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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name That Tune…

In our last post, I mentioned Thomas Watkin’s music book. This 19th century manuscript contains hundreds of folk tunes, providing most with a title and writing out, in beautiful, clear script the music for each. Thanks to our Heritage Lottery funding, the whole manuscript has now been digitised and we’re very HMB crop_tunesexcited about the prospect of working with local musicians to bring the music to life at some point in 2016. Of course, if we’re going to perform a selection of the tunes, it would be useful to know which tunes are available to choose from. At some point in the manuscript’s life, one scribe has at least started to make the effort to index the contents. It could be that they only got so far before giving up on the task or that there are several pages missing from the book, but, either way, we now only have a two page index listing 69 of the tunes. Exactly how many tunes are in the manuscript is not yet known, but given that those 69 tunes only cover 16 of the document’s 152 pages, there is still a long way to go to complete the index!

HMB crop_indexOne of the tasks some of our fantastic volunteers will be getting on with is completing the index of tunes. However, this isn’t always such a straightforward undertaking, as the titles are written in a few different hands and how decipherable they are varies
massively. Add to this the fact that the ink has faded in some places and this is no simple transcription!

The legibility of the handwriting might not be the only thing that will slow our progress completing the index. Some of the language used in the titles can be surprisingly, erm, ‘choice’ to our modern sensibilities! Folk tune titles featuring swear-words is actually fairly common, but it can still be a little startling to be calmly transcribing a 19th century music book that contains titles such as “Pretty Betty” or “Love in a Village” and come HMB crop_tuneacross a four letter word that can still cause considerable offence if it is used in the media today. Perhaps the language used in the titles acts a clue to the kinds of environments and audiences many of the tunes were intended for. Then again, maybe we underestimate how common swearing was in the past or how the level of offence caused by certain words may have altered at different points in our history. Whatever the case, there’s definitely a lot more in these pages than some nice tunes…

And no, it doesn’t matter how hard you look, the pictures on this blog do not include the folk tunes with risque titles!

A Small Taste of the Archives

CPatwVMWgAAwDoYFollowing our previous exhibition of artworks and archive materials relating to our first two Heritage Lottery funded projects, we have used some of the exhibition space here at Kirkby Library to display a small selection of the archive documents that have been digitised as a result of our Heritage Lottery grant.

Our three year Heritage Lottery grant has allowed us to develop the community engagement side of our work: facilitating nine projects that relate to different aspects of our archive collections and will be planned and delivered in partnership with a diverse range of Knowsley’s communities. Alongside this, we are in the process of creating an online catalogue and digitising a large portion of our collections. The nine items currently on display are part of this digitisation programme.

The display highlights documents from the 14th to the 20th century, covering different aspects of Knowsley’s history and the people who have lived and worked here.

Included is a 1715 list of taxes collected from Tarbock land-owners that provides antax collection thumbnail
example of local Catholics (or ‘Papists’ as they are referred to) having to pay twice as much as other rate-payers. This includes the Catholic at the head of the list, the Right Honourable Lord Molyneux.

The little-known Kirkby Amateur Dramatics Society are represented with a scan from their home-made 1935-36 photo album, chronicling the construction of sets for their plays and the performances themselves. The members have added a charming touch to the album by selecting quotes from the plays they staged to caption the photographs.

As with so many repositories, Knowsley Archives has a significant number of Bastardy Bonds. On display is an order from 1734 identifying one Richard Quick of Halewood as the father of Tarbock resident Ann Wyke’s unborn child and ordering him to pay towards the upbringing of the child.

huyton reel thumbnailAnother less well-known item in our collection we are drawing attention to is a music book handwritten and compiled at some point in the mid-19th century by a surveyor in Huyton called Thomas Watkin. The book is a beautiful document put together with real love and care and provides a fascinating glimpse into the folk tunes that ordinary people living in the area may have been listening and dancing along to.

Whilst only a small display, we hope this temporary exhibition will give visitors a hint of the diversity of our collections and encourage people to come and ask us questions and view some of the original documents.