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.

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