we often like to think of our staff and volunteers as one big family. But in some cases the family bond is more than a shared passion for our local history, it really is a family connection. 

As part of our DPM podcast series our youngest volunteer Maddison interviewed her grandmother Eleanor about growing up in Gretna and today they have written a blog for the museum about their experiences as volunteers. 

Eleanor Oslwad (Grandmother and Volunteer)

When I retired 10 years ago, I lived on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border. I was a volunteer for the Lancashire Constabulary monitoring CCT tv cameras and out on the road doing speed checks. Interesting work but very time consuming. Moving to the Back of the Hill 7 years ago I thought time to relax and find out what this retirement is all about. That was short lived when a knock on the door one Sunday afternoon changed all that. Richard Brodie stood there wanting a little word. How did I feel about helping at the Devils Porridge it would only be one afternoon a week! So, Stephen and I agreed we would come and see what it was all about. We agreed to do a Tuesday afternoon, which was fine for a couple of weeks, then it was can you do a Sunday afternoon occasionally (like for 6 years).

It was good to see the museum moving to Stansfield, but it was a bit of a culture shock, those Tuesdays turned into almost full time it was so busy. It was great welcoming so many visitors. Meeting people, who like me had moved away from Gretna and had either moved back or were visiting. As they say you can take the girl out of Gretna, but you can’t take Gretna out of the girl.

As my Father and his parents were born at Graitney, long before there was a factory there, I was brought up with a good knowledge of the place. My dad always used to say all these incomers they know nowt of the old place. My own memories of Gretna were the huts, the police barracks, the school, where I was born. The neighbours , no paid child minders in those days, just lots of adopted aunt and uncles, who would clip your ear if they caught  you doing anything wrong, fed you if you were hungry and comforted you if you were upset. So, it’s good to pass on the knowledge of the area, help people find friends relations. Being part of the history is a privilege.

It’s good to see young people becoming interested in local history and wanting to part of the team.

Sheila and I also run the Cordite Club which we set up with Sheila Ruddick for the older folk in the community. It’s great meeting up with them every fortnight. It’s very rewarding when you hear them laughing and chatting.

It will be a while before the museum will reopen as we need to keep volunteers and visitors safe, but I look forward to new challenges and events to keep local history alive.


Maddison Wallace (Granddaughter and Volunteer)


My name is Maddison Wallace I am 10.5 years old and the youngest volunteer at the Devils Porridge.

I first came to The Porridge with my Granny when I was 5 years old, she had to do a shift and had nobody to look after me, for the first few times I sat colouring but soon got bored. Sheila Ruddick gave me the job of folding napkins and making sure the leaflets were all neat and tidy. I helped on the tombola when we had events.

I soon learned to do other jobs like setting out the dining room tables, checking all the machines were working and tidying up the dressing up clothes. I have learned how to welcome people when they come in the door and have even stepped onto the coaches to welcome visitors and introduced Mr Brodie ( who I think is the oldest Volunteer) to give a short talk. I enjoy showing children around.

 My school challenged pupils to host an assembly, so I talked my grandparents to do it with me. We did a presentation to 60 children which went down very well and lots of them have since visit the museum. My next challenge is to do the talk to year 6 and some of the teachers to get them to organise a trip to the museum.

I love helping and learning new skills.


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