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Gretna girls in World War One

“The female excess”: the ‘problem’ of too many single women after World War One

By Collections blog

The Devil’s Porridge Museum’s main focus is on HM Factory Gretna, the greatest factory on earth in World War One.  It employed 30,000 people in the production of cordite (aka the devil’s porridge).  12,000 of these workers were women.

women who worked at hm factory gretna

A display within the Museum.

The majority of female workers were single and young.  We know that some women married while they working at Gretna and there were married women and those who had been widowed due to the War working at the Factory but the majority of the girls were probably affected by the post-War shortage of men.  The ‘lost generation’ i.e. the young men who died in the War meant that a lot of women remained unmarried and single women were perceived as a ‘problem’.

This article from the Times Newspaper in 1920 (published recently in their archive section), makes the point clear.  One cannot help but think of the 12,000 ‘Gretna Girls’.  They did so much to help win the War and it continue to impact on their lives in the decades to come.

1920s girl and the elusive male

This poem, written during the War by one of the female workers sums up how many of the girls may have felt: they were doing their duty, waiting for the boys to come home.  Sadly, many of the boys never did return and the course of the girls’ lives did not run in the way they had anticipated.

bravo gretna poem

If you would like to know more about the Lives of some of the Gretna Girls who made munitions at HM Factory Gretna in World War One, you might like this booklet (available from our online shop):

Lives of Ten Gretna Girls booklet

Objects for Haaf Net fishing

By Collections blog

This post was written by Lukasz, who volunteers with us every Thursday from Annan Academy.

The Museum currently has an exhibition on display which shows Haaf Net Fishing. On Monday 13th of January 2020, several fishermen visited the museum (see photographs below) one of them loaned us this interesting objects which we aim to put on display soon.  These items belonged to his father and we are delighted to have them on loan.

haaf netters at the devils porridge museum

Haaf Net Fishing is a Norse style of fishing that was adopted by the people of this local area of Solway Firth after Viking settlements and it involves the person going to the middle of the body of water with a big net than the person would place the net under the water then when a fish is caught the net is taken out of the water.

haaf net fishing needles

These objects (photographed above) are what was used to ‘knit’ the net used for this style of fishing because the people of the area had to make their own net out of hemp.  The net would be knitted by the fisherman and his wife. This six objects are three knitting needles (bottom of photo) and three measures (top of the photo).  One measure to make nets catching salmon (top left), one for nets for catching trout (middle top) and one for nets catching baby trout (top right).

For more information on haaf netting, see: http://www.annanhaafnets.org/

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