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Worker of the Week

Record from August 1913 of travel to Canada

Worker of the Week: Charlotte Marcella Forbes

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week volunteer Marilyn shares her research into Marcella Charlotte Forbes.

Marcella Charlotte Forbes was born in Malta in 1875 to John Forbes , Quartermaster major in the 1st Battallion 42nd Highlanders, Black Watch and Louisa Marcella nee Couch, daughter of a builder.

Marcella was the third of seven children born to John and Louisa between 1869 and 1886 and was named after her maternal grandmother Marcella Charloltte . Louisa was born in Madras , India which is where we can assume she met John, 14 years her senior. They married in Bengal on 4th February 1867 when Louisa was just 17 and John 36. John hailed from Moulin, Perth. Census return for 1861 give his early career as a bank clerk.

Their first child, Annie Emily was born in India in 1868 . They must have moved to Edinburgh within the year as Eleanor Maude Marcella Forbes arrived on 5th July 1869, her birth registration stating that she was born at Edinburgh Castle. This 19 year old young mother had 2 daughters. Contradictory information tells us that John enlisted in September 1873 , maybe he was in a different regiment or military position prior to that.

His posting took the family to Malta where Marcella Charlotte was born in 1875 followed by a fourth daughter Gertrude H in 1879.

On return from Malta, the 1881 census has the family living at Aldershot Barracks, John’s role is Quartermaster. By 22nd November 1882 they were in Edinburgh when Henry Maurice was born at 21 Scotland Street ( birth registration )

1884 saw the arrival of Gilbert Athole and finally in 1886 Beatrice Georgina Frederica was born, both at 18 Belle Vue Crescent, Edinburgh. Their father is shown as retired on both registrations. He possibly retired at 50.

The 1891 census return places the Forbes family at yet another Edinburgh residence- 69 Morningside Drive. John is 54, Louisa 40, Anne E 23, Eleanor 21, Marcella 16, Gertrude 12, Henry 9, Gilbert 7 and Beatrice 5. They also afford a young female servant. Anne and Eleanor are both listed as Pupil Governess.

It is unclear when John died but it must have been between the 1891 census and 1898 when Louisa is listed in the electoral register as the only eligible voter in yet another Edinburgh residence – 45 Merchiston Crescent.

We learn from ship’s passenger lists that Marcella travelled the world and was a teacher like her older sisters Annie and Eleanor. She sailed to Cape Town from Southampton on 13th October 1897, aged 24 on SS Goth as a teacher. Later evidence in electoral registers tells us that Gertrude also followed this calling and became a governess. There were female teaching agencies available for young ladies who wished to teach across the British overseas territories , evidenced in previous research into Alice Sherwen.

Marcella is back in Scotland in 1901 , both she and sister Eleanor listed as her companion are visiting 7 Melville Terrace Stirling at the time of the census.

Gertrude, 22, is listed at The Manse, Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire as a governess for an 8 year old child

Louisa moved again showing on the 1903-04 electoral register at 13 Forbes Rd, Edinburgh and the 1904-05 register at 1 Granville Terrace, showing both times as the tenant and occupier.

Marcella sailed again on 19th October 1905 , London to Bombay 1st class on SS Egypt. She was now 30.

In 1906, aged 24, Henry Maurice enlisted and his war service records show that he was in South Africa- Cape Colony, Transvaal and Orange Free State. The same record shows that he resigned his commission on 26th February 1908. He returned to his career in banking which he certainly was engaged in in 1938/39 at Castlebank , Craig Eric, Edinburgh ( Electoral register)

5th July 1913 finds Marcella sailing from Sydney to London on SS Commonwealth, a teacher aged 38. It is unclear when she sailed out to Sydney.

She stayed home a short while before sailing from Glasgow to Montreal on SS Hesperian, teacher on 1st August 1913.

Marcella took up war work at HM Factory Gretna some time between 1916 and 1918. Like many other female teachers from middle class backgrounds she became a Matron at Grace Darling House. She is listed on the valuation roll for 1918-19. She is also listed under staff addresses in the Dornock Farewell Magazine giving an address of 8 Hope Crescent, Edinburgh. The roles of welfare supervisors, matrons, WPS all appealed to women with similar backgrounds to Marcella. She would have been 43.

The only sister who did not follow a teaching career was Beatrice who sadly died in Birmingham on 12th May 1918 aged 32. Her probate lists her as a nurse of 8 Hope Crescent , the same address as Marcella. Probate granted to sister Anne Emily Forbes, teacher also of 8 Hope Crescent. The 1918-1919 electoral register for Edinburgh has Anne listed at 20 Laden Street.

The only sibling not yet accounted for is Gilbert who joined the Black Watch like his father ( Forces war records). We know that he became a clergyman – he is listed in January 1947 sailing from Southampton to New York aged 62, on the Queen Elizabeth. His address is 51 Bishop’s Gate London EC2. There is no evidence that any of the 7 siblings married.

Marcella appears on the electoral register for 1926 and subsequent years at 13 Forbes Road but her mother died at 8 Hope Crescent aged 82 in 1936.

Marcella died aged 72 on 5th June 1948 at 1, Elliott Road Edinburgh.

Perhaps she kept a diary of her travels.

Graduation photo of HM Lowe.

Worker of the Week: Harry Marchanton Lowe

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week volunteer Peter shares his research into his grandfather, Harry Marchanton Lowe.

Harry was born on 5th November 1890 in Manchester. His father, Francis, was a house painter who owned his own business and employed at least one man, and his mother, Elizabeth, worked as a teacher before her marriage. In June 1908, Harry began studying at Manchester Pupil Teacher College, following in the footsteps of his mother. He also made paint from raw ores; size and distemper  for his father’s painting business.

In October 1909 Harry started to attend Manchester University, where he studied Chemistry, Physics, Maths, and German. Sometime after June 1912, Harry resigned from the College. He began working at Ironhirst Peat Works at Mouswald, before moving to Chance & Hunt H.M. Factory, Site B., Oldbury, Worcestershire in December 1915.

H M Lowe and his address mentioned in the Dornock Farewell, one of the staff magazines at HM Factory Gretna.

In August 1917, Harry married Jessie. They would have three children–Mary, Jessie and Alexander. Mary was born at Dornock, which was where Harry was working at the time–at HM Factory Gretna. Harry was in charge of explosives production, and he and his family lived on Falkland Road in Eastriggs.

Peter has a great collection of family stories relating to his grandfather.

Family stories: 

    1. responsible for fire at St Pancras that destroyed much of station.
    2. recommended showers for all explosives workers before going off shift. However, there were vociferous complaints by the women against taking showers; they were afraid they would be spied on by the men and some felt it wasn’t natural to wash all over every day.
    3. recommended all explosive workers to be checked before starting to ensure no metal.
    4. recommended all explosive workers to wear garments without pockets.
    5. recommended all workers mixing chemicals wear a mask covering face and nose.
    6. A particular problem, he said, was that women would arrive with metal hairslides and hair pins in their hair and be very indignant when told to remove them.
    7. His daughter, Jessie, ‘remembered’ that he managed the stirring of the ‘devil’s porridge’.
    8. Invented or extended the “Noughts and Crosses” cipher, which although simple to use, is difficult to decode, especially when used in drawings.
    9. At Dorman Long, he worked on tar distillation and production of artificial fibres.
    10. He taught mechanics at a local WorkingMan’s institute.
    11. Devised lots of mathematical puzzles, including knight’s tours, crossnumber, and the puzzle now known as Sudoku (I think he called it NumberFit!).
    12. On his way to a conference, he stayed overnight at the County Hotel, Selkirk. He had a disturbed night because all night, a lady in a long white Victorian dress walked past the foot of his bed and out through the wall. He mentioned this to the hotelier the next morning, who begged him not to tell anyone and cancelled his bill. The current owner is a Norwegian. He hadn’t heard this story but he did say that other guests (before he took over) had seen ghosts.
    13. Claimed to be English Draughts Champion but name doesn’t appear in English Draughts Association’s list of champions, however I never saw him lose a game of draughts.
    14. I saw an article in Boys Own Paper (the 1898 volume) about how to make a bang. I tried it and there was no bang. I told my grandfather and he told me I was very lucky to be alive. He demonstrated how to make it safely and properly. He put some on a tree stump, threw a stone and nothing happened. He threw a very heavy hammer at it and there was a loud bang. It destroyed the hammer and split the stump. “That could have been your hand or head” he said.
    15. Was intensively competitive, especially at Scrabble
    16. Spoke and read German and went to conferences in Europe.
    17. Around 1935, on the road near Foyers, while dealing with a puncture, saw Loch Ness monster carrying off a lamb.

In 1946, Peter was elected as a fellow of the Institute of Chemistry, and in 1954 he retired. He passed away in St Albans in 1979.

Agnes Barr Auchencloss and Gosta Lundholm in a car.

Workers of the Week: Agnes Barr Auchencloss and Gosta Lundholm

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week Research Assistant Laura shares her research into Agnes Barr Auchencloss and Gosta Lundholm.

Agnes and Gosta were a married couple, who both worked at HM Factory Gretna during WW1. Agnes, a qualified doctor, worked as a medical officer, and Gosta, who was, before the war, an experienced chemist working at the Modderfotein Explosives Factory in South Africa, became Assistant Section Manager of the Nitro-Glycerine Section.

Gosta was born at Polmont Cottage in Stirlingshire, Scotland, in 1886. His father, Carl Olof, was a manager of a Dynamite Works and had been born in Sweden, although by 1891 he was a naturalised British subject. The Lundholm family had a long association with both the manufacture of explosives and Alfred Nobel, the famous Swedish chemist who held the patent for dynamite. Lundholm family lore tells that Gosta’s grandfather, Ola Lundholm, was the secret illegitimate son of the Swedish King–King Charles XIV John.

Agnes was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1886. Her father, James Currie Auchencloss (also spelt Auchenschloss and Auchencloss in some sources) was a starch manufacturer according to her birth record. Agnes was, for a woman of her time period, highly educated — she graduated with a medical degree from the University of Glasgow in 1911, and before she married Gosta worked in the Royal Alexandra Infirmary in her hometown. Gosta attended the Edinburgh Academy for his schooling and later studied chemistry at the Eidgenössisches Polytechnikum in Zürich. After graduating, he obtained a job in South Africa.

Agnes in her graduation robes

Gosta and Agnes married in Cape Town in July 1914, having their first son, Eric Olof, the following year. However, on the outbreak of war Gosta’s skills in chemistry were desperately needed back at home, and so from June 1916 he began working at HM Factory Gretna. Agnes and Eric Olof joined him, the family living at No. 9 The Ridge.

In 1917, King George V and Queen Mary toured the factory, and Agnes met Their Majesties. She said to the King: “It’s good to be in the hands of a kent face” Kent means well known, or familiar. The King appreciated Agnes’ remark!

Gordon Routledge describes Gosta as one of the ‘leading chemists’ at HM Factory Gretna, and it appears that he was well-known and well liked there! He appears in the Mossband Farewell, one of the magazines put together by staff at the end of the war. Although we know less about Agnes’ role at the factory, it is probable that as a medical officer in a munitions factory, she was kept busy attending to injuries and illnesses, and also regularly checking worker’s health given how often they came into contact with dangerous chemicals.

After the war, the family returned to South Africa, with Gosta returning to his job at the explosives factory. Agnes offered medical aid to locals, and her son Eric Olof later wrote of one particular occasion when there was: “an Afrikaner family on a farmstead out on the veldt, stricken by typhoid fever. My Mother did not drive, but my Father would drive us to the isolated farm where my Mother did all she could, and sorrowed for the Parents when alas some of the children died.” Agnes and Gosta had their second child, a son named Alan, in 1921.

Gosta Lundholm

The Lundholm family returned to Scotland in the 1920s. Gosta continued his career, working firstly Superintendent of the Lead Azide manufacture at Westquarter, Nobel’s ICI Detonator Factory, and then as Senior Superintendent at the new Detonator Department at Ardeer. Agnes joined the Women’s Citizen Association and regularly visited the poorhouse, and the boys attended local schools. In the Ardeer Employee Information, Gosta is described as:

he loved motoring, tennis for which he won several cups, and later in life, sailing. Also DIY long before the term was coined. He had a pleasant singing voice and loved opera.
Towards the end of 1967 he took part in a sound radio documentary about the factory in the sandhills…. He was in great demand for factory dinners, recollects his son, Alan. He was teetotaller and could safely transport a carload to and from!

Gosta retired in the 1940s, and passed away in 1969, with Agnes passing three years later. Their son, Eric Olof, later spoke about his parents in an oral history interview:

My father and mother were very good people…Mother’s family lived in Paisley near Glasgow, her father died young, worked in the manufactory of cornflower. Mother qualified as a medical doctor in 1911. Father was working in a Factory in South Africa, parents married in Cape Town. Father studied chemistry in Zurich, but took a British qualification in Industrial Chemistry…but when the war started he was brought back to Britain to an enormous munitions factory at Gretna in the South of Scotland, and my mother came with him, and myself also, and my mother was employed as a factory doctor there…My father was a very quiet sort of person but I think very loving of his wife and of myself and my brother Alan…An interesting coincidence here, when my mother qualified as a doctor she went for one of her early postgraduate jobs to the Royal Alexander Infirmary in Paisley, a small hospital, and in 1950 when I qualified, my first year as a doctor was in that same hospital and I may indeed have occupied the same bed sitting room, I would have certainly eaten meals in the same dining room as she did so many years before.

Gosta, Agnes, and one of their sons.

William Gidley Emmentt in two photos. In one he is sat in a chair and in the other he is working at his desk.

Worker of the Week: William Gidley Emmett

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week, volunteer Steve shares his research into William Gidley Emmett.

William Gidley Emmett was the manager of the Cordite Section at Mossband from early 1916 onwards. His background had been in explosives, having already worked in Japan. Following the Great War, he had a successful career travelling the world in the oil refining industry. He later changed careers and became an educationalist, studying the statistical efficacy of examinations at Edinburgh University.

The Emmett brothers, William and Reginald. Photo kindly shared with us by family.

He was born in Beeston, near Nottingham, on 21 August 1887, the son of William Gidley Emmett, a lace curtain manufacturer, and Annie Marie Emmett. He was educated at Nottingham High School and won a scholarship to study Natural Sciences at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in 1905, graduating with an MA in 1908. He specialised in explosives.

His first job was as an Analytical Research Chemist at Chilworth Gunpowder Co. in Surrey, then in 1912 he moved to the Japanese Explosives Co. in Hiratsuka, Japan. He returned to Britain following the outbreak of the First World War. He was appointed as Assistant Manager of the guncotton section at the HM Factory Queens Ferry in Flintshire, South Wales. In early 1916 he then became Section Manager of the Cordite Section at the Mossband site at HM Factory, Gretna.

W G Emmett pictured in the Mossband Farwell, the magazine put together by HM Factory Gretna workers.

William wrote about his time at Gretna in an unpublished memoir. He describes how production was built up slowly with an initial workforce of 100 women. Production was ramped-up to eventually employ 6,000 workers, nearly all women, working three shifts. On one occasion the plant had a visit from King George V and Queen Mary, the latter apparently remarking that William seemed very young. On days off he would ride his motorbike, a one-cylinder Triumph, with several other staff to the Lake District and go walking or go to Powfoot on the Solway Firth to play golf. On Saturday nights he would ride into Carlisle for a slap-up dinner and a variety show. He contributed to the Mossband Farewell, praising the hard work, dedication and comradeship of all the workers who contributed to the war effort at HM Gretna.

I was lodged in a wooden bungalow in Gretna village, along with a few of the senior cordite staff. I had my motor-bike with me, a single-cylinder Triumph, which took me daily from Gretna in Scotland over the border to Mossband…On most Saturday evenings I went into Carlisle, 10 miles away, with Daddy Henderson [a fellow worker and Emmett’s close friend] on the back of my bike. Here we would have a steak and chips meal followed by a variety show at the theatre.

— Extract from W. G. Emmett’s unpublished memoir

William Gidley Emmett (front row) pictured alongside his fellow operating staff in the Mossband Farewell.

At the end of the war, in 1919 he went to work for Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company, visiting oil refineries in Dutch Borneo, Java and Sumatra studying processes. In 1920 he was appointed as manager of the Anglo-Egyptian Oilfields refinery in Suez, and in 1922 was manager of the Sarawak Oilfields refinery at Miri in Sarawak. In 1923 he visited the USA and studied processes at oil refineries in St Louis, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New Orleans. A year later in 1924 he was appointed manager of the refinery section at the Royal Dutch Petroleum in Curacao

Health concerns forced him to return to Britain in 1925, where he became a researcher in chemistry at Birmingham University. There he met an old colleague, C W Valentine, who was conducting research on the reliability and predictive power of examinations. In 1931, William embarked on a new career as an educationalist by studying the statistical methods applicable to assessing the efficacy of exams. This brought him to the attention of Godfrey Hilton Thomson at the University of Edinburgh, and in 1935, William joined the Moray House College of Education there. He took part in the construction and standardisation of the Moray House Tests, which were used throughout the UK for school selection.

During the Second World War he was Managing Chemist, Guncotton, TNT and Tetryl sections at HM Factory Bishopton. In 1942 he became Managing Chemist, Cordite Section at HM Factory Wrexham.

After the War he returned to Edinburgh to become a Lecturer and Reader in Experimental Education, publishing widely. Between 1948 and 1952 he gave lectures at Homerton College in Cambridge to staff of Local Education Authorities, promoted by the Ministry of Education. In December 1952 he undertook a lecture tour in Columbo, Kandy and Jaffna in Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka) under the auspices of the British Council. He retired in 1953. Emmett describes this as being dismissed from his university appointment by Professor J G Pilley. 

In 1954, following his retirement, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Sir Godfrey H ThomsonAlexander AitkenIvor Malcolm Haddon Etherington and Derrick Lawley. Between 1955 and 1957 he was on the staff at Ferranti Ltd at Crewe Toll, Edinburgh, as a technical writer. 

In 1955, aged 68, he married Margarete Annelisa Hartmann (born 20/12/1908) in Dusseldorf. They lived at Redford Crescent in Edinburgh. They had no children. In February 1958 they visited Australia.

William died on 5 January 1985, aged 97.

Post-Script to Steve’s excellent biography, written by Laura Noakes

In 2021, one of William’s family members kindly shared with The Devil’s Porridge Museum some photos and documents, including his unpublished memoir, which gives us a valuable insight into W G Emmett’s character. In addition to his stories from his time at Gretna racing through the Scottish countryside on his bike, he also wrote up some facts about various members of his family. In describing himself he wrote: “at 88 finds he has on the whole left undone those things that he ought to have done and done those things which he ought not to have done, differing little from others. But he can still laugh at himself and things in general.” He wrote of his wife: “lucky to have a large garden and a nice husband”!

W G Emmett pictured in his office at Gretna.

Also shared with us are these fantastic photos, which appear to be much more candid than many of the photos we have in our collection, and look like they were taken at HM Factory Gretna. Appearing in these photos are W G Emmett, and two of his colleagues, G Bately Godwin and Egerton Sayers.

G B Godwin, pictured in Jan 1919

Egerton Sayer, pictured in 1919

Danger Building Officers at H.M. Factory Gretna.

Worker of the Week: Agnes Muir

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week, volunteer Marilyn shares her research into Agnes Muir.

Agnes Cumming(s) Muir was born in Troon, Ayrshire, on 21st December 1889 , the eldest of seven children to William Muir and Andrina Murdoch Muir. Her birth registration tells us that William was 28, Andrina 27 and they lived at 30, Back Temple Hill, Troon.

Her father, William was born in 1861 in Borgue, Kirkudbrightshire and her mother Andrina in 1862 in Colvend, Dalbeattie, SW Scotland. They married at Colvend on 19th June 1888.

We have an early photograph of the proud young parents with Agnes on her mother’s knee.

Agnes pictured with her parents.

The 1891 census lists her father as ships carpenter and Agnes as the only child. There is evidence that she was named after her maternal grandmother who died in 1891.

A sister, Marian arrived in 1892, a brother James in 1894, a sister Jessie Wilson in 1895, another brother Robert in 1897 followed by another sister , Elizabeth Murdoch on 25th August 1899.

In 1899 7 year old Marian became ill with TB and died aged 9 on 19th June 1901. Her death registration and the 1901 census place the family at 19 Welbeck Crescent, Troon. Marian died of Phthisis pulmanato ( Tuberculosis) having suffered for two years . Marian’s name is on the family gravestone in Troon Cemetery ( where Agnes’s would be added a few years later.

Having lost a daughter in 1901 and her father in 1900, 39 year old Andrina gave birth to a seventh child, William in 1902 and sadly died the same year. It is unclear whether the birth was a contributory cause of her death.

The loss of their mother left Agnes the eldest daughter at 13 and it is difficult to find any evidence of her activities and life between this point and 1911.

The 1911 census tells us that she was a boarder at 25 Kelvenhaugh Street, Glasgow . She was the only female in the household other than the landlady. The landlady’s three sons and a male 51 year old cousin made up the family members. The male boarders comprised of a police constable with Glasgow Police, an apprentice marine engineer and a blacksmith working at a shipping company.

Agnes now aged 22 was a typist with a law firm. We can assume that some time in the previous few years she had studied or had some sort of training for this role.

For part of 1918, aged 29 , the electoral register tells us that she was still in Glasgow, lodging with the Stirling family at 195, Kent Grove, Kelvingrove, Glasgow.

Agnes Muir in uniform.

However, the RAF log in the National Archives informs us that on 7th October 1918 Agnes joined the Royal Air Force. Her service No. was 21839. We learn that she is 5’6” tall with grey eyes. The record also tells us that she was discharged on 18th April 1919. Her conduct “ most satisfactory”. The Royal Air Force at the time was newly formed ( Wikipedia).

This period coincides with Miss Muir photographed for the Mossband Farewell Magazine with the Danger Buildings staff – the only female in the photograph. It is not clear whether or not she was the clerical support for the Danger Building Officer team at HM Factory Gretna. Her name certainly did not merit inclusion in the list alongside the male members of the team at the time.

Agnes is the only woman pictured as being on the Danger Building staff.

Probably being at something of a loss after the war, she sailed from Liverpool to St John’s Newfoundland aged 29 on” SS Empress of France” on 19th December 1919. The incoming passenger list for Canada is indecipherable for Agnes’s entry.

We must assume she was in Canada for the whole of 1920 as we find her on an incoming passenger list , Montreal to Glasgow on “SS Tunisia” in 1921 en-route to 19 Welbeck Crescent Troon, arriving in Glasgow 4th June 1921. Her occupation is given as stenographer. The family had not moved house.

It is not clear but very likely that Agnes returned home through ill health. Sadly, she died on 7th November 1923 aged just 33. She died in Moffat which was renowned as a Spa town ( and we learn from her death registration that she had Chronic colitis and infective Arthritis. She had been staying at Woodbine Villa, Moffat.

She was buried in the family grave alongside her mother and sister Marion. Her father suffered this additional tragedy and died in St Andrews Drive, Glasgow in 1940.

The additional family tragedy that he did not have to endure was his grandson Scott’s ( son of daughter Jessie Oswald ) death in 1951 when it is reported that as a Guardsman out rehearsing in the heat he fell not his bayonet which pierced his jugular vein . He was 19 (

Welfare Department at H.M. Factory Gretna.

Worker of the Week: Mabel Cotterell

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week, Research Assistant Laura Noakes writes up volunteer Stuart’s research into Mabel Cotterell

Mabel (or Maybel) was born on August 5th 1872 in Walsall, in the midlands. She was the second youngest of a large family of seven children. In the 1881 census the family are living in Somerset. Mabel’s father, George, is working as a solicitor, and the family have a domestic servant named Sarah.

By 1891 Mabel was living with her widowed mother Matilda at Priory Mansions, South Kensington. Her older sister Constance, a literary critic for the Academy magazine, had published her first novel, Strange Gods, in 1889 and was in the process of writing her second, Tempe. Mabel appeared in the 1891 census as a school mistress and boarding with her at Priory Mansions was a Swiss language teacher, Adele Glatz. A 1925 shipping manifest records that Mabel had skills in both German and French, and in the 1911 census she is recorded as living at 106 Beauford Street in Chelsea and teaching at a private school. Constance was also listed as living at this address.

Mabel was appointed by the Ministry of Munitions for the purpose of setting up the Welfare Department at Gretna. She took up her post during February 1916. Besides her regular duties which included administrating and filing records for the female workers  she was involved in organising social and sporting events. ‘Miss Cotterell’ appears in many reports of sports events and galas.

© IWM WWC D8-5-373

In the January 5th edition of the British Journal of Nursing, Mabel is highlighted as:

Miss Cotterell has an army of assistants, clerks, matrons and factory supervisors, and as many as 200 new workers arrive in one day. Inevitably the difficulties of administration are not unknown, but, we read, difficulties seem to vanish under Miss Cotterell’s experienced touch.

Above photo and this one are from IWM’s First World War Portraits (Women’s War Work) Collection. Catalogue number: WWC D8-5-373

In June 1918, Mabel was awarded an OBE in recognition of her war work.

Mabel pictured with her fellow welfare workers in the Mossband Farewell, a magazine put together by HM Factory Gretna workers at the end of the war.

After the war she returned to London living at 20 Downside Crescent N.W.3. It’s likely that Mabel was a supporter of women’s suffrage as she wrote semi-regularly for The Vote, the organ of the Women’s Freedom League, The Common Cause, another suffrage periodical, and The Church League for Women’s Suffrage. Interestingly, the articles Mabel wrote was on a subject related to Gretna–the State Management Scheme. The State Management Scheme began during the war, when the Government took over breweries and pubs in the Gretna and Carlisle area and controlled the sale of alcohol. Mabel was evidently impressed with it, writing “that Carlisle has shown there is a new solution to our problem [of overdrinking].’

In another article, Mabel further expanded on the problems that necessitated the scheme:

In Carlisle, where thousands of navvies had been drafted for the building of townships and factories at Gretna, the regulations and restrictions had quite broken down. Police supervision was utterly inadequate. The crowded public houses, the drunken scenes in the street, the evasion of all control by the publicans eager to reap this golden harvest.

This appears to be the cause to which Mabel dedicated her life to. In several papers she is referred to as the “Secretary to the Women’s National Committee for State Purchase and Control of the Liquor Trade.’

She wrote to local papers on other issues as well. In one letter to the editor of the Westminster Gazette, she criticised experiments on animals, arguing “how can we claim to be gallant defenders of the weak and oppressed so long and we disgrace our humanity with this barbarous practice.” She also acted as the English translator of ‘Hymns to the Night’, a collection of poems written by German poet Novalis,

On January 2nd 1925 she left London aboard the steamer Cardinganshire for Los Angeles arriving on January 25th. Mabel retuned to the US in 1926 visiting New York and in 1939 traveled to the Dutch East Indies. In her later years she lived in Gloucestershire and died on May 20th 1968 at New Nursing Home Cairncross Rad Stroud. 

Workers of the Week: Mary McCulloch and John Wise

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week, Marilyn tells us about her research into a very interesting couple who both worked at the factory.

On 26th June 1918 Mary Josephine Wilson McCulloch ,spinster, 26, married John Stanley Wise , electrical engineer, 29, at St Michael’s Church, Bowness -on-Solway to the West of Carlisle. The marriage certificate indicates that John was living at ‘Turnmuir’, Dornock, son of Charles John Wise , Gentleman and Mary the daughter of George Wilson McCulloch, deceased, Railway Inspector.  

John and Mary on their wedding day.

Both Mary and John worked at HM Factory Gretna. Mary appears in the photograph of the Welfare Department,( 3rd from left on back row), featured in the Mossband Farewell Magazine and is also listed under “Supervisors” with an address of Airey Hill, Bowness on Solway.  

On 23rd August 1919, they had a daughter , Mary Doreen Hallifax Wise , born at 11pm according to the  birth registration for the Parish of Dornock. A second daughter was born on 20th August 1923, Elizabeth Barbara Beryl Wise , also registered at Dornock with an address given as 86, The Rand, Eastriggs. John is still working as an Electrical Engineer even though  H M Factory Gretna was in the process of being closed down and auctioned off.  

This is the story of an interesting couple who it seems parted company around 1940.  

We know that our Mary Wise and her daughters, Mary Doreen and Elizabeth Barbara now aged 10 and 8  were still living in Eastriggs in 1929 when their father, John sailed alone from Greenock to New York under “ Tourist, 3rd class, Cash, New York” – more of John later. He does indicate that his last place of residence is Eastriggs.  

In 1935, a US incoming passenger list Liverpool to Boston includes Mary Josephine as a housewife and the 2 girls as scholars. They are travelling to their husband/father at 38, Elm Street, Worcester, Massachusetts and their contact in the UK is “ Airey Hill”. This listing describes mother and daughters beautifully. Mary Josephine Wilson Wise  aged 43 is 5’6”, of fresh complexion with grey hair and blue eyes. She has a scar on her right thumb and a scar on her upper lip and is described as a housewife. Mary Doreen Hallifax, 16, is 5’8” also has a fresh complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes and has a scar on her right leg and a birthmark on her head. Elizabeth Barbara Beryl , the younger daughter, 12, is 4’7”, with a pale complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. Both girls are scholars. 

It seems that Mary and John separated and ultimately divorced around 1940, no concrete evidence of divorce can be found but John remarried.  

We have to assume that Mary returned to the UK. The electoral register  of 1947 lists her for Tadworth, Sutton, Surrey and she maintained her married name of Wise. The 1969 electoral register shows her still in Tadworth, Sutton. We know that her daughter Mary Doreen Hallifax was also living in Sutton at the time. Sadly Mary Josephine Wilson Wise died on 22nd January 1976 at Kingswood Court,( nursing home) Brighton Road, Tadworth, Sutton, Surrey , aged 84 just 3 months after the death of her younger daughter Elizabeth who died in Montreal, Canada aged 52 and is buried in Curetien Mont Royal, Outrement, Montreal ( 

John Stanley Wise was the second child of Charles John Wise  and Mary Anne Dare Rodgers . His mother came from Henry Street Workington ( 1871 census) and his father was born in Liscard, Cheshire ( 1901 census) 

John’s father, Charles Wise

The Wise family clearly moved around quite a lot during the early years of their marriage indicated by the fact that Annie L the eldest child was born in West Kirby, Cheshire, John and his younger brother of 2 years were born in Canada and sisters Dorothy Inglis and Elaenor Annie were born in Chestnut Hill,  Keswick. 

We learn from John’s US Draft card of 1942 that he was born on 29th April 1889 at Moosomin, Saskatchewan, Canada. At aged 2  when his parents were 38, the 1891 Canadian census shows father Charles as a farmer as are most of the entries on the page and all from England or Scotland. 

The 1942 draft registration card, filled in by John Wise.

This sojourn in Canada must have made John’s father quite a lot of money as by 1901 the family was back in England, living on desirable Chestnut Hill, Keswick, and on John’s fathers own means at age 47. Confusingly the 1911 census still lists Charles as a farmer but we know that by the time of his son’s marriage to Mary McCulloch he is a “ Gentleman”. John does not appear on 1911 census but in 1908 there is a manifest for permanent residence of Maine, US.  

We have to assume that John returned to the UK around 1916 to take up  War work as an electrical engineer at HM Factory Gretna where he met welfare supervisor Mary McCulloch whom he married at Bowness on Solway in June 1918. We know that he was still working as an electrical engineer at Eastriggs in 1923 but had moved from ‘Turnmuir’ , Dornock to 86 , The Rand , Eastriggs with his wife and two daughters.  

The powerhouse switchboard at HM Factory Gretna.

John clearly yearned for Stateside life. As mentioned earlier, he sailed alone tourist class , cash, to New York in 1929. It clearly states his last permanent residence as USA and his place of future residence USA. He was 39, an electrical engineer. His Contact address “ Newlands” Chestnut Hill, Keswick. The passenger listing for “ Doric” also tells us that he spoke Spanish and that his last address was Eastriggs, Dumfrieshire.  Mary and his daughters 10 and 6 were left behind. Curious that he gave his father’s address for contact.  

We know as described earlier that Mary and the girls joined John in Boston in 1935.  The 1940 census for New  York , Richmond District lists them as residents and John an Assistant Engineer, Commercial Bank, aged  51. This same year John’s father died in Boston, Massachusetts on 1st April 1940 aged 87. He was buried in Crosthwaite Churchyard , Keswick and the inscription is on the family memorial.  His mother died 10 years later in 1950.  

John’s US draft card gives an address in 1942 of 785 Pak Place, NYC , working at Chase National Bank and aged 52. It seems to be about this time that Mary and John parted company because on 1st January 1943 John married  Jessie “Jet” Reynolds in Reno, Nevada. This was her second marriage . She had been left a widow by the death of her husband Lester Clark Kellogg. The couple remained at 785, Park Place NYC. ( US Marriage license)  

Some of this mystery is solved by a letter in a public members tree on  

Extracted and interpreted from a letter dated 2nd February 1942 from John Stanley Wise- 

“The sister of John Stanley Wise (  Anne E ) married Harold Field Kellogg ,the brother of Lester Clark Kellogg ( husband of John’s second wife) and lived in New York in the 1940s. Apparently this is how John met Jessie “Jet” Reynolds. John worked at Chase National Bank, 18 Pine Street, Manhattan, NY. In this capacity , and as a friend, he became a financial advisor to Harry C Reynolds ( Jessie Jet’s father) in the late 1930s- early 1940s when Harry was trying to find investors for his new “ pine product” following the apparent financial collapse of Reynold Bros. Lumber Co. during the great depression in the mid 1930s”  

Marriage records for Boston show this as 1st June 1914. Harold Kellogg a 30 year old Architect and Ann Wise, 26.  

 The following year, Mary and John’s younger daughter Elizabeth married Harold Dean an Englishman from Birkenhead, an Office Manager according to the marriage record , on 9th December 1944 in Connecticut . Harold was 15 years Elizabeth’s senior,  was divorced from his first wife earlier that year ( public member tree). They must have moved to England because in 1957 there is a record of their sea passage emigrating to Canada via Halifax Nova Scotia from Southampton. Their UK address is given as The Pines, Hoppety, Tadworth, Surrey which sheds light on why Mary was listed on the electoral registers for that period as living in Tadworth. Following her divorce she and the girls must have moved to Surrey. Elizabeth and Harold were clearly going to make Canada their permanent home.  

They also have two sons, John born on 31st January 1946  and Ian born on 27th February 1952. (Dean)- Grandsons for Mary and John.   

Mary Doreen Hallifax, her older sister married John Hunter Pope , registered in Middlesex, in 1948. There is no record evident of any children from this marriage. Mary died on 26th December 1991 according to Probate records, her estate worth £23,127 , no one named . Her address was 7 Chapel Road, Tadworth , Surrey. This corroborates the theory that Mary and her daughters moved to Surrey following her divorce from John but does not explain why Surrey. 

The Wise family grave in Crosswaithe Churchyard, Keswick

In a manifest for crossing the US Canadian border in 1954 there is reference to John’s first time in the US – 1908. 

Sadly, John was widowed in 1957 by the death of Jessie nee Reynolds, nee Kellogg ( Public member tree)  

Within 2 years, now aged 69, he married for a third time on 12th February 1959. This time to Mildred Hester Temple, a teacher. Mildred was born in Folkestone , England to Richard Temple, 2nd Baronet who has his own Wikipedia page, was active in diplomacy and greatly honoured.  

This marriage did not last long – John died in New York City, in 1961, aged 71, still living at 785, Park Place.( an apartment block- Google maps) 

Mildred became naturalized in 1964 and moved to 56 Commonwealth Avenue Boston which coincidentally is the same Avenue that John’s sister Anne lived on when their father visited in 1940 and died. Mildred lived until 1980. Her obituary in The Boston Globe mentions John S Wise. 

The interweaving of the Wise and Kellogg families is fascinating. Clearly John’s sister Anne married Harold Kellogg and had a son Charles Dare Kellogg ( Dare being Eleanor’s mother’s middle name. )Anne’s name appears as Kellogg in the Penrith Advertiser 9th August  1938 in the report of the will of a Miss Eleanor Kate Wise – John’s Aunt- of the Bungalow . Chestnut Hill, Keswick.   

John’s sister Dorothy Inglis Wise married a clergyman ,  Laurence Charles Beril Newell ( photo in attached folder) from Wigton but married in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire. In 1972 marriage registrations for Westminster list a  Dorothy Mary  Newell marrying Charles Dare Kellogg in the registration district of Westminster. The jigsaw of Dare’s and Kellogg’s becomes very complex. 

Alice May Sherwen

Worker of the Week: Alice May Sherwen

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week, Marilyn tells us about her research into Alice May Sherwen.

Alice May was the middle child of Peter (1843 -1895) and Sarah Ann nee Walker (1855-1936). Peter, a Yeoman farmer “ of an old Gosforth Yeoman family” ( local press 1895) farmed at High Boonwood , Gosforth, Cumberland. Sarah was from Eaglesfield near Cockermouth, also of farming stock. The 1861 census tells us that Sarah’s father was aged 40, a farmer of 67 acres employing 2 men and 1 woman. On the other hand, in the same year, Peter was a farmer’s son of 60 acres. By 1871 both farmers had increased their acreage. Peter married Sarah, 12 years his junior, at St Bees on 18th October 1882 although in which establishment is unknown. Sarah was from a Quaker family( Society of Friends) but there is no evidence to suggest that this was a Quaker wedding. Marriage relieved Sarah of being the housekeeper for her brother Isaac ( 1881 census).

The Sherwen family — Alice is pictured along with her sister, brother and mother. Photo Credit: Whitehaven Archives

In the autumn of 1883, a son ,Henry, was born, followed by Alice May in January 1887 and Helena Mary on Christmas Eve 1889.

The children took pleasure in their local landscape, High Boonwood, enjoying panoramic views of Wasdale and Scafell Pike as well as out to the Irish Sea. The Maryport Advertiser of Saturday 29th July, 1893 reported :-

“ YOUTHFUL MOUNTAINEERS On Saturday, Henry, Alice M and Helena M Sherwen of Gosforth, Cumberland , aged respectively nine, seven, three years and seven months, climbed to the highest point of Scawfell, the two former without assistance. The ascent was made from Wasdale Head.”

There is

A photograph of the three young Sherwens leaning over into a lake with a behatted lady holding a fishing rod in one hand and hanging onto the youngest child ( Helena) with the other. Photo credit: Whitehaven Archives

Just two years later in 1895 when Henry was a boarder at Brookfield, The Quaker School, Wigton, their father died of stomach cancer ( Whitehaven Archive- death certificate and a letter form Henry at Brookfield to his mother) The death was reported in the local press. He apparently had taken a keen interest in church matter, having served as church warden, and was a regular attender at vestry meetings. He was 53.

At only 40 with three young children, 12, 8 and 6, records in local papers of the time show that Sarah let High Boonwood in 1897.

By 1901 Mrs S Sherwen is listed in Bulmers Directory of West Cumberland as proprietor of “ Gowrie”, Apartments, Eskdale. Advertisements in West Cumberland Times of June 1893 showed that these apartments were” let furnished, 5 minutes walk from the station ( Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway), uninterrupted view from the rooms.”

Alice is noted as a scholar in the 1901 census

This is the year that the census lists Alice , aged 14 , at Ackworth School (a Quaker establishment) near Pontefract, as a boarder. A letter from her headmaster dated 23rd November 1901 informs us that Alice has been unsuccessful in gaining an apprenticeship and suggests she would “ do better as a teacher in a private family despite “many points in her character” ( Whitehaven Archives)

There is an indication that this was as Alice left Ackworth and moved to The Mount, an all girls Quaker school in York. The Sheffield Daily Telegraph of Monday 27th February 1905 listed the successful candidates at matriculation for the University of London including Alice M Sherwen, The Mount School.

Her final report from The Mount school, held by Whitehaven Archives, shows that she had been teaching in the junior department , probably as a pupil teacher. Most of her studies were of aspects of education including theory. The comment on the practical:-

“ Her work shows a marked improvement. Lessons carefully prepared and give evidence of much interest in subject matter and in teaching. Has nor yet enough sympathy with children, nor reached that point of contact without which a good lesson cannot be given.


In 1906,  Alice started her studies in Classics at the University of London.

Alice was awarded a third class degree in classics in 1909

We know that Alice graduated from University College, London University with a 3rd class degree in Classics as listed in the University register of graduates for 1909.


Alice pictured alongside her fellow welfare workers in the Mossband Farewell.

Alice is pictured in the Mossband Farewell, sitting on the front row beside “Ping” the dog amongst the Welfare Department staff. Her address is listed under “ Supervisors” This role was created by Lloyd George specifically for Munitions initially when the State became a huge employer of thousands of young women.

Welfare Supervisors came from backgrounds such as teaching , nursing and social care . Alice would have been 29 in 1916 and we know from evidence that she was a teacher despite what her headmaster had written about her.

There is no indication as to where Alice lived whilst working at H M Factory Gretna nor what her sister did during the war years.

Alice May Sherwen. Photo credit: Whitehaven Archives

The next mention of Alice is in the Whitehaven Archives in  a letter dated 30th August 1920 from the Unity School of Christianity. The Unity Church, founded in 1889, is a spiritual movement that indoctrinates positivity. The movement is largely based in America, and the letter is from Missouri. The letter assures Miss Sherwen  ‘of our continued prayers for you and your friend’.
This is quite a move from her Quaker upbringing. Could it have been the War and working at HM Factory Gretna that urged her to seek a different denomination?

Alice was teaching at The English School Cairo from at least January 1920 to new year 1921. The letters held by Whitehaven Archives are revealing. Usually addressed to “Dear mother , H +H” starting monthly and about 8 pages long moving through a period in May as shorter weekly missives.

January 14th 1920 “ The Headmaster is a capable, bumptious, little man without any of the qualities of a man in his positions should have except those of a head of business.”

May 1920 following the killing of several Englishmen –“ Killing Englishmen is a sort of sport with the natives.”

Also in May she is very taken with Lord Allenby – “ a striking figure” following a reception at Lord and Lady Allenby’s residence’

During the school summer break she travels to Greece and in July writes “ You will be sorry ( or glad) to hear that I have changed so much -I no longer think Boonwood road a bad road!”

Some of her letter begin to be sent to friends at this point . She talks about medical and science lectures and exhibitions.

She also mentions that she suffers from neuralgia and that the New Year ( 1921) is going to be very eventful for mum and Henry.

Her brother Henry married Annie Wilson in Whitehaven in the spring of  1921 and they had a daughter Joan on 28th September 1922.

Whitehaven Archives hold a bundle of inward letters from Arthur Dadford, soldier in Palestine (13th Pack Battery, Jerusalem), to Alice Sherwen, who was in Cairo at the time.

“The letters addressed to ‘English School’ suggest her travelling for a  teaching position, one sample listing in [Arabic?] marked ‘private!!’ and two photographs possibly of Dadford. The first letter, dated on the 6 Oct 1921, says it was four days since Alice left Jerusalem which would have been the 2 Oct. The letters are romantic, but also detail his background and army life in Jerusalem. He briefly mentions resentment towards Germans (29 Nov 1921, p. 6.) The letters in this bundle end with notice of Dadford leaving the service on 14 Sep 1922.”

In 1923 a letter from The Association of Assistant Mistresses is sent to “ Birk Howe “, Eskdale. This is several properties down from “ Gowrie” but another fine property overlooking the valley. This is the house where her mother died in 1936, Alice being named in the Probate record.

She sailed to Cape Town, 1st class onboard the “ Durham Castle” on 3rd January 1924, accompanied by another teacher, Miss S B Robinson. Their address was 11 Winsford House W 1. This could have been the address of a teaching agency. She returned , 3rd Class on 24th March 1925. Her intended address being 8 Cavendish Gardens, W1.

Whitehaven Archives hold a catalogue belonging to Alice from the Universal Astrological Service indicating horoscopes, distance learning and much more. They also hold a journal in which Alice has written almost daily extracts from reading material , mainly philosophical and though provoking. One such extract relates the position of racism in society.

Further into the book it seems Alice has had some sort of “ reading” with a clairvoyant or similar and has written down what was said:-April 1924 Mrs Winson “ – someone has broken your heart. The rest of the year will be  good one.” The writing refers to Ena Mary ( Helena) “ helping you to take the right step”

It continues:- “ If you had married him he would have dragged you down until it might possibly have ended in S D ( you have meditated on this in the past.)

Referring to possible marriage “ They would not have allowed it.” Could this have been Arthur Dadford?

Whitehaven Archives hold a telegram to Miss Alice Sherwen from The Joint Agency For Women Teachers, 21st December 1925 “ COMMISSION 3% OF SALARY OF £75 15 0”

At some point Alice tried her hand at novel writing, 5  hand written unpublished novels are held in the Archives. She wrote under the pseudonym, Alice Rivers. The themes of some are religious. They are entitled: The Mother, The Spirit of the Four Raps, Exiles, The Gateway of Life and Dawn.

The 1930 electoral register for London places both sisters in London-  Alice at 19 Gordon Street , Camden and Helena lodging at 39 Portman Square. Helena was still there in 1931. Alice was settled in Gordon St until at least 1936 but at number 5 in that year when her address is listed for passengers departing on 22nd December  Madeira arriving Southampton on 4th January 1937.

Alice was an experienced traveller by this point in her life– in 1937 she visited New York.

By 1936, their niece Joan born in 1922, had followed the family tradition and been educated at Ackworth Quaker School, nr Pontefract . She is listed there aged 17 on the 1939 register but in 1936 travelled seemingly alone to Mombasa, Kenya as a student. Later Passenger listings show that she  travelled and stayed for long periods in Mombasa with her husband and young children.

Sarah, their mother died in 1936 and Alice May was named in the Probate register.

Having arrived back in England in January 1937, Alice travelled from Southampton to New York City in  July arriving on 2nd August . She gave her home address as 5 Gordon Gardens, London and is heading to C/O National Bible Institute, 340W , 55 Street, NYC and intended to stay for less than 60 days. The most fascinating insight from this passenger list is that we now learn that aged 50 , Alice has grey hair, blue eyes , fair complexion and is 5’ 5” tall. Interestingly she gives her nearest relative as a cousin , Mr Herbert Walker -possibly he was the nearest geographically rather than relatively.

She arrived back on 13th September on board the Queen Mary.

Alice does not seem to appear on the 1939 register – perhaps she was on one of her many trips abroad some of which are indicated on postcards sent to her from her travels and held in the Whitehaven Records.

Helena does appear on the 1939 register , living at 8 College Precincts, Worcester, single and a teacher for the blind.

We know from electoral registers that Alice stayed in London moving from Camberwell in 1947 to Peckham -1949. She was living at 3 Elmhurst Villas, Cheltenham Road London SE15 from at least 1951 to her death in 1967 aged 80.

The probate register – “SHERWEN Alice May of 3 Elmhurst Villas, Cheltenham Road, London S.E.15 who was last seen alive on 14th April 1967 and whose dead body was found on 15th April 1967. Administration London 26th September to Helena Mary Sherwen spinster. £13341

The final chapter for Alice is the cremation record accessed via deceased online . Her cremation took place at Honor Oak Crematorium, Southwark. The record included in the attached folder shows that her ashes were scattered in The Spinney. In an address book in the Whitehaven Archive, written in very shaky pencil handwriting is an address for Alice at Honor Dale School, Peckham Rye, London SE22. It is not clear whether this book belonged to Alice’s mother or sister. Most probably to Helena.

…and finally for Helena who ended her days at Wythop View, Embleton, nr Cockermouth. She died in 1974 and is buried in the Quaker burial ground at Pardshaw , probably alongside her maternal grandparents.

The Sherwen family. Photo credit: Whitehaven Archives

Jessie Rome Latimer

Worker of the Week: Jessie Rome Latimer

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week, Stuart tells us about his research into Jessie Rome Latimer.

Jessie Latimer was brought up in Annan and one of her main interests during her youth was singing and performing. On December 3rd 1914 she took part in a concert at the Victoria Hall in Annan as part of the Soldiers and Sailors’ Work Party Fund. Her younger sister Margaret also took part in a section of the performance titled the ‘Butterfly Queen’, whereas Jessie appeared in ‘Our Allies’, where she sang the song  ‘Ready, aye ready’.

Jessie mentioned in the Annandale Observer 11th May 1917.

Jessie Latimer is documented appearing at numerous local events between 1914 and 1916 along with Gina Beattie, Elsie Longmuir and Etta Robinson. Jessie entered the factory in the autumn of 1916 along with several of her friends and seems to have worked at the Dornock section, which is interesting as her father Robert was born in Dornock in 1867.

Photo from The Devil’s Porridge Museum archives collection. Could Jessie have been doing something similar to these women, who were working in the cordite section of HM Factory Gretna?

Jessie continued singing and on 11 May 1917 Jessie performed as part of a variety concert at the Central Hall Eastriggs held under the auspices of the Gretna Social & Athletic Association. She also seems to have been involved in sport there is a suggestion that she appeared in the team line up for the Dornock hockey side and a J. Latimer appears on the team sheet for the Gretna Girls football team which travelled to Carlisle to play the Carlisle Munitioners at Brumpton Park in a charity match. Jessie was also involved in fund rising for war charities running a stall at the ‘Worlds Fair’ event in Annan on 8 September 1917.

Could Jessie be in this line up of The Mossband Swifts? They were one of the women’s football teams at Gretna. As she worked in the Dornock section of the factory, it may be that she was part of a team formed of Dornock workers.

After the war Jessie met William Armstrong Fyfe, a trainee dentist. He had been conscripted as a Gunner but was discharged in 1916 on medical grounds. The couple married in Grimsby Lincolnshire in 1920 and William Fyfe qualified as a dentist in 1921. They moved to Edinburgh in 1923 residing at 10a, Bruntsfield Avenue but the couple soon returned to Grimsby where William worked at a new dental practice on 78 Grimsby Road. A few years later William died on 5 May 1929. Following her husband’s death Jessie moved back to Scotland and lived for many years in Lockerbie where she died in April 1958.

A beautiful colourised photo of Jessie Rose Latimer, done by Stuart.

Reginald Ezra Parry M.Sc., University of Melbourne

Worker of the Week: Reginald Ezra Parry

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week, Research Assistant Laura Noakes writes up volunteer Beth’s research into Reginald Ezra Parry.

Reginald Ezra Parry was born in 1889 in Adelaide, Australia. His parents, Ezra and Florence, had three boys, of who Reginald was the youngest. Ezra worked as a chemist, and perhaps this is what inspired his youngest son to follow in his footsteps and pursue a scientific career. Reginald studied at the University of Melbourne in Australia, where he was a member of the rugby team.

Image credit: University of Melbourne Photographs, reproduced with permission

This postcard shows the reverse of the photo of the rugby team. In this brief letter, Reginald states that he is ‘Very busy, No time to write a letter. Anyway, not much news. Am going to George Taylor’s wedding in a few minutes. How is this for a photo of me? This, as you will probably guess, is the Intervarsity Rugby Football Team. Henley is on Saturday. Went and saw ‘The Chocolate Soldier again last night. Love and kisses from Reg.’ Image credit: University of Melbourne Photographs, reproduced with permission

The Chocolate Soldier was an operatta first adapted for film in 1915, which suggests that this letter was written when Reginald was coming to the end of his university studies. He graduated with an M.Sc in that same year. There are some more great photos of Reginald in the University of Melbourne Archives. In the first, he sits in a deckchair.


Image credit: University of Melbourne Photographs, reproduced with permission

In the second, he is stood reading a book in front of the window, alongside three others:

Image credit: University of Melbourne Photographs, reproduced with permission

These fascinating photos give us a tantalising glimpse into Reginald’s life at university; he looks very suave and studious in them! Indeed, in an obituary written after his death, it was stated:

‘his life at the time was an interesting and varied one, including considerable teaching experience in chemistry and mathematics, and later metallurgy.’

Avis, Reginald’s first wife

Reginald also married during his time studying. In 1913, in Victoria, he married Avis Blanche Whittington. Avis had been born in Hampshire, England, the daughter of George, who worked as a gardener according to the 1891 census. In 1903, age 14, Avis arrived in Australia along with two of her siblings, Phyllis and Alice. The girls weren’t accompanied by their parents.

Reginald Ezra Parry M.Sc., University of Melbourne, 1915. Image credit: University of Melbourne Photographs, reproduced with permission


However, having graduated with a chemistry degree whilst World War One was raging, Reginald had skills desperately needed by the British Empire. Like many who lived under British rule, Reginald enlisted in the A. I. F. (The Australian Imperial Force). The A. I . F. was formed in 1914 and was the main expeditionary force of the Australian military during the Great War. As was the case with many Empire chemists and engineers, Reginald was posted to work at H. M. Factory Gretna.

The Glycerine Distillery at HM Factory Gretna. Photo from The Devil’s Porridge Museum archives.

It must have been a huge shock to go from Melbourne to Eastriggs, a small township just over the border in Scotland which had been purpose built for factory workers. Reginald lived at 82 The Rand in Eastriggs, and although we don’t know the particulars of his job, he was working as a chemist. There is one newspaper article which sheds light on Reginald’s time at the factory. In late 1917, according to the Dumfries and Galloway Standard, Reginald pled guilty to being in possession of a box containing matches within the factory fence. This may seem pretty trivial to us, but bringing matches–or anything that could be lit, catch fire, or was metallic–into the factory was an explosives risk. In the Regulations for Factory Employees booklet, given to staff at the factory, it is stated:

‘No person shall bring within the Factory, or have in his possession, whilst in the factory, any match or apparatus for producing light, or any lamp, light or fire of any description.’

Reginald’s charges were dismissed with an admonition.

Reginald in uniform, alongside his first wife, Avis.

After the war, Reginald worked as a Research Chemist and Works Manager of a Sandalwood Oil Distillery, before returning to academia in 1925. In 1930, he began working for the Swan Brewery Company Ltd, as a Maltster and Chief Analyst, where he remained until he retired. He was appointed a member of the Institution of Chemical Engineers in 1925, and later elected as a fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry.

After Reginald’s wife, Avis, died in 1949, he remarried Suzette Estelle Deane-Ross in the same year. Interestingly, Suzette was a widow of a man who also worked at HM Factory Gretna during the war. She had first been married to Garnett Skuthorpe. Garnett was an alumni of the University of Sydney, and like Reginald, a chemist. He worked at HM Factory Gretna from 1916-1919. Garnett and Suzette had been married in 1909, and had several children. In World War Two, Garnett was again dispatched to England on munitions work. He died there in 1944, killed accidentally in an explosives factory.

I wonder if Suzette and Reginald first met at Gretna? Reginald Ezra Parry died aged 76 in 1966. In an obituary it was written:

‘To all who worked with him or for him, Reginald Parry was the same, very helpful and always ready to lend considerable ability and experience to any problems. His mind remained active and interested long after he had retired from business life and his comments on techniques in almost any industry were informed and accurate, and reflected his very wide reading and experience.’

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