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Art Club poster from 2022.

Beginners Art Club. CANCELED

By Events

Beginners Art Club!

Unfortunately, this event is now CANCELED and will no longer be taking place.

Thursday 5th May – 2nd June.

10:30 am – 12 noon

Beginners art club classes cost £4 per class or £20 for 5 weeks.

Ever wanted to improve your art skills and do something fulfilling? If you are between 18 and 99+  please come and try our Beginners Art Club at The Devil’s Porridge Museum.

With the advice of art professional, Jack O’Hara you can draw hands, faces, landscapes, glasses, bottles, flowers- or bring a photo/picture that inspires!

Please phone The Devil’s Porridge Museum on 01461 700021 to book a space.

Unfortunately, this event is now CANCELED and will no longer be taking place.

Above: Jack O’Hara



The top of a newspaper from Saturday, November 23, 1963.

Doctor Who & the Newspaper From 1963.

By Collections blog

Today is the 58th anniversary of Doctor Who; the longest running Science Fiction TV show. To celebrate The Devil’s Porridge Museum’s Digital Marketing Apprentice, Desray has written this blog post.

Front Page of the Newspaper from 1963.

When helping the museum’s other SVQ students re-organize the museum’s collection, I was delighted to a copy of The Daily Telegraph newspaper dating from the 23rd November 1963.


‘Week-End Broadcasting’ section of the newspaper.

The headline of the newspaper (and much of its content) is quite rightly dominated by the shocking news of the assassination of 35th American President, John F. Kennedy the day before. This is a very impactful and significant event, but I instantly became distracted by a section on “Week-End Broadcasting Programs.” Under that day’s listing was none other than the first episode of Doctor Who.


It’s listed as:

“ 5.15. Dr. Who (play series) – “An Unearthly Child” part 1: William Hartnell, William Russell, Jacqueline Hill, Carole Ann Ford.”


This episode followed schoolteachers Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) whose concerns about their student, Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford) led to an adventure starting in a scrapyard, which neither of them was quite expecting. In fact, the schoolteachers would not find their way back to London for a couple of years to come (or 1965 to be more exact).

Cast of the An Uneathly Child on set and in character. From the left Jacqueline Hill, William Russell, William Hartnell and Carole Ann Ford. Source: Fair use,

The first incarnation of The Doctor was played by William Hartnell, who is also mentioned in the newspaper.


This first broadcast of Doctor Who program received relatively low viewing figures. Largely, this was due to the shock of the John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Power cuts in part of the UK are also likely to have influenced these viewing figures.


Fortunately (and very unusually for the time) the first episode of Doctor Who was repeated before the following episode, the next week. This secured much better viewing figures.


Sydney Newman was the initial creator for the sci-fi program and the Head of Drama at BBC Television at the time. He intended the program to be educational with information about science and history. Additionally, he wanted there to be “no bug-eyed monsters” like in other science fiction.


He also appointed the producer for Doctor Who, Verity Lambert. This meant she became the youngest (at the time) and the first female drama producer for BBC Television. Sydney Newman told Doctor Who Magazine in 1993, “I think the best thing I ever did on that was to find Verity Lambert.”


Veritiy Lambert on Doctor Who Set. Source: By BBC, Fair use,

She played big role in ensuring that arguably some of the TV program’s most iconic aliens appeared on the program and therefore securing its popularity.


Donald Wilson, the Head of Serials and Verity Lambert’s superior advised against the use of Terry Nation’s scripts which introduced the daleks. Sydney Newman also strongly disapproved of the daleks, which are likely to have fulfilled his idea of “bug-eyed monsters.”


However, Verity Lambert believed in the script, and it became the shows second serial. When the storyline aired it was very successful, so much so that another serial featuring the daleks was released the following year (‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’). The daleks were very popular, so much so that ‘Dalekmania’ ensued, and they continue to be one of the most well-known aspects of Doctor Who today.

A Dalek in front of the TARDIS from Doctor Who.

Verity Lambert stayed as the Doctor Who’s producer until 1965 when she moved on to produce other shows created by Sydney Newman for the BBC. She then went on to produce and work on many things in the entertainment industry, including the BBC series Jonathan Creek.


In 2002 she was even awarded an OBE for services to television and film production.


Sadly, she died in 2007, a short time before her 72nd birthday.

Delia Derbyshire. Source : This image was capped by Khaosworks (talk • contribs) from the documentary Doctor Who: Origins – This image was capped by Khaosworks (talk • contribs) from the documentary Doctor Who: Origins, Fair use,


Another person who had a huge impact on Doctor Who is pioneering Delia Derbyshire. Although the theme tune for the program was composed by Ron Grainer, it was realised and utterly transformed by Delia Derbyshire. In fact, Ron Grainer didn’t recognize it when she first played it to him.


The theme tune was created before computers and synthesizers were in wide use, which meant it was very time-consuming and precise work. She had to record individual sounds onto tape, adjust the pitch of each note separately and splice them all together to create the music at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The resulting theme tune was rather unique and unlike what had been heard before.


Although Ron Grainer tried to credit her as co-composer of the theme music, Delia Derbyshire was not credited on-screen until the shows 50th anniversary in 2013 (‘The Day of The Doctor’).


Sadly, she died in 2001. She has been awarded a posthumous honorary doctorate for her pioneering contributions to electronic music, by Coventry University in 2017.


Sources and further reading:


  13. Strevens, M. (Producer). (2013). An Adventure in Time and Space.
Ivy Herbert taking part in a CEMA organised concert in 1942

Ivy Herbert – Gretna’s Music Teacher

By Collections blog

Written and researched by Stuart Gibbs

In 1994 an article by P L Scowcroft highlighting the knowledge gap of British women composers was published on Music Web. On figure highlighted by the article was Ivy Herbert, a composer from the early to mid 20th century. At her height was a prolific composer and performer making numerous stage and radio appearance, she was secretary to the Surrey County Music Committee and had a close connection to the prominent composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. Despite this little was known about Herbert with almost no biographical detail. However, the key to unlocking the mystery was Ivy Herbert’s connection to HM Gretna and a brief reference in a Carlisle newspaper.

Early life in Newport and Studying at the Royal Academy

Ivy Herbert’s birth record christened in 1893 as Genevieve Natalie Estelle Herbert

Ivy Herbert was born on June 7th, 1893, in Newport, Wales, and christened as Genevieve Natalie Estelle Herbert. Her father Alfred was a ship’s engineer and Ivy spent her early years at 107 Duckpool Road. Music education was an important part of life in Newport, but Ivy also had natural talent inherited it seems from her mother’s side, Lilla Flint. The Flints of Northampton were rather musical and the Welsh branch of the family, were no different. Ivy however was something of a child prodigy with her proficiency on the keyboard earning her the nickname “Ivy”. In the 1901 census she is recorded as ‘Ivy GNE Herbert’ and she used the name ‘Ivy Herbert’ for the bulk of her career as a musician and composer.

Ivy Herbert picture taken from an article published in the Western Mail in 1928

The 1911 census records Ivy as a music student, and the January 1912 issue of Musical Times lists Ivy among the students that passed the Royal Academy of Music’s Metropolitan Exam held during December 1911. The Royal Academy of Music was founded in London in 1822, when Ivy attended in the late 1900s the institution had just moved to its present location on Marylebone Road. During her time there she specialised in Pianoforte and on June 27th, 1916, Ivy took part in a student’s concert at the Royal Academy her last it seems as a student. Within a few months Ivy was part of the war effort when she was employed as a music teacher at the massive cordite production centre at HM Gretna.


Acting as Music Tutor at HM Gretna and the Royal Academy

The Social and Recreation Committee at the Gretna factory was set up with the express purpose of providing activities for the workers and keeping them on site as much as possible. Among the social events organised by the Social Department was an Orchestral Society which was established to support the productions of the Choral and Operatic society. Ivy worked with the Orchestral Society holding classes in an upper floor room of the Gretna Institute which was often used as a classroom. Initially the orchestra was supplemented by professional musicians but as 1916 came to an end the need for outside help diminished and Ivy’s services were dispensed with in the early spring of 1917.

Gretna Institute where Ivy may have taught music during the later half of 1916 and the early months of 1917

A farewell concert was organised for her at the Border Hall on Saturday March 10th, 1917. Ivy performed some of her music and star turns by the “Three Macs” and the “Gretna Pierrots” helped ensure a large audience. On leaving Gretna, Ivy returned to London residing at 20 Alexander Street, Bayswater and took up a position as tutor at the Royal Academy. During the summer of 1918 Six Miniatures for Piano, Ivy’s first published work, was issued. It is highly likely that pieces from this collection were written or even performed at HM Gretna. More work followed with Six Short Pieces for Piano in 1919 Danse de Piano in 1920 and Two Short Pieces for Piano in 1921. Ivy’s academic career at the Royal Academy also progressed and by 31 she was professor of pianoforte and bestowed the title Associate of the Royal Academy.

Ivy Herbert Carlisle Journal account of her farewell concert at the Border Hall in March 1917

On the Concert Circuit and in Radio Broadcasts

As a result, Ivy was in constant demand on the concert circuit. In 1928 she appeared in Cardiff with the newly formed National Orchestra of Wales. Conducted by Warwick Braithwaite Ivy gave the standout performance, a rendition of Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov’s Piano Concerto in C Sharp Minor. Besides live performances she also featured regularly on radio in concerts and recitals. She even had a weekly educational broadcast for schools which went out on the Cardiff channel. A particular highlight was a broadcast on the World Service in 1937 performing a series of short recitals which went out on All India Radio.

An Orchestra practice at the Royal Academy of Music during 1922 Ivy was a tutor at the college at this time

The 1930 Post Office directory still lists Ivy as living at 20 Alexander Street, also at this address is a ‘Miss Potto’. This was Florence Potto born in 1884 at Weeping Cross, Staffordshire. The daughter of Arthur Potto, a Police Inspector, she was brought up in the village of Great Heywood and by the late 1920s she had left village life behind to settle in London. Florence worked as welfare organiser and may also have acted as an ad hoc private secretary to deal with Ivy’s burgeoning diary, which included organising live and radio appearances as well as private tuition. For the next four decades Florence would be ever present.

The Outbreak of War Relocating to Dorking and working with Vaughan Williams

Ivy Herbert taking part in a CEMA organised concert in 1942

With Florence’s retirement in the late 1930s the decision was made to relocate to the suburbs, taking up residence in Dorking at Westcott Street. Ivy was quickly involved in the local music scene acting as the honorary secretary for the Surrey County Music Committee. Formed in late 1941 the body was chaired by the eminent composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams. He was brought up in Wotton during the 1870s and 80s. Owing to his wife Adeline chronic arthritis, Vaughan Williams had returned to the area in 1929 taking up residence at ‘The White Gates’ in Dorking.


Ivy was also involved with the Council for the Encouragement of Music and Arts (CEMA). With the outbreak of a new conflict in 1939 the need to try and preserve cultural life was recognised with CEMA being established in January 1940. The body was chaired by the prominent economist John Maynard Keynes with the aim of ‘bringing art to the masses’ by organising arts events and concerts within the community. Ivy was involved in numerous CEMA events and even made a brief appearance in a promotional film for the body released in 1942. One CEMA organised event was held close to Ivy’s Westcott home at the Abinger Village Hall in May 1942. The event attracted a good turn out with Ralph Vaughan Williams amongst the audience. On January 31st, 1943, Ivy was back at Abinger Village Hall along with Margery Cullen, secretary of the Leith Hill Music Festival. They were performing a practice run of Vaughan William’s Fifth Symphony on two pianos while Vaughan Williams busily took notes. The Fifth Symphony had its first orchestral performance at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios on May 25th, 1943, and Ivy was among the invited guests attending the session.


In a raid over Bayswater on October 7th, 1940, several bombs landed on Newton Road, close to Ivy and Florence’s former home at Alexander Street but by 1943 the war increasingly moved to the suburbs. In January 1944 Westcott was bombed with four houses on the Watson Road destroyed, killing a total of nine people. Then on February 24th a Dornier was brought down on Parsonage Lane close to Fir Crest Cottage. Two of the crew managed to bail out and were arrested in nearby Wotton. As a result, Ivy Herbert and Florence Potto moved into Vaughan William’s residence ‘The White Gate’ staying in one a room set out for them. In the early spring of 1944 Dorking was hit by a new menace the V1. On June 19th, 1944, this crude version

of today’s drone landed on the Elm Cottage on Sandy Lane close to ‘The White Gates’, killing two women and a boy. A few days later a V1 landed on Ockley causing a local woman to later die from shock. On August 3rd, 1944, another V 1 came down in Abinger Common, close to where the Fifth Symphony was rehearsed, destroying a local church.


The Immediate Post War and Later Life

Ivy Herbert and Florence Potto remained at ‘The White Gates’ until 1946 when they relocated to 16 Church Street in Dorking. Ivy went back to composing, providing music to the words of Robert Bridges for The Linnet Song and A Window Bird Sat Mourning by Percy Bysshe Shelley. These were published in 1947. While researchers have failed to uncover Ivy Herbert’s background, Florence Potto, also tried to research her own family history with the same level of success. She told the press that, ‘she had searched in vain for years for other Pottos. It must be one of the most uncommon of English names’. This changed when a Douglas Chapman of Witham, discovered scratched on a window of his shop, ‘Jane Potto July 7, 1776’, and contacted the Daily Herald newspaper. In April 1954 Florence along with ten other members of the Potto ‘clan’ were invited to Witham to witness Mr Chapman’s example of 18th Century graffiti.


By the 1950s Ivy Herbert was less active on the concert circuit and her last recorded work was in 1949. CEMA became the Arts Council and with the new body and new chair -Maynard Keynes died in 1946 – many of the opportunities Ivy had previously received dried up. She returned to the Academy to sit an LARAM exam (Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music) and poured her energies into teaching. Ivy and Florence resided in Dorking for the next twenty years. Florence Potto died in the early months of 1969 while Ivy Herbert, remained at 16 Church Street until the mid 1970s. She spent her remaining years in Bromley where she died on November 4th, 1993, a few months after her 100th birthday; little notice was taken of her passing.


As with other art forms women composers have been excluded from general music history and their work is often missing from ‘the standard concert repertoire’. This process has been intrenched at academic level with the use of standardized references which emphasize the composers and genres considered most relevant and are not designed to be inclusive. But there is some good news for the would-be researcher, the apparent amnesia regarding women’s history is a contemporary phenomenon and what Ivy Herbert’s story shows us is that with the appropriate due diligence, these ‘lost histories’ can be readily recovered.


The Fire Brigade at HM Factory Gretna.

Online Talks 2021

By Events

Before the pandemic hit, the Devil’s Porridge Museum used to have a lively and varied programme of events and talks.  We’re now really pleased to be offering these online. We aim to have a talk once a month on a subject which links to local history or the themes of the Museum. All events are free.

Tickets now available for the following.






Nearly a decade! Fires and Firefighting at HM Factory Gretna

Monday 22nd November 2021

Book online on Eventbrite here:

Our presentation begins in October 1915 with the builders discussing fire insurance with HM Government and then we travel through to September 1925 with a large fire at Gretna just a few days after the brigade had been disbanded. Our journey will include looking at the men and women who fought fires, took part in competitions and ensured the safety of H M Factory, Gretna. We’ll see the vehicles, stations and uniforms used. Likewise details and photographs will show the diversity of incidents including travelling miles to assist local communities in areas where proper fire fighting apparatus and crews did not exist or were rudimentary. 

Gretna had different levels of fire teams ranging from the professional brigade through to the assistance offered by police officers, both male and female, military guards and officer workers. Within the factory area, all workers received basic training whilst others more in depth instruction. Some of these workers showed exceptional bravery and quite correctly were presented with awards and we’ll look at these. 

Unfortunately any explosive factory was a place of danger and accidents fatal and causing injury were common placeHowever that the workforce and residents in the purpose built townships and other accommodation also suffered from house fires and accidents including those caused on the railway and road. Ambulances based at fire stations attended to the injured, taking casualties to hospitals in Dumfries and Carlisle if the medical facilities within the factory could not cope. 

Lasting about 50 minutes, Nigel Crompton, MA’s presentation includes photographs, copies of maps and other documents relating to the fire brigade and fire fighting at HM Factory, Gretna. 

This event will be held via Zoom and a joining link will be sent on the day.

Record of marriage for Jules Michael Filament.

Black History Month: Dr Flament

By Collections blog

Black History Month is a month-long event that celebrates and commemorates the culture and achievements of Black Britons throughout history. It’s been marked in the UK for over thirty years, and seeks to somewhat address the historical neglect of the vast contributions of the African and Caribbean community to our nation. This blog contains historic use of outdated, offensive and discriminatory language.

The Devil’s Porridge Museum commemorates the munitions workers of HM Factory Gretna, and the wider contributions of munitions workers across the UK during World War One. Not surprisingly the traditional image we have of the munitions workers is that of “Tommy’s Sister”, a plucky working-class white girl who risked life and limb to make shells and bullets. Whilst the majority of munition girls were young, working-class white women, we also have evidence that women of colour also worked in munitions. Angela Woollacott quotes from the diary of Miss G. M. West, a woman police officer who was working at a cordite factory in Pembrey, Wales. Miss West writes that black women were amongst the workers at the factory.

This important aspect of the story of World War One in Britain is woefully unknown, and further research into the story of Black munitions workers is sorely needed. Whilst Miss G M West’s diary relates to a munitions factory in Wales, there were Black Briton’s connected with HM Factory Gretna. Workers at the factory came from near and far, with the majority coming from or living in nearby towns and villages like Dumfries and Carlisle.

Many of the reports in the local press about Gretna centered on worker’s tribunals, which were set up during the War to resolve complaints and issues facing employees in war industries. These issues usually revolved around alleged thefts, slacking at work, and/or having time off for illness. It was in reading one of these many reports in The Annandale Observer that we came across a mention of Doctor Flament, who had provided a medical certificate for a worker to say that he was suffering from influenza. The attitude of the representative of the firm is racist.

Photo taken of the Annandale Observer, January 1917

We were intrigued by Doctor Flament. How had he ended up practicing medicine in Carlisle during World War One? What was his experiences of being a Black doctor in this time and area? And where did he end up?

The search to answer these questions brought to light a very interesting man. The first clue to Doctor Flament’s life story, and his full name, was provided in the above article, which stated that he trained at the University of Edinburgh. A quick search of the UK’s medical registers, held by Ancestry, yielded immediate results. A Jules Michael Ralph Flament, who resided at 30 Spencer Street, Carlisle, was on the register in 1907. It stated that he’d graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1904, with a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery.

UK Medical Register of 1907, courtesy of Ancestry

During this time in Britain, Black medical professionals faced rife discrimination. In 1910, Harold Moody graduated top of his class with a degree in medicine. Despite this, he was denied work because of his race, and eventually established his own medical practice. During World War One, Doctor John Alcindor, who (like Flament) had graduated from the University of Edinburgh, was ‘rejected outright by the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1914 because of his ‘colonial origin’’

In 1901, Flament was living in Edinburgh, and going by his middle name, Ralph. He was a border in a house belonging to Ann Henderson, a widow living on her own means, and was a surgical student. In 1904, Flament married Leonora Murray in Edinburgh.

The marriage register of Doctor Flament and Leonora Murray

However, shortly after his marriage, he appears to have moved to Carlisle. In 1904, Doctor Flament appeared in the Maryport Advertiser. He dressed the wounds of a lady who had been the victim of an alleged attempted murder. The next year he was the victim of a crime–a man had obtained £1 from him by false pretences. This man, who was named Charles Wm. Seaton, had told Dr Flament that he represented an agency who wished to appoint a medical officer, but the appointee had to take out insurance. In the 1911 census, Doctor Flament is described as 32 years old, married and he was born in ‘The Port of Spain, Trinidad.’ He is also described as being a ‘British subject by birth and parentage.’ He is living with two domestic servants, Annie and Annabella Graham, both 19. His wife, Leonara, isn’t living with him.

In my search for Doctor Flament, I kept coming across oblique references to him being struck off by the British Medical Council, at the instigation of the Ministry of Munitions in 1919, and his name being reinstated in 1931. I couldn’t find out why he’d been struck off though, until I came across a record in the South African Medical Journal:

Doctor Flament was struck off for providing a woman with access to an abortion, decades before it was legal to do so in the UK. The fact that The Ministry of Munitions was a complainant could indicate that the woman to whom this medicine was given was a munitions worker.

I haven’t found any records for Doctor Flament during the 1920s, but it appears that he moved to Mexico. On 17th February 1931, Doctor Flament married Concepción González, and later that year they had a child, Maria. I haven’t been able to pin down what happened to his first wife, Leonora, so it’s possible that they divorced or Doctor Flament was a widower. Doctor Flament died in Mexico on 23rd January 1950. He left effects of £1749 3s 3d. He was working at Doctor Falcon’s Mental Institute at the time of his death.

Doctor Flament’s life and career is important to highlight, because he showcases that Black people are and have always been a crucial part of our collective cultural heritage. However, it is also clear that in the course of his life, Doctor Flament was subject to racism and discrimination. With Remembrance Day fast approaching, when we think of those who worked so hard during the global conflicts of the 20th century it is important to remember and commemorate the Black and Brown people who were soldiers, nurses, munitions workers and in any other job who contributed to the war effort.

Record from August 1913 of travel to Canada

Worker of the Week: Charlotte Marcella Forbes

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week volunteer Marilyn shares her research into Marcella Charlotte Forbes.

Marcella Charlotte Forbes was born in Malta in 1875 to John Forbes , Quartermaster major in the 1st Battallion 42nd Highlanders, Black Watch and Louisa Marcella nee Couch, daughter of a builder.

Marcella was the third of seven children born to John and Louisa between 1869 and 1886 and was named after her maternal grandmother Marcella Charloltte . Louisa was born in Madras , India which is where we can assume she met John, 14 years her senior. They married in Bengal on 4th February 1867 when Louisa was just 17 and John 36. John hailed from Moulin, Perth. Census return for 1861 give his early career as a bank clerk.

Their first child, Annie Emily was born in India in 1868 . They must have moved to Edinburgh within the year as Eleanor Maude Marcella Forbes arrived on 5th July 1869, her birth registration stating that she was born at Edinburgh Castle. This 19 year old young mother had 2 daughters. Contradictory information tells us that John enlisted in September 1873 , maybe he was in a different regiment or military position prior to that.

His posting took the family to Malta where Marcella Charlotte was born in 1875 followed by a fourth daughter Gertrude H in 1879.

On return from Malta, the 1881 census has the family living at Aldershot Barracks, John’s role is Quartermaster. By 22nd November 1882 they were in Edinburgh when Henry Maurice was born at 21 Scotland Street ( birth registration )

1884 saw the arrival of Gilbert Athole and finally in 1886 Beatrice Georgina Frederica was born, both at 18 Belle Vue Crescent, Edinburgh. Their father is shown as retired on both registrations. He possibly retired at 50.

The 1891 census return places the Forbes family at yet another Edinburgh residence- 69 Morningside Drive. John is 54, Louisa 40, Anne E 23, Eleanor 21, Marcella 16, Gertrude 12, Henry 9, Gilbert 7 and Beatrice 5. They also afford a young female servant. Anne and Eleanor are both listed as Pupil Governess.

It is unclear when John died but it must have been between the 1891 census and 1898 when Louisa is listed in the electoral register as the only eligible voter in yet another Edinburgh residence – 45 Merchiston Crescent.

We learn from ship’s passenger lists that Marcella travelled the world and was a teacher like her older sisters Annie and Eleanor. She sailed to Cape Town from Southampton on 13th October 1897, aged 24 on SS Goth as a teacher. Later evidence in electoral registers tells us that Gertrude also followed this calling and became a governess. There were female teaching agencies available for young ladies who wished to teach across the British overseas territories , evidenced in previous research into Alice Sherwen.

Marcella is back in Scotland in 1901 , both she and sister Eleanor listed as her companion are visiting 7 Melville Terrace Stirling at the time of the census.

Gertrude, 22, is listed at The Manse, Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire as a governess for an 8 year old child

Louisa moved again showing on the 1903-04 electoral register at 13 Forbes Rd, Edinburgh and the 1904-05 register at 1 Granville Terrace, showing both times as the tenant and occupier.

Marcella sailed again on 19th October 1905 , London to Bombay 1st class on SS Egypt. She was now 30.

In 1906, aged 24, Henry Maurice enlisted and his war service records show that he was in South Africa- Cape Colony, Transvaal and Orange Free State. The same record shows that he resigned his commission on 26th February 1908. He returned to his career in banking which he certainly was engaged in in 1938/39 at Castlebank , Craig Eric, Edinburgh ( Electoral register)

5th July 1913 finds Marcella sailing from Sydney to London on SS Commonwealth, a teacher aged 38. It is unclear when she sailed out to Sydney.

She stayed home a short while before sailing from Glasgow to Montreal on SS Hesperian, teacher on 1st August 1913.

Marcella took up war work at HM Factory Gretna some time between 1916 and 1918. Like many other female teachers from middle class backgrounds she became a Matron at Grace Darling House. She is listed on the valuation roll for 1918-19. She is also listed under staff addresses in the Dornock Farewell Magazine giving an address of 8 Hope Crescent, Edinburgh. The roles of welfare supervisors, matrons, WPS all appealed to women with similar backgrounds to Marcella. She would have been 43.

The only sister who did not follow a teaching career was Beatrice who sadly died in Birmingham on 12th May 1918 aged 32. Her probate lists her as a nurse of 8 Hope Crescent , the same address as Marcella. Probate granted to sister Anne Emily Forbes, teacher also of 8 Hope Crescent. The 1918-1919 electoral register for Edinburgh has Anne listed at 20 Laden Street.

The only sibling not yet accounted for is Gilbert who joined the Black Watch like his father ( Forces war records). We know that he became a clergyman – he is listed in January 1947 sailing from Southampton to New York aged 62, on the Queen Elizabeth. His address is 51 Bishop’s Gate London EC2. There is no evidence that any of the 7 siblings married.

Marcella appears on the electoral register for 1926 and subsequent years at 13 Forbes Road but her mother died at 8 Hope Crescent aged 82 in 1936.

Marcella died aged 72 on 5th June 1948 at 1, Elliott Road Edinburgh.

Perhaps she kept a diary of her travels.

Graduation photo of HM Lowe.

Worker of the Week: Harry Marchanton Lowe

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week volunteer Peter shares his research into his grandfather, Harry Marchanton Lowe.

Harry was born on 5th November 1890 in Manchester. His father, Francis, was a house painter who owned his own business and employed at least one man, and his mother, Elizabeth, worked as a teacher before her marriage. In June 1908, Harry began studying at Manchester Pupil Teacher College, following in the footsteps of his mother. He also made paint from raw ores; size and distemper  for his father’s painting business.

In October 1909 Harry started to attend Manchester University, where he studied Chemistry, Physics, Maths, and German. Sometime after June 1912, Harry resigned from the College. He began working at Ironhirst Peat Works at Mouswald, before moving to Chance & Hunt H.M. Factory, Site B., Oldbury, Worcestershire in December 1915.

H M Lowe and his address mentioned in the Dornock Farewell, one of the staff magazines at HM Factory Gretna.

In August 1917, Harry married Jessie. They would have three children–Mary, Jessie and Alexander. Mary was born at Dornock, which was where Harry was working at the time–at HM Factory Gretna. Harry was in charge of explosives production, and he and his family lived on Falkland Road in Eastriggs.

Peter has a great collection of family stories relating to his grandfather.

Family stories: 

    1. responsible for fire at St Pancras that destroyed much of station.
    2. recommended showers for all explosives workers before going off shift. However, there were vociferous complaints by the women against taking showers; they were afraid they would be spied on by the men and some felt it wasn’t natural to wash all over every day.
    3. recommended all explosive workers to be checked before starting to ensure no metal.
    4. recommended all explosive workers to wear garments without pockets.
    5. recommended all workers mixing chemicals wear a mask covering face and nose.
    6. A particular problem, he said, was that women would arrive with metal hairslides and hair pins in their hair and be very indignant when told to remove them.
    7. His daughter, Jessie, ‘remembered’ that he managed the stirring of the ‘devil’s porridge’.
    8. Invented or extended the “Noughts and Crosses” cipher, which although simple to use, is difficult to decode, especially when used in drawings.
    9. At Dorman Long, he worked on tar distillation and production of artificial fibres.
    10. He taught mechanics at a local WorkingMan’s institute.
    11. Devised lots of mathematical puzzles, including knight’s tours, crossnumber, and the puzzle now known as Sudoku (I think he called it NumberFit!).
    12. On his way to a conference, he stayed overnight at the County Hotel, Selkirk. He had a disturbed night because all night, a lady in a long white Victorian dress walked past the foot of his bed and out through the wall. He mentioned this to the hotelier the next morning, who begged him not to tell anyone and cancelled his bill. The current owner is a Norwegian. He hadn’t heard this story but he did say that other guests (before he took over) had seen ghosts.
    13. Claimed to be English Draughts Champion but name doesn’t appear in English Draughts Association’s list of champions, however I never saw him lose a game of draughts.
    14. I saw an article in Boys Own Paper (the 1898 volume) about how to make a bang. I tried it and there was no bang. I told my grandfather and he told me I was very lucky to be alive. He demonstrated how to make it safely and properly. He put some on a tree stump, threw a stone and nothing happened. He threw a very heavy hammer at it and there was a loud bang. It destroyed the hammer and split the stump. “That could have been your hand or head” he said.
    15. Was intensively competitive, especially at Scrabble
    16. Spoke and read German and went to conferences in Europe.
    17. Around 1935, on the road near Foyers, while dealing with a puncture, saw Loch Ness monster carrying off a lamb.

In 1946, Peter was elected as a fellow of the Institute of Chemistry, and in 1954 he retired. He passed away in St Albans in 1979.

A horse pulled wagon with Hegla Gill on doing suffrage work.

Worker of the Week: Helga Gill

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week Research Assistant Laura shares volunteer Peter’s research into Helga Gill.

We only found out about Helga’s connections with HM Factory Gretna in an obituary written after her sudden and untimely death in 1928. Published in The Woman’s Leader, a publication closely associated with the National Union of Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), it is mentioned:

“She [Helga] mothered and disciplined the girl workers in the great explosive works at Gretna, and steadied them in the darkened buildings under the purr of the Zeppelin overhead.”[1]

So how did this woman who seemed at first glance to have connections the women’s suffrage movement end up at working at HM Factory Gretna? One of our volunteers, Peter, was determined to find out!

Helga Gill was born in Bergan, Norway, in 1885. Her parents were Johan Klerk Gill and Karen Marie Ottilia Gill, and Helga grew up the oldest of six siblings. Having completed her education in Norway, Helga went on holiday to Britain, and it was there that she became acquainted with the Corbett family.

The Corbett family were a prominent political family then based in East Grinstead. Marie Corbett was a poor law guardian, suffragist and supporter of the Liberal party. Her husband, Charles, was a barrister and MP elected in 1906 for the Liberal party. Their daughters, Cicely and Margery, were both feminist activists.

Cicely Corbett Fisher. Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. (1913).

It was at a celebration party for Charles’ recent election to parliament in January 1906, that Helga first enters the historical picture. According to Mapping Women’s Suffrage, Helga appeared on a platform alongside the Corbett family.[2] However, it wasn’t until 1908 that Helga began to appear regularly in newspaper articles for her suffrage activism.

As a Norwegian woman, Helga had been able to vote in national elections in her own country provided she could establish that she made a minimum income or if she was married to a male voter from 1907. These requirements were abolished in 1913, when universal suffrage was established in Norway.[3]

Helga participated in the Worcester by-election in 1908, speaking to local audiences and putting pressure on candidates to declare whether or not they supported women’s suffrage.[4] She ‘made herself stiff’ chalking notices on to the pavement, and drove a ‘press cart’ that was stocked with copies of Votes for Women to be handed out upon the release of WSPU prisoners.[5] She began giving lectures, [6] and took part in local election activism in Chelmsford.[7] Mapping Women’s Suffrage states that by this point she was an NUWSS organiser, and regularly travelling the country to spread the suffrage word![8]

Helga pictured doing suffrage work

This hard work only continued in 1909 and beyond. In 1909 she was appointed organiser for Lancashire, as well as participating in by-election campaigns in Edinburgh, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Mid Derbyshire. She spent a month in Wales, and in the summer undertook a horse-drawn caravan campaign across the country with fellow NUWSS supporters.[9]

Like so many suffrage activists, Helga was dedicated to the cause, and spent the years before the outbreak of war in 1914 criss-crossing the country, giving talks and spreading the message. Her perspective as a Norwegian woman who, in her own country possessed the vote, was a valuable one and was often highlighted in promotional material.[10] By 1912 she was a paid employee of the NUWSS, as Organiser for Oxford, Berks, and Bucks. In that same year, she was sent on a tour of Ireland by the NUWSS.[11] Writing about her after her death, Helga’s colleagues gave a sense of her character:

‘Her pluck was marvellous. When the fishermen refused to listen she accepted their challenge and sailed one of their boats over a dangerous bar. She won the bet and addressed a sympathetic crowd, as the gleet lay at anchor, from one of the decks. “Women don’t know nothing,” came from a heckler. “Ask what you like,” was the quick retort, and the crowd cheered as she recited accurately the batting averages of different countries! We cherish the vision of Helga rebuffed by a ducal butler. The duke intervened, and as aplogy offered to show her round the priceless picture gallery. “No thanks, your graciousness, I haven’t time.”’[12]

Even the famous leader of the suffragists, Millicent Fawcett, noted ‘the delightful personality of the late Helga Gill.”[13]

But in 1914 war broke out, and the NUWSS pivoted to aiding the war effort. One of their war projects was the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service (SWH). Sprearheaded by pioneering doctor, Elsie Inglis, and funded by donations, the SWH was a groups of medical units staffed entirely by women. With bases established in France and Serbia during the war, the doctors, drivers, nurses and orderlies of the SWH cared for badly injured soldiers and were stationed close to the front line. They often demonstrated bravery in the most trying of cirmcumstances—many worked whilst under fire and some SWH members even died in the course of their duties.[14]

Helga pictured as part of her SWH unit.

It appears Helga was involved with the SWH from its inception. In December 1914, she left for France as part of the French Hospital Unit. Her role was described as a ‘dresser’. However, once at Royamount Abbey, where the hospital was based, Helga worked as an ambulance driver, transporting injured men from the front line to the hospital. This was a particularly dangerous job, and she was often ‘in danger of being killed by shells.”[15] During one particularly fraught drive, “Between the line and the hospital her back wheels were shot away, her driving wheel was splintered between her hands.’[16]

In addition to this, essential medical tools were in short supply. In 1915 Helga wrote a letter to an NUWSS branch ’ sending greetings to the meeting and appealing for help, “the men were dying like flies from preventable causes.”[17] Helga was awarded a number of medals for her service, British War Medal, British Victory Medal, Croix de Guerre, and Medaille des Epidemies.

The stress of working so close to the front and in such a high pressure job had adverse effects on Helga’s heart, and so she came to work at HM Factory Gretna. As she is described in her obiturary as ‘mothering’ and ‘disciplining the girls’, I suspect she was part of the Welfare Department at the factory.

The Welfare Department, although Helga isn’t pictured

As described by our volunteer Virginia in her excellent article on welfare[18]:

“Lady superintendents were a vital part in the operations of a munition factory. Behind the factory walls, lady superintendents were the hidden cornerstones of support for female munition workers during the demands of the First World War. In maintaining the health and wellbeing of her workers, lady superintendents enabled factory production to continue and the demands of War to be efficiently met. Therefore, lady superintendents should be regarded as protecting the progress of munition factories during the First World War, as much as guardians of welfare.”

After the war ended, Helga adopted a child and became heavily involved in the Women’s Institute. However, her health was permanently affected from her war time service. Her death was sudden and tragic. She passed away after a car accident in 1928, aged only 43.

[1] The Women’s Leader, 30th November 1928, p. 7.


[3] Blom, I., 1980. The struggle for women’s suffrage in Norway, 1885–1913. Scandinavian Journal of History, 5(1-4), pp.3-22.

[4] Women’s Franchise, 6th February 1908, p. 6.

[5] Women’s Franchise, 13th February 1908, p. 6.; Votes for Women, 24th September 1908, p. 4.

[6] Women’s Franchise, 17th December 1908, p. 6.; Women’s Franchise, 24th December 1908, p. 6.

[7] Women’s Franchise, 24th December 1908, p. 6.



[10] For example see: Lisburn Standard, 3rd February 1912, p. 4.

[11] Common Cause, 9th May 1912, p. 8.

[12] Common Cause, 30th November 1928, p. 7.

[13] Common Cause, 7 December 1928. P. 2.

[14] Crofton, E., 2012. The women of Royaumont. Edinburgh: John Donald.

[15] Newcastle Daily Chronicle, 27th November 1915, p. 4.

[16] The Women’s Leader, 30th November 1928, p. 7.

[17] Common Cause 19th February 1915., p. 11.

[18] Guardians of Welfare: The Role of Female Superintendents in Munition Factories and their Contribution to Female Workers during the First World War – Devils Porridge Museum

Photo advertising Arts and Crafts club at The Devil's Porridge Museum in 2021.

Arts and Craft Club at The Devil’s Porridge Museum.

By Events

Come and join us for some Arts and Craft fun at The Devil’s Porridge Museum.


This great free after school activity is on Wenesdays from 15:45-16:45.

There will be a diffrent arts and craft activity each week to be enjoyed.

For ages 5-12.


To book your place or enquire for further information please contact

Poster for Games club at The Devil's Porridge Museum in 2021.

Games Club at The Devil’s Porridge Museum.

By Events

Come along for some traditional and modern games at The Devil’s Porridge Museum. Perfect for after school!


The Devil’s Porridge games club runs on Thursday after school from 15:45-16:45.

We have board games, card games and more! Your child is also welcome to bring along any games they enjoy and want to play with others!

For ages 7-16.


Book your free place on eventbrite here:

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