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Object of the Month

Festive POW Christmas Card with the words "a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year."

POW Christmas Card Object of the Month

By Object of the Month

This month’s object of the month was chosen, researched and written about by Jordan Murray.  Jordan is a third year University of Stirling student who is doing some work experience at the Museum during his Christmas holidays (good for him!) This is his blog about this month’s object of the month…

This month’s object of the month, shown below, is a Christmas card sent from Germany by Helmut (who was a Prisoner of War during WW2) to the Wright family on the 10th of December 1947.

The message reads “Dear Family Wright. As Xmas is coming means I’ll not miss to send you my best wishes and ‘a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’. Hoping this card will obtain in correct time… Yours ex-POW. Helmut.”


The Wright family stayed at P West II in Gretna shown at X


The postcard was sent to the Wright family at P West II Gretna where Helmut stayed with the family as a Prisoner of War.  The hut below is an example of the sort of hut they must have lived in.

These wooden huts were built for workers at HM Factory Gretna in World War One.  Many were still inhabited during World War Two (and some rare examples still stand today!)

During the war Britain aimed to fill the gap in labour which had been left behind by those who went to war and the use of POW soldiers solved this issue. As a result, Britain was more accepting of housing the enemy’s soldiers and began opening more POW camps. Hellen states that the aim was “to use some of the German soldiers for agricultural and forestry work” (Hellen 1999:193). In Britain by 1946 there were around 400,000 prisoners of war being held in multiple different types of camps. These camps include internment camps (held civilian aliens), command cages (early versions which used existing buildings, huts, camps etc), transit camps (held prisoners temporarily before being moved to another camp) and interrogation centres (where German soldiers were classified according to their political views).

No. 4 Camp (marked as X) was located near Longtown held German, Polish, and Ukrainian prisoners who worked on local farms and in sawmills.



There were 6 POW camps around the Solway Coast area,

  • Hallmuir Farm Camp, near Lockerbie

  • Dryfeholme Camp, near Lockerbie

  • Barony Base Camp, near Dumfries

  • Barony Working Camp, near Dumfries

  • Carronbridge Camp, near Dumfries

  • 4 Camp, near Longtown


However, some POW’s stayed with local families such as Helmut who stayed with the Wright family in Gretna. There was not only German POW’s living in and around Gretna at the time, many Italians also stayed in the area. Ruby Hardisty mentioned Italian POW’s who were camped at Kirkpatrick Fleming  and would often cycle to Gretna to use the local amenities such as the cinema, “they were always at the pictures, that’s where most of them learnt English, the pictures mostly”. While some POW’s fit in well within the community in Gretna such as Helmut, this is not true of them all. Jean Mackay mentioned the animosity felt towards the German prisoners, “they [Germans] used to march up Vancouver Road every Sunday because the Catholic chapel was at the top of our road. My poor Dad, because my Dad was at Dunkirk and everything, he used to tingle when he saw those Germans”. Furthermore, Ruby Hardisty talked about pranks the youngsters used to play on the Italians, “Our boys were devils: they would put things on the road to give them punctures on their bikes. Just daft, just boys’ stuff, you know”.

The cinema in Gretna located on Central Avenue.


POW Object of the Month display

By Object of the Month

Our objects for this months are focusing on POWs (Prisoners of War) in this area during the Second World War. The treatment of prisoners during WW2 is a very deep topic as the experiences of these people can vary widely depending on country, nationality, location and even on a individual bases.

This photo on display here shows Jenkinstown Solport, Longtown which was used to houses POW mostly Italian ones. This kind of housing was not unusual for Italian prisoners especially after Italy surrendered and its later defection to the Allied side in late 1943 as there was a need for labour to support the Land Army in growing crops. The Italians were very interesting people and the Devils Porridge has records from many people who remember them. Many farmed the land but some did get involved in garden work as one Robert Jonhstone is reported to have had Italians gardening turnips when the war ended (they took it well apparently). After Italy’s position in WW2 changed many Italians were granted more freedom, which around this area apparently allowed them obtain bikes and attend the local cinema on very many occasion, though it was briefly interrupted by nails placed on the road by local boys. The trips might also have helped their English as despite having a generally warm relationship with many locals some recall struggling to teach them English especially when it came to playing games.

This new freedom clearly came with some free time as the wooden sculpture also on display shows, it is supposed to be Charlie Chaplin, maybe Oliver Hardy or mock of Churchill up to you.


The German POWs were met with a larger degree of reservation for self-evident reasons. Despite this it should be noted that Britian’s treatment of them was later considered to be within the bounds of the Geneva Convention, meaning they were provided with food and clothing though often of a inferior quality as war shortages worsened. Medical and dental care was also allowed by Germans who had the skills to provide it. The freedom of the German POW however depended on the colour code, a system which was designed to discover the seriousness of the person political views, most obviously their views on Fascism, those who held the strongest views were given less freedoms while other with lesser views would be seperated and attempts would be made to re-educate them on democracy. This even included real footage of liberated concentration camps which had a huge effect on some POWs. The presence of the Germans in society was not overly unpleasant but needless to say that some people did resent or felt uncomfortable in their presence, especially those with military experience. Despite this some did integrate well, one very impressive case was Fred Sichert a former paratrooper who was captured during the Normandy campaign and was brought to Longtown to work on farms, he would become living proof of the ability to turn POWs as during his time Fred would not only be trusted to deliver milk to the various locations but would also permanently relocate to Cumbria after the war.


And in true movie like fashion Fred would meet his future wife Isabella on one of his milk runs to the Crown Hotel, though back to reality Fred did have to write to the home office for a special license in order to get married, so not quite Romeo and Juliet but very heartwarming all the same.

A book and some information panels featuring it's pages on display in The Devil's Porridge Museum.

New Object of the Month

By Object of the Month

This months Object of the Month is a fishermans records book from Loch and Dornock dating back to 1899.

Thanks to Stuart Graham, now based in Annan, for loaning us the fisherman’s records for Loch and Dornocks Fishings. Stake net fishing and Haaf netting in Dornock and Eastriggs provided a living for many local men for hundreds of years, right up to the last quarter of the 20th Century when Loch and Dornock fisheries were purchased and closed down by a conservation trust purportedly to protect salmon stocks in our oceans.

Stuart’s great grandfather, David John Graham, was the bookeeper who kept the business’ daily account of the netsman’s hours of work and their wages. His grandfather Thomas (old Tom) and his father, William Shannon Graham, carried on the family’s fishing heritage.

The pages in the book in the years 1898-1900 show the names of the fishermen who toiled in the Solway. Perhaps they are from your family and you may have memories or photos of these or later generations who fished at Dornock. Please let us know.

New object of the month display

By Object of the Month

One of our young volunteers, Alastair Ritchie, created the new object of the month display for March.  The object in question is a Minimax First Aid Kit which we believe dates from World War Two.  Here, Alastair explains the display he created with the assistance of Morgan and Steven.

The First Aid Box was originally donated by Norman Harker who informed us that it had been owned by a soldier Alex Thomson who was a member of the KOSB (King’s Own Scottish Border Regiment). During my time looking into this item I discovered some of the history of the company Minimax mainly….

  • Minimax Limited is a British Company who first opened in 1903

  • The Company is often referred to as Minimax as the nickname given to it fire extinguishers (see one below)

  • They later opened a factory in Feltham Middlesex in 1911 which produced 1,000 extinguishers a month

  • The junction near the factory was later called ‘Minimax Corner’ which became a famous landmark.

  • The company would sell their produce to King Edward VII along with many foreign countries

In 1905 Minimax Limited won the ‘highest award’ for extinguishers in a St. Louis exhibition

This decorated doorway is all that remains of the original Minimax Limited factory

The First Aid box very fortunately did include a large amount of contents that were both fascinating to research and great to assist in putting together a display, in a physical sense as well as a online senses (refer to Morgan expertise on the last one). The various forms of basic medical were intriguing to analysis as they provide a glimpse into something that is both old but also very familiar, because we all know how painful and worrying a injury which requires first aid can be, but to then take that experience and imagination it happening far more regularly with even worser damage caused by the many danger of WW2 helps to give a better understanding of how the war effect some many aspects of live.

The items which you can now see on display are below……


    B.P.C. No.9 LARGE: MEDICATED WOUND DRESSING: Used to dress a preferred ably, cleaned wound in the hope to stop infection of the wound.

  • STERILIZED WHITE ABSORBENT WOOL PAD First Aid Home Office Dressings: The wool pad was placed between a dressing and a wound to soak up blood or to provide any kind of antiseptic to the wound.

  • STANDARD DRESSING B.P.C No. 12 LARGE BURN DRESSING: Bandage was used to treat burns that might occur from explosions, flamethrower injuries or accidents.

  • STANDARD DRESSING B.P.C no. 10 FINGER BURN DRESSING: provided to ease to the pain and to keep broken, fractured or seriously cut fingers

  • A pamphlet on the basic ways to treat minor injuries including burns or scalds, Acid, Alkali burns, Eye injuries

  • The Pamphlet was produced by Ministry of Labour and National Service for March 1943 (I know a Minstry for everything, the wonders of Government complexity)

This photograph shows nurses from World War Two and an Air Patrol Warden. These are the sort of people who would have carried and used a first aid kit such as this.

Front page of the Manual for the First Aid set along with the usual Company name and contact details

Here are some photos of the display within the Museum (it will be on display until the end of March) with Alastair arranging the objects.


People holding their awards.

Object of the Month for November

By Object of the Month

Object of the Month for November

Items commemorating a munitions girl’s work in World War Two

New Object of the Month for November is a certificate which was given to a lady called Elizabeth McLauchrie and a brooch also given to her for her services in munitions factories during World War Two.


Recently a couple visited the Museum to share the account of a lady called Elizabeth who worked in the Powfoot Munitions works during World War Two. Her work was recognised by a campaign led by Russell Brown to get munitions workers recognition for their contribution to the war effort in both World Wars. Russell Brown was an MP in Dumfries and Galloway from 1997 to 2015 and previously worked in an Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) plant as a plant operative and started to campaign for the government to give surviving Scottish factory workers some recognition for the work that they did during the Second World War.

Seven of the eleven surviving munitions workers who lived in Dumfries and Galloway attended the event along with 24 families of deceased munitions workers who worked during the first and second World Wars, they were given a certificate and a brooch with a canary on a shell made by a local jeweller from Balmaclellan. Russell also set up a campaign to raise £100,000 to build a lasting memorial to munitions workers at the National Memorial Arboretum.

The couple have loaned us a photograph of Elizabeth along with a framed certificate awarded to her from the Houses of Parliament and a beautiful brooch in the shape of a shell with a Canary on it (as the girls were often named the Canary Girls). They were called the Canary girls as when mixing the cordite in the factory they had to mix it by hand which meant that the chemicals would mix with the melanin in the skin which would cause a yellow pigmentation and would stain the skin, although unpleasant, this was not dangerous and the discolouration eventually faded over time with no long term health defects.

Our visitors told us that Elizabeth had visited our Museum several times and thought it was a fitting place for her items to be. We agree and have now put them on display in the Object of the Month. Thanks Colin and Jean for making this loan happen and for speaking with members of the Museum staff when you visited.

Object of the Month October 2019 is a Hints to Mothers booklet.

October Object of the Month

By Object of the Month

October Object of the Month

October’s Object of the Month at the Museum is a booklet from around the 1940’s which is all about taking care of children. The booklet is called Hints to Mothers on the treatment of their children from teething to teens. It has lots of information on everything which could happen to a child when they are young and gives mothers advice on how to deal with these different problems.


New Object of the Month


The display features just some of the pages which are in the booklet as we could not fit all of them into the cabinet. The ones featured are the ones which were suggested to the Museum on our social media posts which we posted asking what specific pages people would like to see in the display.


This is a list of all of the contents of the Booklet:

Object of the MonthObject of the Month

This is a list of all of the pages which people suggested on social media:

  • Scurfy Head

  • Measles

  • Quarantine Periods

  • Backwardness

  • Jellyfish

  • Care of Children’s Minds

  • Food

  • Fomentations

  • Fidgets

  • Care of Body and Mind

  • Childhood diseases

These are the ones which we decided to put on display:

  • Fidgets

  • Lice

  • Quarantine Periods

  • Poultices

  • Jellyfish

Object of the Month for September 2019, which is a fireplace companion set.

September Object of the Month

By Object of the Month

Object of the Month for September – HMS Victory fireplace companion set.


This month’s object  was chosen by Desray Coward our digitization and collections volunteer. It is an old HMS Victory fireplace companion set. They have a very distinct design as at the top of each tool is a ship, this ship is the HMS Victory which is the world’s oldest naval ship still in commission with 241 years of active service as of 2019. It was first commissioned in 1778 and was used in many battles for the British including the first and second battles of Ushant, the battle of Cape Spartel, the battle of Cape St Vincent and most famously the battle of Trafalgar.

Fireplace companion set

The ship was captained by Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson who helped the British defeat the Spanish and the French at the Battle of Trafalgar. The British defeated them without losing a single ship whereas the French and Spanish lost 22 ships. Horatio Nelson was shot during the battle by a French musket and died near the end. His body was carried back to England by HMS Victory.

Fireplace companion set

HMS Victory was in a very bad state after the battle of Trafalgar and had to be towed to Gibraltar by HMS Neptune and was then repaired. When HMS Victory returned to England it was considered to old by the Admiralty Board and in to great disrepair. It then went through many different uses and was relegated to a second-class ship. In 1831 the admiralty issued orders for the ship to be broken up this caused a public outcry as thee public did not want such a historical ship to be destroyed so the order was abandoned.

Fireplace companion set

The ship was largely forgotten about until it had a royal visit in 1833 from the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria who would later become Queen. On the 12 of January 1922 her condition was so bad that she would no longer stay afloat. It was then moved to No. 2 dock in Portsmouth which was the oldest dry dock in the world still in use. The ship was kept in No.2 dock for the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar which it was repaired in time for in 2005. The ship now attracts 350,000 visitors a year and continues to get funding from the government for repairs.

Fireplace companion set

A toilet roll on presented in a display case.

November’s object of the month

By Object of the Month

Government issue toilet paper

Many people may remember this sort of toilet paper (it is sort of like tracing paper).

Each sheet of this toilet paper is stamped with the words


It probably came from inside a government building or office.

If anyone knows more about this sort of toilet paper do tell us as we would be interested to know more about it.

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