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broom lassies

Group of Broom Lassies.

ICI Powfoot Membership Card

By Collections blog

This card was issued to a worker at ICI Powfoot which was built during the Second World War. The worker which the card was given to lived in Annan. The Museum has a display within it all about ICI Powfoot and the Broom Lassies who worked there during the Second World War.


This is the front of the Membership Card which was given to all of the workers at ICI Powfoot.

In 1940 the government were looking for somewhere to build a munitions factory, they once again looked towards the Solway as an area to build their factory due to the easy access to water and good railway access to transport munitions to other parts of the country. The Ministry of Supply was responsible for ensuring there were ample supplies of  explosive  propellants  for  filling  guns,  shells  and  rifle  cartridges  at  Royal Ordnance Factories across Britain. Thus, the Ministry worked closely with the experts   of   the   privately-owned   Imperial   Chemical   Industries (ICI)   to manufacture the required propellants and high explosives.


This shows the inside of the Membership Card and the details of the worker who owned it.

In  early  1940,  the  Broom  Farmhouse  and  outbuildings  near  the  Victorian fishing  village  of  Powfoot,  was  requisitioned  by  the Ministry  of  Supply  to  be used as the site for ICI Powfoot. Construction began in Spring 1940, with Edinburgh based firm A.M. Carmichael contracted to build the factory, drafting in over 600 tradesmen from both sides of the Border to ensure the site was operational by Spring 1941.


This is a photo of ICI Powfoot from above and what it looks like today.

At its peak the factory employed over 4000 people, most of which were female. The female workers at ICI Powfoot became known as the Broom Lassies as the factory was built on Broom Farm. almost  90%  of  single women and 80% of married women were employed in essential work for the war effort. Many women in the Annan area were forced to leave their jobs in other  industries  and  were  conscripted  to  work  in  local  munitions  factories, predominately ICI Powfoot.


The following books/booklets on this subject are available from the Museum’s online shop:

The Solway Military Coast book


Broom Lassies in World War Two

By Collections blog

Jake Mitchell, is one of our Duke of Edinburgh volunteers.  He comes in at the weekend for a couple of hours to help in the office and with other tasks and activities.  Today, he has chosen a display within the Museum which interests him.  Here, Jake explains what the display shows and why he chose it…

“I had a look around the Museum to find an exhibition which really interested me and I started reading about the Broom Lassies. The Broom Lassies were a group of women who worked in the Powfoot Munitions Factory. The Factory was built on Broom Farm, leading to the women working there being known as the Broom Lassies. The workers had to deal with cordite, TNT and other harmful and toxic chemicals. These chemicals turned the women’s skin and hair yellow, so we can only imagine what it would do to their insides. Many women suffered from anemia and poor liver functions as a result of working with these harmful chemicals. This lead to the women gaining the nickname the Canary Girls because of their yellow skin and hair.

The Factory was open during World War 2 and employed 4000 workers at its peak. The Factory, along with the rest of Dumfriesshire, made 1/3 of the British Cordite during World War 2. The Factory closed in June 1945 as it was no longer needed. However it re-opened again to help with the demands of the Korean and Falklands War.

This was dangerous work as the chemicals were highly explosive. This led to several incidents at the Factory including one very fatal one in October 1943 when there was a big explosion resulting in 5 women losing their lives. A woman called Euphemia Pringle had to be held back as she tried her hardest to get into the factory and save her friends from the blaze. As it was so dangerous the women had to wear a specific uniform as any man-made fibres could cause a spark and lead to an explosion. The uniform consisted of a woolen jumper, heavy black trousers and thick rubber soled shoes, all for safety reasons.

The reason I chose this exhibition was because I found it very interesting, especially with all the health hazards and dangers the women had to face. I also think it is interesting because if people had to do this in the modern day, it would be so much more safe. I find the women who worked in the factory very brave to do something so dangerous when they know an explosion could happen at any given moment. I also think it is amazing that a place so small could help so much during World War 2.”


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