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First World War

A poster advertising Living History Weekend 2022 at The Devil's Porridge Museum.

Living History Weekend 2022

By Events

Saturday 30th July – Sunday 31st July 2022

All Activities Free with Admission into the Museum.


Get an insight into what life was like during World War One and World War Two with our living history weekend.



The Scottish Home Front Living History Society will give people an insight into how both civilians and soldiers lived during the Second World War by using the equipment, vehicles, and clothing from that time. They will help to make the past feel more tangible by showing the equipment working and demonstrating how it works and what it felt like to use. You will get to handle many of the objects, which will help to bring the past to life.

They will also have some suffragette reenactors to give an insight into the struggles of women protesting for the right to vote and how this affected their everyday lives.


Five people dressed as Suffergettes outside.


On War Service will be offering the opportunity to learn about First World War with an insight into medical care during that time. They will be inside the museum in uniform to share their enthusiasm and show you some medical equipment and domestic treasures from the time. Over the weekend they will be providing short specialist talks on the Spanish Flu Pandemic, the Role of the VAD and WW1 Hospitals in Dumfriesshire, and the Treatment of Shell Injuries. You can see the full talk programme for the weekend below.



You can learn more about On War Service on their website here: 


A photo form the 2019 Military Vehicle Event.

We hope this Living History Weekend event will build on the success of our Military Vehicle Weekend in 2019. You can read more about this here>


Another photo of a Military Vehicle Weekend event at The Devil’s Porridge Museum in the past.

Officer's Sewing Kit

Officer’s Sewing Kit – Object of the Month.

By Collections blog

This month marks the return of the object of the month to The Devil’s Porridge Museum. This is were an item from The Devil’s Porridge Museum’s collection that is currently not normally on display for the public is celebrated and displayed. The object of the month for May 2022 is an officer’s sewing kit.

Sewing kits were used by officers to maintain and mend any damage to their uniforms or clothing. This officer’s sewing kit is from World War One. The intial’s K.L.D on the front of the sewing kit refer to its previous owner, Kenneth Lees Duckett, who was a second lieutenant in the Highland Light Infantry. Read more about him below.


Kenneth Lees Duckett

Photo of Kenneth Lees Ducket

Second Lieutenant Kenneth Lees Duckett (HU 121492) CWGC  Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Kenneth was born on  5th October 1891 in Glasgow to George William and Ann Kirkham Duckett.

In September 1914 Kenneth joined the Highland Light Infantry as a private in the 9th (Glasgow Highlanders) Battalion. He became a Sergeant in May 1915 and gained his commission in the following August.

His brother Second Lieutenant Harold Ager Duckett was also in the 9th Glasgow Highlanders Battalion in the Highland Light Infantry. Sadly Harlold died on 07 June 1917.

Kenneth married Isabelle Sutton Laidlaw in July 1915. They later had one daughter.

Sadly, Kenneth was wounded in action on 22nd August 1916 in the Battle of the Somme and died later that day.

Even more sadly, Kenneth had led an attack which had been canceled, but he had never received this order. His daughter was yet to be born at the time of his death.

Kenneth Lees Duckett is buried at Dernancourt Communal Cemetery.

Isabelle later remarried a man called John Haggart Fraser, who was a chartered accountant. John was born in 1874 and died in 1953. Isabelle lived died in 1964, as can be seen on her death certificate from Scotland’s People below.

Registration of Death Isabelle

Source: Scotland’s People.

The gentleman who donated the officer’s sewing kit to us was given it by his friend in the 1990s, who was in some way related to John Haggart Fraser.

The officer’s sewing kit will be on display at the museum until the end of the month. You can book your visit to The Devil’s Porridge Museum online here>

Sources and further reading



Some soldiers carved into stone.

Online Talks 2022

By Events

The Devil’s Porridge Museum is pleased to continue it’s popular programme of online talks and events for 2022. These online talks are all about  a subject which links to local history or the themes of the Museum. All events are free.

Tickets are now avalible for the following online talks.


From the Western Front to the Scottish National War Memorial

Tuseday 12th April 2022.

Book on Eventbrite here:


The story of illustrator Morris Meredith Williams and his wife and creative collaborator, sculptor Alice Meredith Williams ARBS.


In the run-up to the First World War, artists Morris and Alice Meredith Williams were leading a quiet life in Edinburgh. He was illustrating books and teaching drawing at Fettes College. She was making small, often whimsical, sculptures in clay and bronze, and designing stained glass windows.


The outbreak of war changed everything. Morris spent four years in the army, three of them in France – first in the infantry, then the artillery and finally, in a camouflage unit. When not on duty, he filled pocket-sized sketchbooks with detailed pencil drawings of his fellow soldiers and their surroundings. Alice’s work slowed down until, in 1917, she was asked by the Women’s Work Sub Committee of the Imperial War Museum to model a collection of 3D plaster panoramas of the roles played by women during the war. The Scottish architect Sir Robert Lorimer was impressed by them and invited her to collaborate on a war memorial for a town in South Africa. It was Alice’s first large-scale work and led to commissions for the Paisley War Memorial and for the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle. Here, the marriage of Morris’s painstaking draughtsmanship and Alice’s brilliance as a sculptor produced the remarkable the frieze around at the centre of the memorial.


This talk will be delivered by Phyllida Shaw.

Phyllida Shaw studied history and French at Lancaster University and has worked for 35 years as a researcher, writer and facilitator in the arts and voluntary sector. She inherited the First World War sketchbooks and letters of Morris Meredith Williams from her great aunt (Williams’ second wife). She is the author of An Artist’s War. The art and letters of Morris and Alice Meredith Williams (The History Press, 2017) and Undaunted Spirit. The art and craft of Gertrude Alice Meredith Williams (Independent Publishing Network, 2018). She has given talks on these two extraordinary artists for the National Archives, the Royal Society of Sculptors, the National Galleries of Scotland, the Public Statues and Sculpture Association, the Western Front Association and literature festivals in Henley, Lichfield and Taunton.

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

The royal visit to H.M. Factory Gretna during World War One with lots of happy munition workers.

The Miracle Workers Project Update: Mini-Conference

By Events
A chance to hear about the excellent historical research done so far on The Miracle Workers Project in a free online event.



In March 2021, The Devil’s Porridge Museum launched it’s Miracle Workers Project, which aimed to research the 30,000 people who worked at H. M. Factory Gretna during World War One. Thanks to a generous grant from the D&G Costal Communities Fund, volunteers at the museum have been systematically researching and compiling information on those who worked at Gretna.

This free online event will share what the volunteers have uncovered so far, from women’s football teams at the factory to police to explosives and chemists. We will also be hearing from Dr Chris Brader, who wrote his thesis on the women workers at Gretna, who will be speaking about his research.

10AM – 11AM – short, informal talks by our volunteers, sharing their research.

11AM-11:45AM – talk by Dr Chris Brader, with time for questions.

Booking your free place on eventbrite here:

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

Illustration of HMS Temeraire.

HMS Temeraire

By Collections blog

This Postcard of HMS Temeraire is one of the many WW1 postcards we have of battleships. If you would like to know more information about other battleships check our website.


HMS Temeraire was one of three Bellerophon-class dreadnaught battleships built for the Royal Navy in the first decade of the 20th century. She spent almost her whole career assigned to the Home and Grand Fleets. Aside from participating in the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 and the inconclusive Action of 19 August, her service during World War One generally consisted of routine patrols and training in the North Sea.


Temeraire was transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet in October 1918 and she supported allied forces in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea after the War ended in November. The ship was deemed obsolete and was reduced to reserve when she returned home early in 1919 and was then used as a training ship. Temeraire was sold for scrap in 1921 and broken up the following year.

A postcard of a munition worker holding a cigarette sat on some gun powder with the words "expecting a rise shortly."

Conference Call for Papers

By News

The Devil’s Porridge Museum will host an online conference focused on women’s work in wartime on Friday 21st May.  12,000 women worked at HM Factory Gretna in World War One and the Museum exists to share their stories.  We have just embarked on an ambitious project to research as many lives and accounts as possible and this conference coincides with this work.

The keynote speaker will be Professor Angela Woollacott, author of ‘On Her Their Lives Depend: Munitions Workers in the Great War’ and Manning Clark Professor of History at the Australian National University.


We welcome submissions of papers that will last 30 minutes (including time for questions).  Suggested topics include (but are not restricted to):

-Any aspect of work done by women in either World War

-Munitions work

-Women’s Units such as the Women’s Land Army, Women’s Auxiliary Corps etc.

-Welfare work

-Militancy or political agitation during war

-The Home Front and the impact of War on domestic life

-Women in conflicts since 1945

-Biographies of individual women or focused on female pioneers

-Objects in GLAM organisations relating to women in work

-Women working in Science, Technology or Engineering during wartime


Please submit a paper proposal of not more than 250 words and biographical information of not more than 100 words by March 15th to


If you would like to know more about The Devil’s Porridge Museum, you may find our guidebook (available from our online shop) of interest:

The Devil’s Porridge Museum Guidebook – Devils Porridge Museum

1951 Vogue Paris "Fashionably Sick in Bed"

3 Reasons Why WW1 Munitions Workers Took Time Off Work for #NationalSickieDay

By Collections blog

The first Monday in February was designated as #NationalSickieDay when it was discovered that it was the day that the most UK employees take the day off because they’re ill. But pulling a sickie isn’t a new phenomenon. In World War One, thousands of workers moved to the border of England and Scotland to work at H.M. Factory Gretna, making cordite that was essential to the war effort. Many of these workers were young single women, far from home (and parental supervision) for the first time. During the war, the management at Gretna kept a detailed record of absences, and many offenders were taken to a local Munition Tribunal. Dealing with the issue of absenteeism was a BIG problem for management, because maximising production was very important, and absent workers meant that less work was done. Despite this, workers still managed to take an odd sickie here and there. Here are three reasons some munition workers gave for missing work:

  1. “I wanted to visit the cinema.”

Peggy Leadbetter, Nellie Hoar and E. Atkinson, process workers, and Ann Atkinson, trolley worker, were charged with being absent from work in April 1917. They didn’t seem to take the tribunal process very seriously, the local newspaper recorded that they ‘appeared to treat the matter as a joke, and indulged in frequent sniggers.’ It was also reported that instead of being at work the women were ‘enjoying themselves at dances and pictures in the evening and at the café in the afternoon.’[1]

The fact that these workers skived off to go to the pictures and dances is not very surprising. The movie business was booming, and there were lots of local picture houses to choose from. Chris Brader states that ‘wherever munitions factories were based, attendances at cinemas rocketed.’[2] Pearl White, the Scarlett Johansson of her day, starred in a number of action films during the War. (A clip from one, The Perils of Pauline, is above!) Perhaps the sniggering girls decided to treat themselves to a movie day rather than a shift at the Factory?


  1. “I had to look after my family.”

‘The Sick Child’ by Joseph Clark © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Women were often seen as caregivers.

Another common reason for missing work was family caring responsibilities. During this time, there was a strong cultural expectation that young women look after their family. The shadows of this expectation remain to this day—a recent study found that women’s unpaid care work is a massive reason for gender inequality. This reason for absenteeism was so pervasive at Gretna that it even ended up in the Factory Manual: ‘Many [women] have home calls which cannot be neglected…’[3] Despite this, women who took time because of family issues weren’t always believed.

I know, not believing women?! Who’d’ve thought it?

C. Robertson and Maisie M’Dougall, both process workers at Gretna, were charged with absenting themselves from work in September 1917 without leave or unavoidable causes at a Munitions Tribunal. They pleaded guilty, but argued that they were absent because of family reasons. The Chairman didn’t accept this reasoning, saying ‘There is a great variety of family affairs. You might have a sweetheart. You might have brothers and sisters you want to stay with. You might have someone ill, and so your excuse is rather vague.’[4]


  1. “It was raining.”

But it wasn’t just the women workers who took time off. Wet weather was the excuse of George Gilmour, a labourer. It was said at his Munitions Tribunal that he ‘refused to come and wok on nightshift if the work was outside because of his rheumatism, and said that the law forbade his being compelled to work outside in wet weather.’[5] This reasoning wasn’t upheld, and George was fined £3. Although refusing to work in the rain is kind of funny, the fact that George referenced his rheumatism in his reasoning suggests an underlying health condition that maybe wasn’t taken seriously by the Tribunal—a issue still faced by many disabled and chronically ill workers to this day.

So, those are three examples of reasons why workers at H.M. Factory Gretna were absent from their work. As you can see, it’s a lot more complicated than wanting to hole up in bed watching the WW1 equivalent of Netflix—illnesses and absences happened because of a myriad of reasons—and factory management were keen to curtail these absences as much as possible. So on this #NationalSickieDay, why not remember those absentees who have gone before us, and think about changing the narrative.

(P. S. Here are some great wellbeing resources.)

[1] ‘Not a Joke’ Dumfries and Galloway Standard, 18 April 1917, p. 5.

[2] Chris Brader, Timbertown Girls, (Bookcase, 2014), p. 89.

[3] Factory Manual, H.M Factory Gretna archives

[4] ‘Annan Munitions Tribunal, Dumfries and Galloway Standard, 19 September 1917, p. 2.

[5] ‘Munitions Tribunal at Eastriggs’ Dumfries and Galloway Standard, 2 March 1918, p. 4.


If you’d like to know more about HM Factory Gretna, you might be interested in the following items from our online shop:

Gretna’s Secret War

The Devil’s Porridge Museum Guidebook

Front cover of Gretna Parish War Memorial book.

George Johnstone PTE Canadian Scottish

By Collections blog

George Johnstone, Age 21, Private (420625) 16th Battalion, Canadian Infantry, (Canadian Scottish).


Born 1844 in Hoddom, Dumfriesshire. Son of the late Maragaret (Little) Johnstone and of Christopher Jonstone. Brother David Johnstone of Cove Railway Cottages, Kirkpatrick Fleming, Dumfriesshire. Husband of Ellen (Dodds) Johnstone of 55 Florence Avenue, Kells Lane, Low Fell, Gateshead, who he married in Gateshead in 1916.


George was working as a labourer when he enlisted at Winnipeg Manitoba in December 1914. He sailed from Montreal in June 1915 and was posted to the 16th CIF in France in October 1915. George was taken ill at Ypres in June 1916, was diagnosed with rheumatic fever at the Canadian Hospital at Boulogne and evacuated to England where he spent some months in various hospitals until he was posted to a Training Battalion. While serving in the South of England he was granted permission to marry in November 1916. George returned to France on 27 August 1917.


Killed in Action – 12 October 1917


Commonwealth War Grave – Sucrerie Cemetery, Ablain-St. Nazaire, France.

Front cover of Gretna Parish War Memorial book.

PTE Samuel McCarl & PTE William McCarl

By Collections blog

Samuel McCarl, age 22, private (18162) 2nd Battalion, Border Regiment. Born 1893 in Gasstown, Dumfries. Son of the late Samuel McCarl and of Annie Jane (Miller) McCarl of Springfield, Gretna.


Samuel was working as a farm labourer in Appleby, Westmorland when he enlisted in the Border Regiment as Private (15306) in October 1914. Initially he was rejected as unlikely to make an efficient soldier but he was later enlisted as Private (18162) and joined his Battalion in France May 1915.


Missing in Action – 25th September 1915.

Commonwealth War Grave – Loos Memorial, France


His Brother


William McCarl, age 22, Private (23358) 1st Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers.


Born in 1895 in Gasstown, Dumfries. Son of the late Samuel McCarl and of Annie Jane (Miller) McCarl of Springfield, Gretna.


Killed in Action – 27 August 1917.

Commonwealth War Grave – Poelcapelle British Cemerery, Belgium.

A person standing in the evacuee section of The Devil's Porridge Museum.

School Assemblies

By News

Did you know that only one woman in Scotland appears on a War Memorial for those who died in the First World War? Her name is Roberta Robertson and she appears on Dumfries War Memorial. What was she doing in the War? How did she die? why was she commemorated?


Have you ever considered how animals contributed to the War effort and continue to serve in conflicts around the world? Hear stories of animal bravery, learn about the Dickin Medal, and did you know that a bear served in the Second World War and then moved to Scotland?


If you’d like to arrange an assembly or presentation to your whole school or class (either in person or remotely via videolink), please email or phone us to arrange something different for your school this Armistace Day. We can guarantee unusal accounts students are not familiar with, a local perspective on the War, knowledgeable speakers with entusiasm for the subject and lots of images and objects. Hope to hear from you soon!

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