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Welfare Department at H.M. Factory Gretna.

Worker of the Week: Mabel Cotterell

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 Noakes writes up volunteer Stuart’s research into Mabel Cotterell

Mabel (or Maybel) was born on August 5th 1872 in Walsall, in the midlands. She was the second youngest of a large family of seven children. In the 1881 census the family are living in Somerset. Mabel’s father, George, is working as a solicitor, and the family have a domestic servant named Sarah.

By 1891 Mabel was living with her widowed mother Matilda at Priory Mansions, South Kensington. Her older sister Constance, a literary critic for the Academy magazine, had published her first novel, Strange Gods, in 1889 and was in the process of writing her second, Tempe. Mabel appeared in the 1891 census as a school mistress and boarding with her at Priory Mansions was a Swiss language teacher, Adele Glatz. A 1925 shipping manifest records that Mabel had skills in both German and French, and in the 1911 census she is recorded as living at 106 Beauford Street in Chelsea and teaching at a private school. Constance was also listed as living at this address.

Mabel was appointed by the Ministry of Munitions for the purpose of setting up the Welfare Department at Gretna. She took up her post during February 1916. Besides her regular duties which included administrating and filing records for the female workers  she was involved in organising social and sporting events. ‘Miss Cotterell’ appears in many reports of sports events and galas.

© IWM WWC D8-5-373

In the January 5th edition of the British Journal of Nursing, Mabel is highlighted as:

Miss Cotterell has an army of assistants, clerks, matrons and factory supervisors, and as many as 200 new workers arrive in one day. Inevitably the difficulties of administration are not unknown, but, we read, difficulties seem to vanish under Miss Cotterell’s experienced touch.

Above photo and this one are from IWM’s First World War Portraits (Women’s War Work) Collection. Catalogue number: WWC D8-5-373

In June 1918, Mabel was awarded an OBE in recognition of her war work.

Mabel pictured with her fellow welfare workers in the Mossband Farewell, a magazine put together by HM Factory Gretna workers at the end of the war.

After the war she returned to London living at 20 Downside Crescent N.W.3. It’s likely that Mabel was a supporter of women’s suffrage as she wrote semi-regularly for The Vote, the organ of the Women’s Freedom League, The Common Cause, another suffrage periodical, and The Church League for Women’s Suffrage. Interestingly, the articles Mabel wrote was on a subject related to Gretna–the State Management Scheme. The State Management Scheme began during the war, when the Government took over breweries and pubs in the Gretna and Carlisle area and controlled the sale of alcohol. Mabel was evidently impressed with it, writing “that Carlisle has shown there is a new solution to our problem [of overdrinking].’

In another article, Mabel further expanded on the problems that necessitated the scheme:

In Carlisle, where thousands of navvies had been drafted for the building of townships and factories at Gretna, the regulations and restrictions had quite broken down. Police supervision was utterly inadequate. The crowded public houses, the drunken scenes in the street, the evasion of all control by the publicans eager to reap this golden harvest.

This appears to be the cause to which Mabel dedicated her life to. In several papers she is referred to as the “Secretary to the Women’s National Committee for State Purchase and Control of the Liquor Trade.’

She wrote to local papers on other issues as well. In one letter to the editor of the Westminster Gazette, she criticised experiments on animals, arguing “how can we claim to be gallant defenders of the weak and oppressed so long and we disgrace our humanity with this barbarous practice.” She also acted as the English translator of ‘Hymns to the Night’, a collection of poems written by German poet Novalis,

On January 2nd 1925 she left London aboard the steamer Cardinganshire for Los Angeles arriving on January 25th. Mabel retuned to the US in 1926 visiting New York and in 1939 traveled to the Dutch East Indies. In her later years she lived in Gloucestershire and died on May 20th 1968 at New Nursing Home Cairncross Rad Stroud. 

Miss F. Catnach.

Miss F Catnach: from Devil’s Porridge to chocolate factory

By Collections blog

The Miracle Workers Research Project began in 2021, with research volunteers striving to find out more about the 30,000 people who worked at HM Factory Gretna in World War One. In the months since, many fascinating and previously unknown histories have been uncovered. Today, volunteer Cathy writes about her research into Miss F Catnach.

Miss F Catnach was Chief Supervisor at the Mossband site of HM Gretna Munitions Factory.

We are lucky to have a photo of her from the Mossband Farewell magazine, and to have a piece of her own writing. Miss Catnach quotes from Hilaire Belloc – ‘that there is nothing in life worth the winning but “laughter and the love of friends”’. This was where the research began, with her home address provided in the magazine of 33 Grosvenor Place, Newcastle-on-Tyne. This address was key to revealing her first name (Florence) and very much more about her family and later life.

Address entry for Miss Catnach, Mossband Farewell Magazine

Miss Catnach, the second child of seven children

Florence’s father, who was born in Gateshead, was the secretary of the Northern Counties Building Society. They lived in the Jesmond area of Newcastle and Charles was a pillar of Newcastle society. In 1915, the Newcastle Daily Journal features an article about him as a ‘Notability of the North,’ referring to his enthusiasm and ability in his role as Chairman of the Committee of the Royal Victoria School for the Blind, his membership of the Building Society’s Executive in London, and as a prominent trustee of the Jesmond Wesleyan Church.

Florence’s father, Charles Burney Catnach: The Newcastle Daily Journal, 1915

Florence’s mother, Elizabeth Jane Catnach (nee Mackay) was born in Newcastle.  Florence was the second child of their seven children. She had an older sister Annie, three younger sisters; Margaret, Gertrude and Agnes, and then two younger brothers; Thomas Burney and Charles Burney. So the two boys were the ‘babies’ of the family.

The tragedies and triumphs of the Catnach family


Florence’s older sister, Annie Halligey, was widowed by 1907 at the age of 30, with a young child just under two years of age. In the 1911 census, Annie and her five-year old daughter Dora Elizabeth are living in the Catnach family home.

Florence’s younger brother, second lieutenant Thomas Burney Catnach, trained with the 26th (Tyneside Irish) Bn., Northumberland Fusiliers.

Florence’s brother, Thomas Burney Catnach at a training camp with the Northumberland Fusiliers: Jan Sanderson, Great War Forum.

Tragically, he “died of wounds” on 19 April 1917 age 23 and is buried in France. In April 1917, the 26th (Tyneside Irish) Bn. was engaged in the First Battle of the Scarpe, around Arras, Feuchy and Monchy le Preux, which is likely to be where Thomas received his fatal wounds. Florence would have suffered this bereavement while working at Mossband.


In Memory Of

Second Lieutenant


26th (Tyneside Irish) Bn., Northumberland Fusiliers who died on 19 April 1917 Age 23

Son of Charles Burney Catnach and Elizabeth Jane, his wife, of 33, Grosvenor Place, Newcastle-on-Tyne. Native of



Remembered with Honour


XVII. B. 6.

Florence’s brother’s Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate:


Florence’s younger sister Agnes Catnach BA, who was described on entry to Holloway College, University of London as having “a rather silly manner – giggles – but not a bad sort” forged a highly distinguished career as a headmistress, was president of the Headmistresses Association, was sent by the British Council to Australia for eight months, was appointed by the Minister of Education to the Burnham Committee and the Nursing Council, awarded the CBE in 1952, and there is a lovely photograph of her in the National Portrait Gallery collection.

Agnes Catnach CBE, Florence’s sister: National Portrait Gallery

Agnes came to be described as “a leading British educationist.”

In 1915, Florence’s mother helped with an initiative of the Free Church League for Women’s Suffrage, donating funds to equip and maintain hospital units in France and Serbia. These pioneering hospital units were organised by the Scottish Women’s Hospitals; two units in France and two in Serbia, being fully equipped and entirely managed by women.

A cause that Florence’s mother donated towards: detail from the Report of Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Home and Foreign Service. Imperial War Museum, Department of Printed Books: Women’s Work Collection. Ref: BRCS 24.6/3

Florence’s work at Devil’s Porridge

The Central Offices, Mossband, where Florence would have worked

As Chief Supervisor at the Mossband site, Florence’s work is well documented in the Factory Manual. At the time that the manual was written, welfare work was newly recognised and seen as an ‘elastic term.’ The unique situation at the munitions factory was that, having been built in the countryside, thousands of girls would have to be brought in from all parts of the country, and would need to be housed in purpose-built townships, resulting in a duty of care for both the factory hours and also their home lives.

The supervision of girl workers would fall to “educated, trained women” in a Women’s Department at Gretna, for the role of attending to all of the details of the care of women operatives. This was seen as an important business section of the factory, being in constant touch with factory officials, the Wages Offices, the Employment Exchange, the Catering Department and also the Town Management.

Florence’s role fell within the factory supervision section of the Welfare Department, which had a Chief Assistant and then a Chief Supervisor for each of the Dornock and Mossband sites. As Chief Supervisor at Mossband, Florence was responsible for 30 shift supervisors, matrons and sub-storekeepers: a 3-shift system operated (7am-4pm, 3pm-11pm, 10pm-8am), with each shift engaging as many as 500-600 girls. The factory had up to 11,000 women operatives. Florence would be in close touch with her colleague, the Chief Supervisor at Dornock, which had a smaller arrangement than Mossband, consisting of 19 rather than 30 shift supervisors.

Florence needed to be in constant touch with her 30 shift supervisors and the work of the compounds, receiving daily reports about the numbers of girls on shifts, the number of absentees, the number of sick girls, girls admitted to and leaving the factory, changes of address, and requisitions for danger clothing and cleaning materials. In turn, Florence would send in a weekly report to the Chief Assistant, highlighting any matters needing attention. Monthly statements were issued about the issue of factory clothing and cleaning materials. It was the shift supervisors who had direct contact with the working girls, expected to have “an intimate knowledge of every girl under her control and should be regarded by the girls as their counsellor and friend.”

Florence’s work therefore sat between the personal welfare of the girls via her shift supervisors and the practical logistics of staffing and equipping the smooth running of the factory at the Mossband site. This was a responsible position for a young lady in her mid-thirties. Socialising between girls and management staff was encouraged through shift dances, concerts, plays and football: meetings said to be on “a very friendly footing.”

To the chocolate factory

Florence lived in Birmingham for at least 17 years between 1922 and 1939. Most of that time she was living in Bournville at St George’s Court, which provided homes for single professional women in Bournville.

Florence’s home St George’s Court, Bournville, built 1923, providing residential flats for single professional women: photo credit Bournville Village Trust

Bournville was created by George Cadbury as part of the Garden City Movement to relieve overcrowding and poor living conditions in Birmingham, becoming a model village and remaining so to this day. There are interesting similarities with the design of the townships for the Munitions Factory and the involvement of the Garden City architect Raymond Unwin and the lesser-known Garden City pioneer Courtney Crickmer as resident architect at Gretna; perhaps the community feel of Bournville felt very familiar to Florence after her intense experience at Mossband?

Florence was working at Cadbury’s chocolate factory, with records revealing her work as a Food Factory Official, Welfare Superintendent and, by 1939 (when Florence was 57), Personnel Manager, girls office, chocolate manufacturing. While at Cadburys, Florence was secretary of the Birmingham Branch of the Institute of Industrial Welfare Workers, which later became the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Florence sailed from Liverpool to New York on 17 April 1928 on the White Star line Celtic ship, returning over a month later from Montreal, Quebec to Liverpool on 22 May 1928 on the White Star line Laurentic ship. Her travelling companion was Phyllis Bruce Muscott, who also worked at Cadburys. It’s not known whether this was a trip for business or pleasure, although Phyllis repeated the same journey ten years later.

White Star Line Celtic ship: Wikimedia commons Florence sets sail from Liverpool to New York, April 1928. (In December of 1928, the Celtic hit rocks off the coast of Ireland during a gale and ran aground. All passengers were saved, but the liner was scrapped).

Celebrations and fun

At Cadbury’s huge 1931 centenary celebrations, attended by nearly 20,000 people, Florence and Phyllis (her companion on her visit to the USA and Canada) won a prize in a fancy-dress competition of over 300 entries, which formed a procession of lantern-carriers nearly half a mile long – “a magnificent spectacle”: the two were dressed up as Minnehaha and Hiawatha (perhaps inspired by their trip together across the Atlantic?). The impressive scale of these celebrations can be found in this short, silent Pathe News film here.

Cadbury’s 1931 centenary celebrations:

The 1939 record of Florence living at St George’s Court reveals that, on the eve of World War II, she was volunteering for the Auxiliary Fire Service.

Later years in Eastbourne

Florence’s sister Agnes addresses the National Council of Women about her experiences in Australia. From L to R: sister Gertrude, Agnes, Florence and the chairman, Mrs Binks. Eastbourne Gazette, 1957

Florence was the first of the Catnach sisters to move to Eastbourne, where her sister Agnes sometimes visited and gave talks about her life experiences, particularly her trip to Australia. At that time, Florence was a member of the Eastbourne Branch of the National Council of Women and was involved in fund-raising activities.

All three remaining spinster sisters (Florence, Gertrude and Agnes) spent their latter years in Eastbourne, and died there in the 1970s. Florence lived to the grand age of 87 (as did Agnes).

A Catnach family tree

A family tree spanning six generations has been compiled, rooted firmly in Newcastle-Gateshead and spreading more recently to the Peterborough, St Albans and London areas through the surnames of Catnach, Luke, Davidson and Dacre.

Interestingly, the ‘Burney Catnach’ twinning of names has perpetuated in male descendants through four generations until at least the 1960s, reflecting the maiden name of Florence’s grandmother Margaret Burney, who was born in Felling, Gateshead in 1822 and whose father, Charles Burney was a cordwainer – a maker of shoes rather than a cobbler, who mends shoes.  Margaret married Thomas Catnach, who was a Customs Officer: in 1881, Florence’s grandparents were living in the Customs House on Newcastle Quayside.

This research has revealed a long and diligent commitment by Florence for the welfare of women – from her work at Devil’s Porridge, at Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory Bournville, and her additional commitments in the world of women’s welfare and rights through and including her retirement years in Eastbourne.

Her own words in the Mossband Farewell magazine proved to be prophetic:

The pure spirit of comradeship, the earnestness of work, and above all, cheerfulness, have given life at Gretna a power to mould and impress the characters of all those who shared in it. The Factory may have been a “war-time measure,” but the limit of its influence will not be set by the date of any armistice or peace terms.”

Acknowledgements: with thanks to Daniel Callicot, Heritage Manager at Bournville Village Trust, who was very helpful in searching for relevant material from Bournville with regard to Florence’s life there after the Devil’s Porridge.

Compiled by Catherine Hobbs August 2021

Workers of the Week: Mary McCulloch and John Wise

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, Marilyn tells us about her research into a very interesting couple who both worked at the factory.

On 26th June 1918 Mary Josephine Wilson McCulloch ,spinster, 26, married John Stanley Wise , electrical engineer, 29, at St Michael’s Church, Bowness -on-Solway to the West of Carlisle. The marriage certificate indicates that John was living at ‘Turnmuir’, Dornock, son of Charles John Wise , Gentleman and Mary the daughter of George Wilson McCulloch, deceased, Railway Inspector.  

John and Mary on their wedding day.

Both Mary and John worked at HM Factory Gretna. Mary appears in the photograph of the Welfare Department,( 3rd from left on back row), featured in the Mossband Farewell Magazine and is also listed under “Supervisors” with an address of Airey Hill, Bowness on Solway.  

On 23rd August 1919, they had a daughter , Mary Doreen Hallifax Wise , born at 11pm according to the  birth registration for the Parish of Dornock. A second daughter was born on 20th August 1923, Elizabeth Barbara Beryl Wise , also registered at Dornock with an address given as 86, The Rand, Eastriggs. John is still working as an Electrical Engineer even though  H M Factory Gretna was in the process of being closed down and auctioned off.  

This is the story of an interesting couple who it seems parted company around 1940.  

We know that our Mary Wise and her daughters, Mary Doreen and Elizabeth Barbara now aged 10 and 8  were still living in Eastriggs in 1929 when their father, John sailed alone from Greenock to New York under “ Tourist, 3rd class, Cash, New York” – more of John later. He does indicate that his last place of residence is Eastriggs.  

In 1935, a US incoming passenger list Liverpool to Boston includes Mary Josephine as a housewife and the 2 girls as scholars. They are travelling to their husband/father at 38, Elm Street, Worcester, Massachusetts and their contact in the UK is “ Airey Hill”. This listing describes mother and daughters beautifully. Mary Josephine Wilson Wise  aged 43 is 5’6”, of fresh complexion with grey hair and blue eyes. She has a scar on her right thumb and a scar on her upper lip and is described as a housewife. Mary Doreen Hallifax, 16, is 5’8” also has a fresh complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes and has a scar on her right leg and a birthmark on her head. Elizabeth Barbara Beryl , the younger daughter, 12, is 4’7”, with a pale complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. Both girls are scholars. 

It seems that Mary and John separated and ultimately divorced around 1940, no concrete evidence of divorce can be found but John remarried.  

We have to assume that Mary returned to the UK. The electoral register  of 1947 lists her for Tadworth, Sutton, Surrey and she maintained her married name of Wise. The 1969 electoral register shows her still in Tadworth, Sutton. We know that her daughter Mary Doreen Hallifax was also living in Sutton at the time. Sadly Mary Josephine Wilson Wise died on 22nd January 1976 at Kingswood Court,( nursing home) Brighton Road, Tadworth, Sutton, Surrey , aged 84 just 3 months after the death of her younger daughter Elizabeth who died in Montreal, Canada aged 52 and is buried in Curetien Mont Royal, Outrement, Montreal ( 

John Stanley Wise was the second child of Charles John Wise  and Mary Anne Dare Rodgers . His mother came from Henry Street Workington ( 1871 census) and his father was born in Liscard, Cheshire ( 1901 census) 

John’s father, Charles Wise

The Wise family clearly moved around quite a lot during the early years of their marriage indicated by the fact that Annie L the eldest child was born in West Kirby, Cheshire, John and his younger brother of 2 years were born in Canada and sisters Dorothy Inglis and Elaenor Annie were born in Chestnut Hill,  Keswick. 

We learn from John’s US Draft card of 1942 that he was born on 29th April 1889 at Moosomin, Saskatchewan, Canada. At aged 2  when his parents were 38, the 1891 Canadian census shows father Charles as a farmer as are most of the entries on the page and all from England or Scotland. 

The 1942 draft registration card, filled in by John Wise.

This sojourn in Canada must have made John’s father quite a lot of money as by 1901 the family was back in England, living on desirable Chestnut Hill, Keswick, and on John’s fathers own means at age 47. Confusingly the 1911 census still lists Charles as a farmer but we know that by the time of his son’s marriage to Mary McCulloch he is a “ Gentleman”. John does not appear on 1911 census but in 1908 there is a manifest for permanent residence of Maine, US.  

We have to assume that John returned to the UK around 1916 to take up  War work as an electrical engineer at HM Factory Gretna where he met welfare supervisor Mary McCulloch whom he married at Bowness on Solway in June 1918. We know that he was still working as an electrical engineer at Eastriggs in 1923 but had moved from ‘Turnmuir’ , Dornock to 86 , The Rand , Eastriggs with his wife and two daughters.  

The powerhouse switchboard at HM Factory Gretna.

John clearly yearned for Stateside life. As mentioned earlier, he sailed alone tourist class , cash, to New York in 1929. It clearly states his last permanent residence as USA and his place of future residence USA. He was 39, an electrical engineer. His Contact address “ Newlands” Chestnut Hill, Keswick. The passenger listing for “ Doric” also tells us that he spoke Spanish and that his last address was Eastriggs, Dumfrieshire.  Mary and his daughters 10 and 6 were left behind. Curious that he gave his father’s address for contact.  

We know as described earlier that Mary and the girls joined John in Boston in 1935.  The 1940 census for New  York , Richmond District lists them as residents and John an Assistant Engineer, Commercial Bank, aged  51. This same year John’s father died in Boston, Massachusetts on 1st April 1940 aged 87. He was buried in Crosthwaite Churchyard , Keswick and the inscription is on the family memorial.  His mother died 10 years later in 1950.  

John’s US draft card gives an address in 1942 of 785 Pak Place, NYC , working at Chase National Bank and aged 52. It seems to be about this time that Mary and John parted company because on 1st January 1943 John married  Jessie “Jet” Reynolds in Reno, Nevada. This was her second marriage . She had been left a widow by the death of her husband Lester Clark Kellogg. The couple remained at 785, Park Place NYC. ( US Marriage license)  

Some of this mystery is solved by a letter in a public members tree on  

Extracted and interpreted from a letter dated 2nd February 1942 from John Stanley Wise- 

“The sister of John Stanley Wise (  Anne E ) married Harold Field Kellogg ,the brother of Lester Clark Kellogg ( husband of John’s second wife) and lived in New York in the 1940s. Apparently this is how John met Jessie “Jet” Reynolds. John worked at Chase National Bank, 18 Pine Street, Manhattan, NY. In this capacity , and as a friend, he became a financial advisor to Harry C Reynolds ( Jessie Jet’s father) in the late 1930s- early 1940s when Harry was trying to find investors for his new “ pine product” following the apparent financial collapse of Reynold Bros. Lumber Co. during the great depression in the mid 1930s”  

Marriage records for Boston show this as 1st June 1914. Harold Kellogg a 30 year old Architect and Ann Wise, 26.  

 The following year, Mary and John’s younger daughter Elizabeth married Harold Dean an Englishman from Birkenhead, an Office Manager according to the marriage record , on 9th December 1944 in Connecticut . Harold was 15 years Elizabeth’s senior,  was divorced from his first wife earlier that year ( public member tree). They must have moved to England because in 1957 there is a record of their sea passage emigrating to Canada via Halifax Nova Scotia from Southampton. Their UK address is given as The Pines, Hoppety, Tadworth, Surrey which sheds light on why Mary was listed on the electoral registers for that period as living in Tadworth. Following her divorce she and the girls must have moved to Surrey. Elizabeth and Harold were clearly going to make Canada their permanent home.  

They also have two sons, John born on 31st January 1946  and Ian born on 27th February 1952. (Dean)- Grandsons for Mary and John.   

Mary Doreen Hallifax, her older sister married John Hunter Pope , registered in Middlesex, in 1948. There is no record evident of any children from this marriage. Mary died on 26th December 1991 according to Probate records, her estate worth £23,127 , no one named . Her address was 7 Chapel Road, Tadworth , Surrey. This corroborates the theory that Mary and her daughters moved to Surrey following her divorce from John but does not explain why Surrey. 

The Wise family grave in Crosswaithe Churchyard, Keswick

In a manifest for crossing the US Canadian border in 1954 there is reference to John’s first time in the US – 1908. 

Sadly, John was widowed in 1957 by the death of Jessie nee Reynolds, nee Kellogg ( Public member tree)  

Within 2 years, now aged 69, he married for a third time on 12th February 1959. This time to Mildred Hester Temple, a teacher. Mildred was born in Folkestone , England to Richard Temple, 2nd Baronet who has his own Wikipedia page, was active in diplomacy and greatly honoured.  

This marriage did not last long – John died in New York City, in 1961, aged 71, still living at 785, Park Place.( an apartment block- Google maps) 

Mildred became naturalized in 1964 and moved to 56 Commonwealth Avenue Boston which coincidentally is the same Avenue that John’s sister Anne lived on when their father visited in 1940 and died. Mildred lived until 1980. Her obituary in The Boston Globe mentions John S Wise. 

The interweaving of the Wise and Kellogg families is fascinating. Clearly John’s sister Anne married Harold Kellogg and had a son Charles Dare Kellogg ( Dare being Eleanor’s mother’s middle name. )Anne’s name appears as Kellogg in the Penrith Advertiser 9th August  1938 in the report of the will of a Miss Eleanor Kate Wise – John’s Aunt- of the Bungalow . Chestnut Hill, Keswick.   

John’s sister Dorothy Inglis Wise married a clergyman ,  Laurence Charles Beril Newell ( photo in attached folder) from Wigton but married in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire. In 1972 marriage registrations for Westminster list a  Dorothy Mary  Newell marrying Charles Dare Kellogg in the registration district of Westminster. The jigsaw of Dare’s and Kellogg’s becomes very complex. 

Sheila Dalgleish.

Medals and more

By Collections blog

Finlay, a Duke of Edinburgh student has accessioned some recent donations to the Museum and done some research about their origins.  This is his blog…

ICI Powfoot.

In the Second World War the government were looking to disperse vital munitions factories across the country to protect them from the German Luftwaffe. They once again looked at the Solway Coast as an ideal place for a munitions factory. Just 5 miles from HM Factory Gretna, Powfoot was chosen as the place to build a new factory, ICI Powfoot.

Powfoot was chosen as a location for the factory as it was an isolated area of farmland with strong rail links and a good supply of water from the Solway Firth.

An aerial view of where ICI Powfoot was built

After being built in 1940 ICI Powfoot produced cordite, nitro-cellulose powder and, later on in the site high explosives and other chemicals were made. In charge of production was a team of local scientists.

At its peak ICI Powfoot employed over 4000 people, the majority of which were women attracted by the generous wages and the opportunity to help the war effort.

Working in a munitions factory did not come without danger, for example workers had to face the constant absorption of toxic chemicals that caused skin yellowing, hair and teeth loss. Explosions and fires also were a serious issue in Powfoot and many people were injured or killed in accidents.

Sheila Dalgleish, a 19 year old worker at Powfoot managed to tackle a dangerous fire that could have injured or even killed many people.  When the fire broke out in processing plant (an area in the factory where large amounts of cordite was processed and stored) everyone in the room evacuated, other than Sheila Dalgleish and Euphemia Lindsay. Together, they pulled the bags of cordite away from the fire, then they kept the flames under control with a fire hose until the fire department arrived.

A picture of Sheila Dalgleish.

Her actions then saved countless people’s lives. To thank her she was awarded the British Empire Medal for bravery by King George VI, and the ICI medal for bravery.


ICI medal for bravery awarded to Sheila Dalgleish



British Empire medal for bravery awarded to Sheila Dalgleish by King George VI


Alice May Sherwen

Worker of the Week: Alice May Sherwen

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, Marilyn tells us about her research into Alice May Sherwen.

Alice May was the middle child of Peter (1843 -1895) and Sarah Ann nee Walker (1855-1936). Peter, a Yeoman farmer “ of an old Gosforth Yeoman family” ( local press 1895) farmed at High Boonwood , Gosforth, Cumberland. Sarah was from Eaglesfield near Cockermouth, also of farming stock. The 1861 census tells us that Sarah’s father was aged 40, a farmer of 67 acres employing 2 men and 1 woman. On the other hand, in the same year, Peter was a farmer’s son of 60 acres. By 1871 both farmers had increased their acreage. Peter married Sarah, 12 years his junior, at St Bees on 18th October 1882 although in which establishment is unknown. Sarah was from a Quaker family( Society of Friends) but there is no evidence to suggest that this was a Quaker wedding. Marriage relieved Sarah of being the housekeeper for her brother Isaac ( 1881 census).

The Sherwen family — Alice is pictured along with her sister, brother and mother. Photo Credit: Whitehaven Archives

In the autumn of 1883, a son ,Henry, was born, followed by Alice May in January 1887 and Helena Mary on Christmas Eve 1889.

The children took pleasure in their local landscape, High Boonwood, enjoying panoramic views of Wasdale and Scafell Pike as well as out to the Irish Sea. The Maryport Advertiser of Saturday 29th July, 1893 reported :-

“ YOUTHFUL MOUNTAINEERS On Saturday, Henry, Alice M and Helena M Sherwen of Gosforth, Cumberland , aged respectively nine, seven, three years and seven months, climbed to the highest point of Scawfell, the two former without assistance. The ascent was made from Wasdale Head.”

There is

A photograph of the three young Sherwens leaning over into a lake with a behatted lady holding a fishing rod in one hand and hanging onto the youngest child ( Helena) with the other. Photo credit: Whitehaven Archives

Just two years later in 1895 when Henry was a boarder at Brookfield, The Quaker School, Wigton, their father died of stomach cancer ( Whitehaven Archive- death certificate and a letter form Henry at Brookfield to his mother) The death was reported in the local press. He apparently had taken a keen interest in church matter, having served as church warden, and was a regular attender at vestry meetings. He was 53.

At only 40 with three young children, 12, 8 and 6, records in local papers of the time show that Sarah let High Boonwood in 1897.

By 1901 Mrs S Sherwen is listed in Bulmers Directory of West Cumberland as proprietor of “ Gowrie”, Apartments, Eskdale. Advertisements in West Cumberland Times of June 1893 showed that these apartments were” let furnished, 5 minutes walk from the station ( Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway), uninterrupted view from the rooms.”

Alice is noted as a scholar in the 1901 census

This is the year that the census lists Alice , aged 14 , at Ackworth School (a Quaker establishment) near Pontefract, as a boarder. A letter from her headmaster dated 23rd November 1901 informs us that Alice has been unsuccessful in gaining an apprenticeship and suggests she would “ do better as a teacher in a private family despite “many points in her character” ( Whitehaven Archives)

There is an indication that this was as Alice left Ackworth and moved to The Mount, an all girls Quaker school in York. The Sheffield Daily Telegraph of Monday 27th February 1905 listed the successful candidates at matriculation for the University of London including Alice M Sherwen, The Mount School.

Her final report from The Mount school, held by Whitehaven Archives, shows that she had been teaching in the junior department , probably as a pupil teacher. Most of her studies were of aspects of education including theory. The comment on the practical:-

“ Her work shows a marked improvement. Lessons carefully prepared and give evidence of much interest in subject matter and in teaching. Has nor yet enough sympathy with children, nor reached that point of contact without which a good lesson cannot be given.


In 1906,  Alice started her studies in Classics at the University of London.

Alice was awarded a third class degree in classics in 1909

We know that Alice graduated from University College, London University with a 3rd class degree in Classics as listed in the University register of graduates for 1909.


Alice pictured alongside her fellow welfare workers in the Mossband Farewell.

Alice is pictured in the Mossband Farewell, sitting on the front row beside “Ping” the dog amongst the Welfare Department staff. Her address is listed under “ Supervisors” This role was created by Lloyd George specifically for Munitions initially when the State became a huge employer of thousands of young women.

Welfare Supervisors came from backgrounds such as teaching , nursing and social care . Alice would have been 29 in 1916 and we know from evidence that she was a teacher despite what her headmaster had written about her.

There is no indication as to where Alice lived whilst working at H M Factory Gretna nor what her sister did during the war years.

Alice May Sherwen. Photo credit: Whitehaven Archives

The next mention of Alice is in the Whitehaven Archives in  a letter dated 30th August 1920 from the Unity School of Christianity. The Unity Church, founded in 1889, is a spiritual movement that indoctrinates positivity. The movement is largely based in America, and the letter is from Missouri. The letter assures Miss Sherwen  ‘of our continued prayers for you and your friend’.
This is quite a move from her Quaker upbringing. Could it have been the War and working at HM Factory Gretna that urged her to seek a different denomination?

Alice was teaching at The English School Cairo from at least January 1920 to new year 1921. The letters held by Whitehaven Archives are revealing. Usually addressed to “Dear mother , H +H” starting monthly and about 8 pages long moving through a period in May as shorter weekly missives.

January 14th 1920 “ The Headmaster is a capable, bumptious, little man without any of the qualities of a man in his positions should have except those of a head of business.”

May 1920 following the killing of several Englishmen –“ Killing Englishmen is a sort of sport with the natives.”

Also in May she is very taken with Lord Allenby – “ a striking figure” following a reception at Lord and Lady Allenby’s residence’

During the school summer break she travels to Greece and in July writes “ You will be sorry ( or glad) to hear that I have changed so much -I no longer think Boonwood road a bad road!”

Some of her letter begin to be sent to friends at this point . She talks about medical and science lectures and exhibitions.

She also mentions that she suffers from neuralgia and that the New Year ( 1921) is going to be very eventful for mum and Henry.

Her brother Henry married Annie Wilson in Whitehaven in the spring of  1921 and they had a daughter Joan on 28th September 1922.

Whitehaven Archives hold a bundle of inward letters from Arthur Dadford, soldier in Palestine (13th Pack Battery, Jerusalem), to Alice Sherwen, who was in Cairo at the time.

“The letters addressed to ‘English School’ suggest her travelling for a  teaching position, one sample listing in [Arabic?] marked ‘private!!’ and two photographs possibly of Dadford. The first letter, dated on the 6 Oct 1921, says it was four days since Alice left Jerusalem which would have been the 2 Oct. The letters are romantic, but also detail his background and army life in Jerusalem. He briefly mentions resentment towards Germans (29 Nov 1921, p. 6.) The letters in this bundle end with notice of Dadford leaving the service on 14 Sep 1922.”

In 1923 a letter from The Association of Assistant Mistresses is sent to “ Birk Howe “, Eskdale. This is several properties down from “ Gowrie” but another fine property overlooking the valley. This is the house where her mother died in 1936, Alice being named in the Probate record.

She sailed to Cape Town, 1st class onboard the “ Durham Castle” on 3rd January 1924, accompanied by another teacher, Miss S B Robinson. Their address was 11 Winsford House W 1. This could have been the address of a teaching agency. She returned , 3rd Class on 24th March 1925. Her intended address being 8 Cavendish Gardens, W1.

Whitehaven Archives hold a catalogue belonging to Alice from the Universal Astrological Service indicating horoscopes, distance learning and much more. They also hold a journal in which Alice has written almost daily extracts from reading material , mainly philosophical and though provoking. One such extract relates the position of racism in society.

Further into the book it seems Alice has had some sort of “ reading” with a clairvoyant or similar and has written down what was said:-April 1924 Mrs Winson “ – someone has broken your heart. The rest of the year will be  good one.” The writing refers to Ena Mary ( Helena) “ helping you to take the right step”

It continues:- “ If you had married him he would have dragged you down until it might possibly have ended in S D ( you have meditated on this in the past.)

Referring to possible marriage “ They would not have allowed it.” Could this have been Arthur Dadford?

Whitehaven Archives hold a telegram to Miss Alice Sherwen from The Joint Agency For Women Teachers, 21st December 1925 “ COMMISSION 3% OF SALARY OF £75 15 0”

At some point Alice tried her hand at novel writing, 5  hand written unpublished novels are held in the Archives. She wrote under the pseudonym, Alice Rivers. The themes of some are religious. They are entitled: The Mother, The Spirit of the Four Raps, Exiles, The Gateway of Life and Dawn.

The 1930 electoral register for London places both sisters in London-  Alice at 19 Gordon Street , Camden and Helena lodging at 39 Portman Square. Helena was still there in 1931. Alice was settled in Gordon St until at least 1936 but at number 5 in that year when her address is listed for passengers departing on 22nd December  Madeira arriving Southampton on 4th January 1937.

Alice was an experienced traveller by this point in her life– in 1937 she visited New York.

By 1936, their niece Joan born in 1922, had followed the family tradition and been educated at Ackworth Quaker School, nr Pontefract . She is listed there aged 17 on the 1939 register but in 1936 travelled seemingly alone to Mombasa, Kenya as a student. Later Passenger listings show that she  travelled and stayed for long periods in Mombasa with her husband and young children.

Sarah, their mother died in 1936 and Alice May was named in the Probate register.

Having arrived back in England in January 1937, Alice travelled from Southampton to New York City in  July arriving on 2nd August . She gave her home address as 5 Gordon Gardens, London and is heading to C/O National Bible Institute, 340W , 55 Street, NYC and intended to stay for less than 60 days. The most fascinating insight from this passenger list is that we now learn that aged 50 , Alice has grey hair, blue eyes , fair complexion and is 5’ 5” tall. Interestingly she gives her nearest relative as a cousin , Mr Herbert Walker -possibly he was the nearest geographically rather than relatively.

She arrived back on 13th September on board the Queen Mary.

Alice does not seem to appear on the 1939 register – perhaps she was on one of her many trips abroad some of which are indicated on postcards sent to her from her travels and held in the Whitehaven Records.

Helena does appear on the 1939 register , living at 8 College Precincts, Worcester, single and a teacher for the blind.

We know from electoral registers that Alice stayed in London moving from Camberwell in 1947 to Peckham -1949. She was living at 3 Elmhurst Villas, Cheltenham Road London SE15 from at least 1951 to her death in 1967 aged 80.

The probate register – “SHERWEN Alice May of 3 Elmhurst Villas, Cheltenham Road, London S.E.15 who was last seen alive on 14th April 1967 and whose dead body was found on 15th April 1967. Administration London 26th September to Helena Mary Sherwen spinster. £13341

The final chapter for Alice is the cremation record accessed via deceased online . Her cremation took place at Honor Oak Crematorium, Southwark. The record included in the attached folder shows that her ashes were scattered in The Spinney. In an address book in the Whitehaven Archive, written in very shaky pencil handwriting is an address for Alice at Honor Dale School, Peckham Rye, London SE22. It is not clear whether this book belonged to Alice’s mother or sister. Most probably to Helena.

…and finally for Helena who ended her days at Wythop View, Embleton, nr Cockermouth. She died in 1974 and is buried in the Quaker burial ground at Pardshaw , probably alongside her maternal grandparents.

The Sherwen family. Photo credit: Whitehaven Archives

Heinrich Himmler

Eastriggs man involved in the capture of Heinrich Himmler?

By Collections blog

We have received a really interesting inquiry and are looking for your help.

For several years, Chris Mannion has researched his grandfather’s connection to the capture of Heinrich Himmler (one of the ‘architects’ of the Holocaust, right hand man to Hitler and head of the SS) at the end of World War Two.  Chris has managed to discover a great deal of information and is going to use that information to write a book.

Himmler (front left) with Hitler.

Himmler was captured by a patrol made up of men from the 196 Battery, 73rd Anti tank regiment, Royal Artillery.

You can watch a video about Chris’s research here:

Within the ranks of 196 battery was L/Bdr Thomas Steel, service number 14596001.

The only other information on L/Bdr Steel is the address he gave the regiment.  That address is, 2 Butterdales, Eastriggs.

Chris has photos L/Bdr Thomas Steel should be on (below), but sadly no method of recognizing him.

To the best of Chris’s current knowledge and understanding, he wasn’t connected to Himmler’s capture, but still he may have left stories, photos etc. so we are looking for people who may have known Thomas Steel to come forward.

This photo was taken late May 1945 in Germany.
It shows 196 battery, 73rd Anti-tank regiment, and it is highly likely L/Bdr Thomas Steel is on this photo.

Currently, all the information on L/Bdr Steel is as follows:

Rank Lance bombardier, service number 14596001, the address he gave the regiment was 2 Butterdales, Eastriggs. Of course, this maybe his parent’s address or another relative, a sister maybe?

He enlisted on the 6th May 1943. He joined the 73rd A/T regiment  in March 1944.

When the War ended, he was transferred to another regiment and was posted to India.

He was demobbed in 1947.

196 battery landed on Gold beach, Normandy on the morning of the 7th June 1944.

They fought in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

No record of him ever being wounded.

Anyone with any information, date of birth, death, family, possible photos etc.

Anything at all would be welcome.  Please do email or phone 01461 700021 if you have any information.  We would love to be able to help!



Jessie Rome Latimer

Worker of the Week: Jessie Rome Latimer

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, Stuart tells us about his research into Jessie Rome Latimer.

Jessie Latimer was brought up in Annan and one of her main interests during her youth was singing and performing. On December 3rd 1914 she took part in a concert at the Victoria Hall in Annan as part of the Soldiers and Sailors’ Work Party Fund. Her younger sister Margaret also took part in a section of the performance titled the ‘Butterfly Queen’, whereas Jessie appeared in ‘Our Allies’, where she sang the song  ‘Ready, aye ready’.

Jessie mentioned in the Annandale Observer 11th May 1917.

Jessie Latimer is documented appearing at numerous local events between 1914 and 1916 along with Gina Beattie, Elsie Longmuir and Etta Robinson. Jessie entered the factory in the autumn of 1916 along with several of her friends and seems to have worked at the Dornock section, which is interesting as her father Robert was born in Dornock in 1867.

Photo from The Devil’s Porridge Museum archives collection. Could Jessie have been doing something similar to these women, who were working in the cordite section of HM Factory Gretna?

Jessie continued singing and on 11 May 1917 Jessie performed as part of a variety concert at the Central Hall Eastriggs held under the auspices of the Gretna Social & Athletic Association. She also seems to have been involved in sport there is a suggestion that she appeared in the team line up for the Dornock hockey side and a J. Latimer appears on the team sheet for the Gretna Girls football team which travelled to Carlisle to play the Carlisle Munitioners at Brumpton Park in a charity match. Jessie was also involved in fund rising for war charities running a stall at the ‘Worlds Fair’ event in Annan on 8 September 1917.

Could Jessie be in this line up of The Mossband Swifts? They were one of the women’s football teams at Gretna. As she worked in the Dornock section of the factory, it may be that she was part of a team formed of Dornock workers.

After the war Jessie met William Armstrong Fyfe, a trainee dentist. He had been conscripted as a Gunner but was discharged in 1916 on medical grounds. The couple married in Grimsby Lincolnshire in 1920 and William Fyfe qualified as a dentist in 1921. They moved to Edinburgh in 1923 residing at 10a, Bruntsfield Avenue but the couple soon returned to Grimsby where William worked at a new dental practice on 78 Grimsby Road. A few years later William died on 5 May 1929. Following her husband’s death Jessie moved back to Scotland and lived for many years in Lockerbie where she died in April 1958.

A beautiful colourised photo of Jessie Rose Latimer, done by Stuart.

A jar of vegemite with some vegemite on toast.

Worker of the Week: Cyril Callister

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 Noakes writes up volunteer Daniel’s research into Cyril Callister.

Cyril Callister was born in 1893 in Chute, Australia.  In 2016, Chute had a population of 18, so it was likely a very small place for Cyril to grow up in the late 19th century![1] Cyril’s father, William, was a schoolmaster, and he and his wife, Rosetta, had married in 1888.[2] Rosetta’s father had emigrated to Australia from England, and worked as a wood sawyer.[3] Cyril had nine siblings, eight of whom survived to adulthood.


Students of the Ballarat School of Mines, c1900. Courtesy Federation University Historical Collection [Cat. No. 272]. This was probably before Cyril’s time (as he was 7 in 1900), but gives us an idea of the cohorts of students at the time.

Cyril first attended Grenville College in Ballarat, before going to the Ballarat School of Mines. The Ballarat School of Mines was a technical school located in Ballarat, the first of its kind in Australia. Established in 1870, its purpose was to: to impart instruction in the various branches of science relating to mining engineering. it is proposed, as soon as practicable, to extend the operation of the school so as to impact instruction in those branches of technical science which may be considered most likely to exert a beneficial influence on the prosperity of Victoria.’[4]

He then went on to study at the University of Melbourne after he was awarded a generous scholarship. He gained his Bachelor of Science degree in 1914 with double honours in physics and chemistry, a Master of Science degree in 1917 and a PhD in 1931.

Cyril took a job at Lewis and Whitty in early 1915. Lewis and Whitty was a prominent manufacturer of food and other household products—such as soap.[5]

But later that same year he joined the Australian Imperial Force to fight in World War One. However, before he could get to the front, Cyril’s skills and knowledge in chemistry probably brought him to the attention of the Ministry of Munitions. Cyril was diverted into overseas munitions work in England, first in Wales, and then in Scotland, at HM Factory Gretna.[6]

Cyril’s enlisting papers in WW1

We know he was at Gretna because he is recorded as being there when elected as a New Associate of the Institute of Chemistry in 1918.[7] Whilst there, he worked as a shift chemist. He also met a local girl, Katherine Hope Mundell, who he married in 1919 in Annan, Scotland.

The acid mixing stations at HM Factory Gretna. Photo from The Devil’s Porridge Museum’s archive collection

After the war, Cyril and Katherine returned to Australia. In 1923, Cyril was working at Fred Walker and Co. Because of the disruption in trade caused by hostilities, the exportation of Marmite to Australia was severely affected.[8] Cyril was tasked with addressing this issue—he developed a yeast extract named Vegemite, which was first sold to customers in 1924. In 1925, Cyril sent samples of Vegemite to London for testing and discovered that his product had high levels of vitamin B, which solidified Cyril’s belief that Vegemite was rich in nutrients.[9] Vegemite soon became an Australian staple.


But Cyril wasn’t done with his food innovations yet! In 1926, he developed Kraft Walker Cheese – a cheese that was more easily preserved for longer. Cyril was appointed chief chemist and production superintendent. He became a director of the Kraft Walker Cheese Co in 1935.[10]

Portrait of Cyril Callister, inventor of Vegemite and Ballarat School of Mines alumnus. Photo credit: Federation University Australia Historical Collection (Geoffrey Blainey Research Centre

During WW2, Cyril worked with Government to provide food rations to serving soldiers and experimented with the dehydration of food. He was also instrumental in securing the Royal Charter for the Royal Australian Chemistry Institute in 1931.[11] He passed away following a heart attack in 1949, leaving behind his widow, two daughters and a son.[12] Unfortunately one of his children pre-deceased him—Ian Hope Callister died whilst fighting in WW2 at the young age of 21.[13]

The Roll of Honour Circular for Ian, Cyril’s son, following his death in WW2.

Cyril’s legacy is plain to see—Vegemite is globally known and his other food manufacturing developments paved the way for future research But his life was also blighted by two global conflicts—he had to divert into munitions in the Great War, and lost his son in World War Two.

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). “Chute”. 2016 Census QuickStats.

[2] Australia Marriage Index, 1788-1950 for William Callister and Rosetta Dixon, 1888. Retrieved from Ancestry.

[3] 1861 England Census for John Dixon, Parliamentary Borough of Lambeth, retrieved from

[4] Lines of Succession: The Origins of the University of Ballarat from 1870. University of Ballarat, 2012, referenced: Ballarat School of Mines – Ballarat and District Industrial Heritage Project (

[5] Biography – Cyril Percy Callister – Australian Dictionary of Biography (

[6]  Biography – Cyril Percy Callister – Australian Dictionary of Biography (

[7] INSTITUTE OF CHEMISTRY 1918 Part 1 The Institute of Chemistry of Great Britain and Ireland. Proceedings, 1918. Part I – Proceedings of the Institute of Chemistry of Great Britain and Ireland (RSC Publishing)

[8] Cyril Callister Biography, Achievements, Australian chemist, Food Technologist (

[9] Biography – Cyril Percy Callister – Australian Dictionary of Biography (

[10] Biography – Cyril Percy Callister – Australian Dictionary of Biography (

[11] Cyril Callister (1893-1949) – Ballarat and District Industrial Heritage Project (

[12] Obituary in The Age, 06 October 1949.

[13] Record Details for Ian Hope Callister (Royal Australian Air Force) (


Reginald Ezra Parry M.Sc., University of Melbourne

Worker of the Week: Reginald Ezra Parry

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 Noakes writes up volunteer Beth’s research into Reginald Ezra Parry.

Reginald Ezra Parry was born in 1889 in Adelaide, Australia. His parents, Ezra and Florence, had three boys, of who Reginald was the youngest. Ezra worked as a chemist, and perhaps this is what inspired his youngest son to follow in his footsteps and pursue a scientific career. Reginald studied at the University of Melbourne in Australia, where he was a member of the rugby team.

Image credit: University of Melbourne Photographs, reproduced with permission

This postcard shows the reverse of the photo of the rugby team. In this brief letter, Reginald states that he is ‘Very busy, No time to write a letter. Anyway, not much news. Am going to George Taylor’s wedding in a few minutes. How is this for a photo of me? This, as you will probably guess, is the Intervarsity Rugby Football Team. Henley is on Saturday. Went and saw ‘The Chocolate Soldier again last night. Love and kisses from Reg.’ Image credit: University of Melbourne Photographs, reproduced with permission

The Chocolate Soldier was an operatta first adapted for film in 1915, which suggests that this letter was written when Reginald was coming to the end of his university studies. He graduated with an M.Sc in that same year. There are some more great photos of Reginald in the University of Melbourne Archives. In the first, he sits in a deckchair.


Image credit: University of Melbourne Photographs, reproduced with permission

In the second, he is stood reading a book in front of the window, alongside three others:

Image credit: University of Melbourne Photographs, reproduced with permission

These fascinating photos give us a tantalising glimpse into Reginald’s life at university; he looks very suave and studious in them! Indeed, in an obituary written after his death, it was stated:

‘his life at the time was an interesting and varied one, including considerable teaching experience in chemistry and mathematics, and later metallurgy.’

Avis, Reginald’s first wife

Reginald also married during his time studying. In 1913, in Victoria, he married Avis Blanche Whittington. Avis had been born in Hampshire, England, the daughter of George, who worked as a gardener according to the 1891 census. In 1903, age 14, Avis arrived in Australia along with two of her siblings, Phyllis and Alice. The girls weren’t accompanied by their parents.

Reginald Ezra Parry M.Sc., University of Melbourne, 1915. Image credit: University of Melbourne Photographs, reproduced with permission


However, having graduated with a chemistry degree whilst World War One was raging, Reginald had skills desperately needed by the British Empire. Like many who lived under British rule, Reginald enlisted in the A. I. F. (The Australian Imperial Force). The A. I . F. was formed in 1914 and was the main expeditionary force of the Australian military during the Great War. As was the case with many Empire chemists and engineers, Reginald was posted to work at H. M. Factory Gretna.

The Glycerine Distillery at HM Factory Gretna. Photo from The Devil’s Porridge Museum archives.

It must have been a huge shock to go from Melbourne to Eastriggs, a small township just over the border in Scotland which had been purpose built for factory workers. Reginald lived at 82 The Rand in Eastriggs, and although we don’t know the particulars of his job, he was working as a chemist. There is one newspaper article which sheds light on Reginald’s time at the factory. In late 1917, according to the Dumfries and Galloway Standard, Reginald pled guilty to being in possession of a box containing matches within the factory fence. This may seem pretty trivial to us, but bringing matches–or anything that could be lit, catch fire, or was metallic–into the factory was an explosives risk. In the Regulations for Factory Employees booklet, given to staff at the factory, it is stated:

‘No person shall bring within the Factory, or have in his possession, whilst in the factory, any match or apparatus for producing light, or any lamp, light or fire of any description.’

Reginald’s charges were dismissed with an admonition.

Reginald in uniform, alongside his first wife, Avis.

After the war, Reginald worked as a Research Chemist and Works Manager of a Sandalwood Oil Distillery, before returning to academia in 1925. In 1930, he began working for the Swan Brewery Company Ltd, as a Maltster and Chief Analyst, where he remained until he retired. He was appointed a member of the Institution of Chemical Engineers in 1925, and later elected as a fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry.

After Reginald’s wife, Avis, died in 1949, he remarried Suzette Estelle Deane-Ross in the same year. Interestingly, Suzette was a widow of a man who also worked at HM Factory Gretna during the war. She had first been married to Garnett Skuthorpe. Garnett was an alumni of the University of Sydney, and like Reginald, a chemist. He worked at HM Factory Gretna from 1916-1919. Garnett and Suzette had been married in 1909, and had several children. In World War Two, Garnett was again dispatched to England on munitions work. He died there in 1944, killed accidentally in an explosives factory.

I wonder if Suzette and Reginald first met at Gretna? Reginald Ezra Parry died aged 76 in 1966. In an obituary it was written:

‘To all who worked with him or for him, Reginald Parry was the same, very helpful and always ready to lend considerable ability and experience to any problems. His mind remained active and interested long after he had retired from business life and his comments on techniques in almost any industry were informed and accurate, and reflected his very wide reading and experience.’

A collection of board games from the past. These include cards, scrabble, the beetle game, dominos and some card games.

Donation of board games

By Collections blog, News

Jack and Ronan have been volunteering at The Devil’s Porridge Museum for nearly two months as part of their Duke of Edinburgh award.  In that time, they have done a lot of work to help re-organise our object store and they have started to work with recently donated objects.  This blog was written by them about a box of old games and board games they found.  We hope to make use of these games in September when we work with a project involving Gretna Primary School – their Primary 1 class is going to be looking at childhood and toys in the past so this will be perfect for them!

Jack writes…

The first game I researched was a game called “Canasta”. I decided to look into this game because it was one I had not heard of before. I found out a detailed history of the game as well as something interesting about the company that made the version in the museum, John Waddington Ltd.

Canasta (Spanish for “basket”) is a card game of the rummy family of games believed to be a variant of 500 Rum. Although many variations exist for two, three, four, five or six players, it is most commonly played by four in two partnerships with two standard decks of cards. The goal of the game is to make ‘melds’ of seven cards of the same rank and “go out” by playing all cards in their hand. Canasta was originally created by Segundo Santos and Alberto Serrato in Uruguay in 1939. In the 1940s the game spread in different variations to Chile, Peru, Brazil and Argentina, where its rules changed some more before spreading to the United States in 1949, where it was then referred to as the Argentine Rummy game. In 1949/51 the New York Regency Club wrote the Official Canasta Laws, which were published together with game experts from South America by the National Canasta Laws Commissions of the USA and Argentina. Canasta became even more popular in the United States in the 1950s with many card sets, card trays and books being produced. The games popularity started to die out in the 1960s but there are still some Canasta leagues and clubs in some parts of the US and South America.

The Canasta set in the museum was made by games company John Waddington Limited, a company who made some variations of monopoly and Cluedo in the late 1940s. Earlier in the first world war, the company was used by MI9 to make special versions of monopoly that would be sent to German prisons by fake charitable organisations and would contain items such as maps, compasses, real money and other items useful for escaping.


Another game I researched was called Lexicon, which I had also never heard of before. I found out some information about how the game came to be and how it first gained popularity.

Lexicon was basically a pack of cards but instead of the usual symbols on the faces there was letters of the alphabet. A writer named Dave Whitelaw came up with the idea and persuaded Waddington’s to make the game. Originally the game came out in 1932 and there wasn’t much success as the game was quite expensive and relatively unheard of. Then the company took the unprecedented decision to package the game nicer and increase the price. This was heavily criticised and did not help with the popularity. An official release of the game came later and this got the attention of several newspapers who brought in more sales and the game became successful.

The lexicon set in the museum contains a full deck but slightly damaged packaging and does not include instructions.

I also researched a game called the Beetle Game, which I had heard of but wasn’t sure about how it worked.

The beetle game is a classic 1960s board game by Chad Valley in England. The game can be played by 2 or more players, and the goal is to construct your own beetle, first to complete it wins. There are 6 parts to the beetle with a corresponding number on the dice. The player must roll the dice and try to get the beetles body firt. Then they must roll the dice and attempt to get every part of the beetle and put it together. The player loses the dice if they fail to throw a number required for a missing part.

The set in the museum includes all parts of the 4 coloured beetles, although one of them falls apart when constructed due to wear. It also includes full packaging and some new and used scorecards.

The final game I researched was called Lotto or Housey Housey, and it turned out we also had a more modern version of the game which was named Bingo.

Lotto is a family game of chance suitable for any age range. It uses 90 wooden numerals and the set in the museum can be played with 2-12 players but some sets can go up to 24 players. You are given a card with 15 numbers on it and the end goal is to mark off all those numbers. One player is selected as the caller, and they pick the wooden numbers from a bag and call them out, and if a number called is on your card, you cross it off. Once they are all crossed off, you shout “Lotto!” and the first person to do so wins the game.
There are 2 sets of this game in the museum, one being a more classic style and another named as Bingo that is more modern and has unopened packaging.
Finally, I tried researching a game called 4-Tell Fortune Telling Cards but I was unable to find anything on that exact set or company. If you know anything about this set feel free to reach out to us.
The other games were researched by Ronan and also thanks to him for the photos.
Ronan writes…

The first game I researched was called the crime club card game and was made in 1935 By peter Cheyney.
He was a famous crime writer known for multiple novels. It is missing quite a lot of cards and the box is in bad condition. It is for 2 to 6 players, and it lasts around 30 mins. The game contains 50 cards – 6 suits of 8 cards (split into 3 detective and 3 crook suits featuring characters – such as Hercules Poirot – objects and locations) and 2 jokers. The game is played in two parts. During the first part of the game players collect a hand that will enable them, during the second part of the game, to take as few tricks as possible.

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