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John – evacuee and media star!

18 June 2019 by Kay

Our new exhibition, Blitzed: Liverpool Lives brings together dramatic images of Blitz-damaged Liverpool alongside evocative spoken memories of people who experienced the aerial bombardment first-hand. One of those people is John McEwan. John grew up in Salisbury Street, Everton and was evacuated after his family had a very close shave. John’s is one of many interviews in our Liverpool Voices archive which I spent many hours listening to and selecting highlights to be included in the exhibition.

John was invited to our press call the day before the exhibition opened to be interviewed by the local media. Just before it began I had the pleasure of showing him around the exhibition. He listened to the audio of himself in the central ‘cinema area’ and read his quote I used to bring to life a photograph of children outside of bombed homes. It brought back lots of memories for him and he was an absolute pro, recalling many experiences for Radio Merseyside, The Guide Liverpool, Liverpool Echo, Culture Liverpool, Wirral Globe etc.

Read this transcript of John’s audio in the exhibition –
“My dad would be home on leave and he heard sirens and the blackout was on and he made his way home expecting to find my mother and the three children, Betty, Tommy and myself in the air raid shelter.   When he went to the air raid shelter we weren’t there. He then went to the house and my mum was under the kitchen table, or under the dining table, with the three children.   Obviously my dad was very concerned about this. I don’t know exactly what went on other than the fact that the decision was made to evacuate us.  My mother was also pregnant at the time with my younger brother Peter, who is a year younger than myself. And as a result the three children, myself, Betty and Tommy were evacuated to St Joseph’s Children’s Home in Freshfield near Southport, and that would be sometime in 1940, in around maybe the autumn of 1940.

The reason we went more than any other, was that we lived not far from the docks.  Because if they were bombing the docks, the German planes were never allowed to go home with ammunition, they weren’t allowed to.  So they dropped the bombs on the way, you know, when they were retreating from their targets that was the natural thing for them to do.  The British pilots would do the same if they were doing a raid, partly because they had to show they had done the job and also it would be a lighter plane and it would improve their chances of getting back.  So we were in bombing range of the Liverpool docks and there were, I mean, I remember even after the war, long after the war, up to, I say to about 1950, there were bombed houses, and ‘ollers’ as we used to call them, and wasteland all round that area.  So, certainly in the street I lived in, Salisbury Street, there were three or four bombed sites, so it wasn’t a question of maybe, it was a question that you were extremely fortunate if it didn’t happen, to either you, or a relative, or a friend.”

“Peter and I were taken into this lounge and told, ‘John, Peter, this is your daddy’. Because of all the moving around we just accepted it and it was more or less like being introduced to a schoolmaster.   It was very strange, but for my dad, it was very, very emotional.”

John McEwan
Liverpool Voices Archive, Museum of Liverpool

Thank you to John and all of the contributors to the exhibition.

We are gathering memories and responses to the images and memories in the exhibition. Selected responses will be displayed in the exhibition. You can leave a reply in the comments book in the exhibition, share via Museum of Liverpool social media or come along to one of our workshops

The Shipping Gallery at Liverpool Museum

4 October 2016 by Emma Martin

A model ship with sails being studied by two young boys in school uniform

The Leader model was the museum’s first ship model, acquired in 1862 for the Mayer Museum, the predecessor of Liverpool (now World) Museum.

In the final blog in our series on World Museum and the Blitz I asked Rebecca, Curator of Maritime History at the Merseyside Maritime Museum to tell us about the development of the now lost Shipping Gallery which was once described as “the department which probably holds the greatest public interest, particularly for the citizens of Liverpool” Read more…

An Interview with Dorothy Downes

10 May 2016 by Emma Martin

Oliva (front) is interviewing Ellie (left), Dorothy (middle) and Martin (right).

Olivia (front) interviewing Ellie (left), Dorothy (middle) and Martin (right).

This week Lolo writes about meeting a member of staff who remembers the work that went into rebuilding the museum after the Blitz:

Last week I wrote about the Kingston Brooch and how it avoided the Blitz and the train accident. I was inspired to write about the brooch after meeting Dr Dorothy Downes, who began working for Liverpool (now World Museum) in the 1960s. Last month, I had the pleasure to hear first hand Dorothy’s lively account of what happened to the museum as it began to rebuild after the war. Read more…

Remembering victims of the May Blitz, 1941

4 May 2016 by Claire

tinted portrait on a mirror

Mirror featuring image of Peter Johnson, aged 15

Here at Museum of Liverpool, we receive many generous, interesting, and often poignant donations of objects to our collections. Recently, we were contacted by a lady called Janet, who wished to kindly donate items that had originally belonged to her late grandmother, Margaret Johnson. The items relate to Margaret’s children who were tragically killed in the May Blitz, the most concentrated series of air attacks on any British city area outside London during the Second World War. Read more…

The Kingston Brooch – a very lucky evacuee

3 May 2016 by Emma Martin

The Kingston Brooch is one of the most elaborate pieces of Anglo-Saxon jewellery ever found in England.

The Kingston Brooch is one of the most elaborate pieces of Anglo-Saxon jewellery ever found in England.

On 3 May 1941, exactly 75 years go, Liverpool endured the heaviest bombing of the May Blitz. The bombardment, which ran from 1 to 7 May, saw Liverpool (now World) Museum almost destroyed.

Our online exhibition Bombed Out! World Museum and the Blitz commemorates the event. As devastating as the raid was, thankfully, as Lolo in this blog describes, there were some very fortunate evacuees! Read more…

Don Pedro: the elephant that died twice

22 April 2016 by Emma Martin

Don Pedro (the elephant) standing proud at the centre of the Upper Horseshoe Gallery before 3 May 1941

Don Pedro (the elephant) standing proud at the centre of the Upper Horseshoe Gallery before 3 May 1941

University of Manchester student Lolo is working on our new online exhibition that will be launched 3 May. Here’s his latest blog on some of the objects and specimens that feature in it.

“Many of you may already know that the King of Prussia Jug was one of the Blitz survivors. But not all the stories relating to the museum’s objects and specimens had a happy ending. There were also hundreds if not thousands of casualties. I was very upset when we heard about the sad story of Don Pedro, a male Indian elephant once in the zoology collection. They say cats have nine lives, but poor Don Pedro had just two. Read more…

What happened in the Ceramics Gallery during the Blitz?

7 April 2016 by Emma Martin

Museum staff picking up the pieces in the ceramics gallery after the Blitz

Museum staff picking up the pieces in the ceramics gallery after the Blitz

Lolo is working on the development of an on-line exhibition that explores what happened to World Museum during the Blitz. Here is his second blog, looking at the fate of the ceramics gallery.

The ceramics gallery was one of the galleries that suffered serious damage during the Blitz of May 1941. Rare pieces from the museum’s collection were still on display on the night of 3 May and as the museum crumbled many of the ceramics shattered into pieces. Read more…

The night World Museum nearly died

26 February 2016 by Emma Martin

The upper horseshoe gallery was home to the natural history collections in 1941. In pride of place was Don Pedro, the Indian elephant

The upper horseshoe gallery was home to the natural history collections in 1941. In pride of place was Don Pedro, the Indian elephant.

Over the next few weeks Lolo, a student working at World Museum, will blog about the events of the 3rd May 1941 – the night World Museum nearly died. Here at the museum we are preparing to launch an on-line exhibition on the 3rd May. We will recount what happened that night 75 years ago and Lolo will also be writing blogs that reveal in more depth what happened to some of the museum’s objects. Read more…

Jet the dog – Liverpool superhero (to curators and small boys!)

19 October 2015 by Kay

man in uniform with a black dog

Painting of Jet by Alfred Kemp Wiffen, 1949. Presented by Mrs Babcock Cleaver in 1967, accession number WAG 7004

Jet has always been a hero close to my heart. I was initially introduced to his story whilst working on my first exhibition here at National Museums Liverpool – Spirit of the Blitz at Merseyside Maritime Museum in 2003. We included the bronze bust and oil painting shown here of Jet, from the Walker Art Gallery collections, which took pride of place. The exhibition even had a specially designed Jet the Dog children’s trail. We also interviewed his owner’s daughter, Lillias Ward about Jet’s wartime heroics Read more…



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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.