12,000 women worked at HM Factory Gretna in World War One and one of the most remarkable must have been Agnes Barr Auchenloss. National Doctor’s Day seemed like a perfect time to share her story.
Agnes Barr Auchenloss
Agnes was born on May 30th 1886 in Paisley. She graduated from the University of Glasgow with a MB_ChB in 1911. Her name appeared nine times on the prize lists and she achieved first class certificates in Anatomy and Surgery during her time at University. After graduation, she worked as a doctor then moved to South Africa. She married Gosta Lundholm in Cape Town and gave birth to their first child in 1915.
Gosta was a chemist and his father was an associate of Alfred Nobel. His family originated from Sweden but had lived in Scotland for many years before the War and both Gosta’s father and mother had British citizenship. Gosta studied in Edinburgh, London and Zurich before travelling to South Africa to work as a chemist with the British South African Explosive Co. Ltd at Modderfontein in the Transvaal (this factory made explosives for use in the Rand goldmines).
In June 1916, the family moved to Eastriggs so Gosta could work in HM Factory Gretna (as an explosives expert, his skills were in demand during war time).
The Ridge in Eastriggs where Agnes lived.
This talented and intelligent couple lived at the No. 9, The Ridge Eastriggs with their son and both contributed to the war effort in their own way. Gosta assisted in the construction of the plant. He was regarded as one of the leading chemists in the Factory and was appointed Assistant Section Manager of the Nitro Glycerine section in 1917, a position he held until the end of the War.
Agnes worked as a Medical Officer in the Factory throughout the War. She was introduced to the King and Queen during their visit to the Factory in 1917 and said to the King, “It’s good to be in the hands of a kent face” which the King is said to have understood and appreciated when the phrase was explained to him.
After the War, they returned to South Africa and had another son. In 1929, they returned to Scotland when Gosta took up a position at an ICI detonator factory in Ardeer.
Gosta was known as a man who was absolutely dependable with an agreeable personality. He was said to have a lovely singing voice and enjoyed the opera, sailing and tennis. Agnes was always helping people who were unwell and generously gave her time to the sick and injured throughout her life. Gosta died aged 82 in 1969. Agnes died aged 86 in 1972.