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ICI Powfoot

Sheila Dalgleish.

Medals and more

By Collections blog

Finlay, a Duke of Edinburgh student has accessioned some recent donations to the Museum and done some research about their origins.  This is his blog…

ICI Powfoot.

In the Second World War the government were looking to disperse vital munitions factories across the country to protect them from the German Luftwaffe. They once again looked at the Solway Coast as an ideal place for a munitions factory. Just 5 miles from HM Factory Gretna, Powfoot was chosen as the place to build a new factory, ICI Powfoot.

Powfoot was chosen as a location for the factory as it was an isolated area of farmland with strong rail links and a good supply of water from the Solway Firth.

An aerial view of where ICI Powfoot was built

After being built in 1940 ICI Powfoot produced cordite, nitro-cellulose powder and, later on in the site high explosives and other chemicals were made. In charge of production was a team of local scientists.

At its peak ICI Powfoot employed over 4000 people, the majority of which were women attracted by the generous wages and the opportunity to help the war effort.

Working in a munitions factory did not come without danger, for example workers had to face the constant absorption of toxic chemicals that caused skin yellowing, hair and teeth loss. Explosions and fires also were a serious issue in Powfoot and many people were injured or killed in accidents.

Sheila Dalgleish, a 19 year old worker at Powfoot managed to tackle a dangerous fire that could have injured or even killed many people.  When the fire broke out in processing plant (an area in the factory where large amounts of cordite was processed and stored) everyone in the room evacuated, other than Sheila Dalgleish and Euphemia Lindsay. Together, they pulled the bags of cordite away from the fire, then they kept the flames under control with a fire hose until the fire department arrived.

A picture of Sheila Dalgleish.

Her actions then saved countless people’s lives. To thank her she was awarded the British Empire Medal for bravery by King George VI, and the ICI medal for bravery.


ICI medal for bravery awarded to Sheila Dalgleish



British Empire medal for bravery awarded to Sheila Dalgleish by King George VI


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.”


ICI Powfoot group photo.

World War Two photo of ICI Powfoot

By Collections blog

A couple (Ron and Morag) recently contacted the Museum and sent us a photo of Morag’s mother who worked at ICI Powfoot during the Second World War.  She is pictured in the photograph below (front row, second from left) with other people who also worked in the Factory.

Morag’s mother was Mary Taylor Napier (maiden name Dirom) who worked at ICI Powfoot during the Second World War.  She was born on the 11th May 1921 in Templand, Dumfriesshire. She then married on 2nd February 1940 at Dryfesdale, Lockerbie to James Ross Napier (who was on leave from the army). She lived in Lockerbie during World War Two.

After the War, James and Mary moved to Templand in a ‘prefab’ where they had their first child Morag (who gave us this information). Mary and James, with three children and a fourth on the way, emigrated to Australia in 1956 and this is where they lived until Mary passed away on the 16th July 2000 in Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia.

The couple would also be very interested to know if anyone  knew any of the other people in the photo and see if they can identify them. They don’t really know much more information about the photo or who is in it which is why they would like some more information if anyone can help.  Please email: if you have any information you would like to share with us.  We have a large collection of objects and material relating to the Second World War in our region and are always keen to know more.

Photo on display of ICI Powfoot workers

This display (photographed below) is on the First Floor of the Museum and focuses on the work done at ICI Powfoot.

A few years ago, the Museum researched and published a book called ‘The Solway Military Coast.’  It contains lots of information about World War Two in Dumfries and Galloway and can be purchased from our online shop (and shipped worldwide):

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