The Dude Comes to Kirkby

“I can see us in for some lively times…”

– Jack Pulman’s diary, December 1915

Last December we wrote on here about Jack Pulman’s incredible First World War diary and photographs. Since then, thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we have been able to continue with the conservation, preservation, cataloguing, transcription and digitisation of the collection. In addition, we wanted to introduce people to Jack, his diary and photographs and we’ve done this through talks, workshops and a soon-to-open exhibition.

photograph of Huyton U3A members with the diary

Huyton U3A members with the diary

Huyton and Halewood’s U3A (University of the Third Age) groups have been marking the centenary anniversary of the First World War through a series of events and research undertaken by their members. Some of this had already involved coming to Knowsley Archives to hear about and see our collections, but this project has provided us with the opportunity to introduce a new aspect to their research and knowledge of local people’s wartime experiences. We delivered a specially-tailored talk for U3A members about the diary, which included an opportunity to see the diary up close. Another tailored talk was presented to residents of Priory Court retirement properties, generating a lot of animated discussion and excitement about Jack’s diary.

One of the most exciting aspects of this project has been working with Comics Youth

CIC, a youth-led organisation who support marginalised and disadvantaged children and young people to express themselves through creating and publishing comics and zines. Almost 20 children and young people have been learning about Jack’s life during wartime and inspired by portions of Jack’s diary and his photographs to create some spectacular and beautiful artworks.

Photograph of a child creating an artwork at one of the sessions run by Comics Youth

One of the Comics Youth artwork sessions

Our exhibition, Diary of a Dude: Bringing Jack Pulman’s First World War Diary to Life, brings together extracts and photographs from the diary with the new artwork, demonstrating the work that has been undertaken as part of this project, as well as introducing Jack and his diary to new audiences. The original diary and many original photographs will be on display and there will be opportunities to find out about where Jack travelled during the War, the kinds of social activities he took part in (including the unique games of donkey football!), and the members of his musical group, the Deolali Dudes.

“1914, October 30th Hong Kong. Volunteers wanted for Royal Navy to complete various ships company…Enquired terms of service and finding them satisfactory, volunteered.”

With this very matter of fact entry, Jack Pulman began writing his diary over 100 years ago. It’s a tone of grounded realism that continues throughout the 129 pages of the diary. There are no dramatic flourishes or flights of fancy. It’s rare that he stretches a description of a remarkable event – such as a battle, the death of a colleague or a new development in the War – over more than a few sentences. And so I wonder what this seemingly reserved man, who would go on to drive Liverpool trams for 40 years and raise a small family, would make of our celebration of his diary, photographs and life? How would he react to finding himself the subject of talks; being drawn and painted as a comic book figure; and being the subject of an exhibition 130 years after he was born? It’s been a privilege to see the excitement and interest generated by sharing Jack’s diary and the world he saw and captured through his photography. These may not be the “lively times” Jack was foreseeing in 1915, but it seems a good description of the project he has inspired.

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The ‘Diary of the Dude’ exhibition is in Kirkby Library from 23rd April – 4th June 2019. Please check Library opening times before visiting.

Discovering the Dude

Fans of the classic Coen Brothers film, The Big Lebowski, will remember Jeff Bridges’ brilliant performance as the Dude. However, let me introduce you to a much earlier – and very different! – Dude. Our Dude is called John (or Jack) Pulman and served in the British Navy during the First World War.

Photograph of Jack Pulman, 1917

Jack Pulman, 1917

Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery, we are currently undertaking a project, called Diary of a Dude, revolving around Jack’s incredible First World War diary and the many photographs he took during the War. Having been a merchant seaman, Liverpool-born Jack signed up for the Navy in October 1914 whilst working in the Hong Kong area, which is when his journal entries begin. His first two entries read:

“October 30th,1914. Hong Kong. Volunteers wanted for Royal Navy to complete various ships company. Enquired terms of service and finding them satisfactory, volunteered. October  31st, accepted and signed on for the period of the war.”

All very interesting, you may be thinking, but why the ‘Diary of a Dude’ title? As we first looked through the diary, we were delighted to find that – as well as a seriously talented photographer – Jack was a musician and he formed a band with a few fellow sailors, calling themselves the Deolali Dudes and performing at various entertainment concerts the men would put on for each other. The Deolali part of their name comes from one of the army camps that Jack and some his fellow sailors went to for rest and recuperation. The Deolali transit camp was in the Nashik district of Maharashtra, India and had been a British camp since 1849. It continued to be used by the British during the First and Second World Wars and became a camp notorious for both being unpleasant and for the psychological problems of the many service personnel that passed through it. This latter part of its reputation gave birth to the phrase ‘gone doolally’ (a derivation of Deolali). Whatever Jack made of the camp, he and his friends performed under the band name at various social events there and elsewhere. Included in the diary are copies of hand-drawn (possibly by Jack) programmes for concerts, where we can find out exactly what tunes the Dudes played and what other entertainment the evening offered.

Photograph of Jack Pulman and the rest of the Deolali Dudes, circa 1916

The Deolali Dudes, c. 1916, with Jack back row, far right

As you can imagine, whenever we have something like Jack’s diary donated to the archive, we’re desperate to look inside and find out more about the people associated with the document. However, the first priority has to be making sure we can preserve the document as well as possible and make it available to the public for research and study. In the case of Jack’s diary, it was clear that a lot of work was needed before making it available for research.

An example of a badly damaged photograph from the diary with parts of the image ripped away

An example of a badly damaged photograph from the diary

The journal was in a poor state, with extensive water damage (appropriately for a naval diary!) and the spine of the volume was very weak, meaning that the diary could not be opened fully without causing further damage. Included with the diary are almost 150 photographs and images. The majority of these have been glued directly onto pages of the diary and many of these were also in poor condition. Over time, most adhesives cause damage to paper and, combined with water damage, this had added to the condition problems we now faced. Where photographs had been glued to opposite pages, many of them had stuck to each other and then someone had tried to prise them apart, leaving images with portions missing or torn.

We knew that we needed to bring in a professional conservator to make sure that the diary and its remarkable contents could be repaired as best as possible. Thanks to the Heritage Lottery funding we were able to do this and it was a joy to have the diary return looking fantastic and to be able to open it (thanks to a new spine!) and discover more about Jack and his experiences during the War.

Jack also seems to have played a role in inventing a new sport to keep people entertained during shore leave: donkey football! The diary comes with a set of rules for the sport that include: “donkeys must not charge the goalkeeper” and “should one donkey mount another, a foul is given against the mounting donkey”! Who knows what the donkeys made of this, although the rules do state that “no sticks [are] to be used against donkeys, or cruelty of any kind.”

Photograph of a game of donkey football, circa 1917

A game of donkey football underway! c. 1917

As we’re into the Christmas season, it’s worth highlighting Christmas 1915 on board Jack’s ship, as what Jack calls a “catastrophe” had happened: they’d run out of spuds. “Pity our Christmas dinner,” Jack writes. The dinner ended up being:

“a proper scrape up…a little bit of tough mutton and a few half cooked marrowfat peas…while the sweets consisted of a bit of workhouse duff that we had managed to knock up. The wines (don’t skit): one whole bottle of bulldog beer per man.” 

Of course, the majority of the diary is concerned with Jack’s time on board ship and is filled with descriptions of skirmishes and battles, as well as their daily routine of stopping and searching local shipping traffic in the Red Sea and off the east coast of Africa. His photographs include images of enemy ships, prisoners and local boats being searched, as well as weaponry and serious-looking officers. Jack also demonstrates that his artistic skills extended to watercolours and he includes a couple of paintings in the diary. One of these is a map showing the North Africa and the Suez Canal area, with ports Jack visited, and another shows how a skirmish with enemy forces played out, with the positions of the combatants marked on a painting of the coastline.

A watercolour map of the North African coast and Suez Canal, painted by Jack Pulman, circa 1915

A watercolour map of the North African coast and the Suez Canal, painted by Jack Pulman, c. 1915

As the diary continues through the War, Jack’s descriptions of daily activity become more and more brief, perhaps reflecting how normal and mundane these extraordinary circumstances were becoming to him. The emphasis in his entries shifts from describing naval activity to taking more pleasure in describing places they pass through or the free time that he and his colleagues clearly relished. His photographs also begin to reflect this, with some beautiful landscape and architecture photography, images of local people he encounters on his travels, and an increasing number of images showing colleagues relaxing and enjoying themselves. Jack even shares his camera with colleagues, resulting in his friend Kerrison providing an early example of the selfie: photographing himself looking in a mirror!

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Of course, as much as we find Jack’s descriptions of the War fascinating, he will have spent much of his time wanting to get home to his wife and young child. This sense of frustration is made plain by an entry that reflects on the three years he has been with the Navy:

“October 31st 1914 to November 14th 1917: 3 years of wasted time.”

If you would like to read more extracts from the Diary and follow Jack’s journeys, we have a dedicated Twitter page where we are posting extracts and images on a regular basis: Diary of the Dude

Aspirations and Accreditations

What a year 2017 was!

The ARK started the year in a very purposeful manner, closing its doors to personal visitors so that all of the collections could be inspected for condition, packaging and location during the 2 week stock take. It was the first time that we had undertaken such a task, which, although a full-on experience, was one that we found incredibly useful as it gave us a greater insight into the condition and status of the collections, so much so that the process will be repeated in 2018 (put 22nd January-2nd February in your diary…)

At the same time, the ARK loaned exhibition material to the Council of Christians and Jews in Liverpool, which was shown at Liverpool Cathedral to mark Holocaust Day. This opened up the information gathered as part of our HLF supported Huyton Camps project to yet another diverse audience who were able to connect with the experiences of internees.

February was a busy time, which saw a team effort result in the local history reference stock held at Huyton Library being transferred to the ARK, where these books are now safely stored for posterity (and researchers to study!). We also opened our doors to staff from Knowsley’s branch libraries, who were given an insight into the workings of the archive service and a chance to see some of the wonderful treasures in the collections.

The Heritage Lottery Fund supported projects have made great progress during 2017. The retro-conversion of the paper-based catalogue to Calm, an online, accessible database and the community engagement projects both gained momentum, aided by our magnificent volunteers, who regularly and generously give their time and expertise to support the ARK.

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Children from St Anne’s Catholic Primary School

Children from St. Anne’s Catholic Primary School in Huyton worked incredibly hard, researching the history and impact of the railways in Huyton. The result was a stunning documentary which is both informative and entertaining. Watch it here, if you haven’t already:

Meanwhile, our borough-wide music project, ‘Rock the ARK’, got off the ground with some eye-catching exhibitions in our library spaces and an invitation to vote for your favourite Knowsley related pop song. It was an impressive roll call of Knowsley talent, with T’Pau, The La’s, Black, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and more besides in the running for the top slot. Who won? Well, we’ll find that out later…

The ARK hosted many visits from students, school pupils and local societies over the course of the year, providing an introduction to the ARK, research sessions and interactive explorations to enable people to access the collections and interpret that information in an appropriate manner. We also went out on road, visiting groups in their own spaces – for example, we helped Beavers, Cubs and Scouts in Prescot to achieve their Local Interest badge, entertained Halewood U3A with our 1990 Pop-up Slide Show (which recreated an original local history talk delivered by the former Principal Reference Librarian, the late Mr. T. W. Scragg) and evoked musical memories at Stockbridge Library’s reminiscence coffee morning. In another first for us, we were delighted to be invited to present a talk on the ‘Highlights from the Prescot Archives’ to the 13th Annual Prescot Festival of Music and the Arts.

Kirkby College Reunion 31.8.17

Former students of the Malayan College return to Kirkby, August 2017

The Heritage Lottery Fund supported projects continued to grow throughout the year. Links with the Alumni of Kirkby’s Malayan Teachers’ Training College, which operated on the site of the former Royal Ordnance Factory hostel in Kirkby Fields from 1952–1962, culminated in an emotional return of some 38 of the former students, many of them now octogenarians, to the site of the College to unveil a commemorative plaque which describes the history of the site. This visit, on 30th – 31st August, coincided with the 60th anniversary of the announcement of Merdeka (independence) for Malaya (now Malaysia). Old friendships were rekindled and new associations forged in what was a most inspiring and uplifting experience for the Alumni, local residents, ARK staff and volunteers. The legacy of this project is clear: links between residents and former students and their families have been created, and the ARK is now recognised as the official repository for material relating to the MTTC and the Alumni Association, underlining the international importance of the collections, which will continue to be a focal point for researchers of the College in the future. Watch the events unfold in this short film:

Malayan Christmas Card, 1954

A beautiful Malaysian Christmas card design from the Margaret Whitaker collection, described in December’s Challenge article

August saw The Challenge newspaper publish the first of a monthly series of articles submitted by the ARK which explore different aspects of the collections. So far, we’ve covered diverse topics such as the Malayan Teachers’ Training College, Knowsley’s sporting legacy, tales of mystery and celebrating Christmas. The January issue is due out now – look out for our article on sales and shopping in Knowsley, explored through the prism of the archive collections.

The big headline for 2017, however, has to be the ARK’s attainment of Accreditation from The National Archives, which was announced in November.

The Archive Accreditation Scheme is a national award Accredited Archive Service logowhich is only given to archive services after a rigorous inspection process which closely examines all aspects of service delivery, from policies and procedures and conservation work through to customer service, access to the collections and community engagement. Happily, the ARK was awarded full accreditation status, giving our communities that quality assurance that the archives are being managed, cared for and made available to the very highest standards.

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Getting ready to show Erich Kirste’s moving account of life as a POW in Huyton

November was also time to join in with the national campaign, Explore Your Archive. We ran an open day and 2 film show sessions, which featured the short films created through our HLF supported projects – Erich Kirste’s moving recollections of life as a WWII Prisoner of War in Huyton, ‘Chuffed to Bits’ which explores the impact of the railways on Huyton and Roby through the eyes of pupils from St Anne’ Catholic Primary School and ‘The Malayan Connection’ which celebrates the return of the former students of the Malayan Teachers’ Training College to Kirkby.

Our HLF supported projects continue into the 3rd year of the programme, with more exciting opportunities for our communities to get involved in activities around sport (our sporting heritage project, ‘This Sporting Life’, is about to kick off…) and education (‘History Detectives’ will create local history materials for use in schools) plus our music project, ‘Rock the ARK’ will be finalised (by the way – the La’s won the public vote).

The collections will be much easier to search and be much more visible as we go live with the catalogue – keep a look out for details of the launch of Calmview, which will allow researchers to explore collections online.

So: 2017 was definitely a landmark year for the ARK – but there’s so much more to come in 2018!

Rock The ARK: Capturing Knowsley’s Music Memories

Do you have an interesting story to tell of artists or groups that you’ve seen or heard? Maybe you were in a band, a choir, an orchestra, or remember songs your grandparents used to sing?

If so, the ARK (Archive Resource for Knowsley) wants to know about it!

Your story could be of an artist or group from Knowsley, or from anywhere else, so long as you yourself live or work in Knowsley (or have done in the past).

Classical, pop, rock, jazz, soul, folk, disco, blues, gospel, techno, house, hip-hop – whatever music has been a part of your life, it’s important to the ARK.

The ARK wants to find out what music means to people and build a community collection of memories and memorabilia that traces Knowsley’s music history.

Each of Knowsley’s libraries (Halewood, Huyton, Kirkby, Prescot and Stockbridge Village) has an exhibition with information about artists and groups from Knowsley during the past 100 years or so. Each library in Knowsley focuses on different artists so, if you can, go and visit them all.

In all five of the libraries, you can listen to a selection of songs from Knowsley artists and vote for your favourite – this will create a Knowsley’s Top 10! Don’t worry if you can’t make it to one of our libraries – you can also vote right here using our poll below and see videos of each of the songs to help you choose your favourites.

How about sharing your music memories in writing with us to help us build our music memories archive? There are lots of ways to share your memories with us. You can send any memories to us via email or post (see below). Or, if you prefer, you can also share your stories on ARK’s Facebook and Twitter pages and use #RockTheARK so we can find you! Alternatively, you can leave comments below this blog. Every so often, we’ll be adding some of the best stories to our Rock The ARK music timeline – take a look!

Or maybe you’d be willing to be recorded talking about your music memories and experiences? If so, the ARK would love to hear from you – these recordings will be added to our oral history archive collections and be preserved for future generations!

The ARK is also keen to capture any memorabilia that you might have, and be willing to part with or share a copy of, such as photographs, tickets, flyers, posters etc. Help us create a wonderful resource that will mean people in the future will discover why music was important to you. We’ll add #RockTheARK images to our Flickr page so that they’re all in one place and can be easily viewed.

Rock The ARK is one of the ARK’s community history projects funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Everything that is captured during the project will be kept in Knowsley Archives for posterity.

As well as social media, here are the other ways to contact the ARK:

Tel: 0151 443 4365

Email: infoheritage@knowsley.gov.uk

Post: Rock The ARK, Archive Resource for Knowsley, 1st Floor, Kirkby Centre, Norwich Way, Kirkby. L32 8XY