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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

Hands-on help

6 June 2019 by Liz

When you think of archaeology what comes to mind? People digging holes? Delicate brushing of soil from objects? Time Team? Indiana Jones?!

Archaeologists explore the past through material culture – the things people made, built and used.  Those things are often excavated, but can also be standing remains of buildings. After an excavation is completed there is a fascinating process of work to undertake back indoors to understand the site and its objects and make sense of the evidence. In June there are opportunities for you to get involved in some workshops to capture information about finds, and label them with their museum reference numbers.

Working with the archaeology team at the Museum of Liverpool volunteers (aged 18 or over) are invited to explore the finds excavated last years at the site of courtyard housing at Oakes Street. Read more…

Volunteers Week spotlight – Corrina from Ethnology

Volunteers are an integral part of National Museums Liverpool, and without them, important work would not be able to take place. To celebrate Volunteers Week we are meeting more volunteers as part of a bumper Volunteer Spotlight series so we can really celebrate the different contributions that our amazing volunteers make.

Alex (L) and Corrina (R)

Life has a habit of going full circle and that is certainly the case with Corrina: a volunteer with the Ethnology team. When she returned to the UK having taught English in Japan for fourteen years, Corrina revisited what she had originally had an interest in before her move, and looked towards the Walker Art Gallery, which she studied as part of her dissertation. This prompted her to make enquires into volunteering for National Museums Liverpool.

Initially Corrina had been interested in archive work  and she also wanted her volunteer role to link back to Japan: assisting the Ethnology department research and record the Japan collection in the museum collections store seemed perfect. Read more…

Volunteers Week spotlight – Mike from the Maritime Archives and Library

Mike wearing his volunteer pass

Volunteers are an integral part of National Museums Liverpool, and without them, important work would not be able to take place. To celebrate Volunteers Week we are meeting more volunteers as part of a bumper Volunteer Spotlight series so we can really celebrate the different contributions that our amazing volunteers make.

This month, I met with Mike who volunteers with the Maritime Archives & Library at the North Street Warehouse. Mike has a fascinating back story and holds so much knowledge; I can see why he is a vital part of the department! Mike’s journey with National Museums Liverpool started in the 1980s as a Friend of the Merseyside Maritime Museum and following his retirement, he began volunteering with us in 2012 as a Tour Guide on the Edmund Gardner and has gone on to volunteer with the Education team and now the Archives team. Mike has been more than prepared for his volunteer roles: he has specialist knowledge acquired from his career in ship building and engineering design.

When he started as a Tour Guide on the Edmund Gardiner, Mike explained that he was terrified of public speaking and he was even more terrified after he had undergone his training! However, following the applause that he received after his first tour, he was hooked! Read more…

Commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day

29 May 2019 by Karen O'Rourke

On 6 June, we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day, Normandy Landings. This was the start of the Allied forces operation to liberate Europe, which would eventually lead to the end of the Second World War. In recognition of the part played by men from the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, we are staging a small display on the first floor of the Museum of Liverpool from Saturday 25 May to Wednesday 17 July.

Two battalions from the Regiment took part. Both were allocated the role of Beach Group, which involved securing the Beach, providing cover and directing the landed troops and equipment once ashore. It also involved gathering up the dead and wounded whenever there was a lull in the German bombardment. Anyone who has seen the first few minutes of the film Saving Private Ryan will understand that being part of a Beach Group was no easy task. For our two local battalions, the 5th based at Sword Beach and the 8th based at Juno Beach, that task lasted six weeks. After this, the 8th Battalion were disbanded, while the 5th Battalion moved inland with the advancing Allied troops. For more information on the part the Regiment played in the Second World War, at D-Day, in Italy and in Burma, you can visit our City Soldiers gallery.

Our new D-Day display will focus on the story of one man; Sergeant Cyril Askew Read more…

Remembering Lusitania

3 May 2019 by Ellie

Seafarer in uniform on board ship

James Wallace wearing his Cunard uniform. Image courtesy of Kath Kavanagh

Tuesday 7th May 2019 marks the 104th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Lusitania. Each year we hold a commemorative service alongside the Lusitania propeller on our quaysides, starting at 1.45pm. Everyone is welcome to join us to remember the 1191 men, women and children who lost their lives, as well as the survivors and families affected.

Kath Kavanagh will be attending our commemoration this year and has kindly shared her thoughts about her Great Uncle who was on board Lusitania when she was torpedoed:

“My Great Uncle James Wallace joined Cunard in 1912 as a second class waiter on board Lusitania. When the ship was attacked 3 years later, James was just 21 years old. He jumped into the water with his friend George Thomas (assistant officers’ mess steward) who drowned. Uncle Jim couldn’t swim but managed to stay afloat for approximately 5 hours before being rescued by the Julia patrol boat. I believe he was in hospital in Queenstown (now Cobh) for a while before heading back to Liverpool.

He continued to serve with Cunard for 46 years, becoming the youngest man to hold the position of chief deck steward when he was promoted in 1919. Read more…

Volunteer spotlight: Andrew Richardson

28 March 2019 by Rachel O'Malley

Volunteer Andrew Richardson with a regional archaeological find.

Volunteers are an integral part of National Museums Liverpool, and without them, important work would not be able to take place. As part of the Volunteer Spotlight series we will be meeting up with volunteers who have been making outstanding contributions to the organisation and finding out more about the work that they do.

For this month’s spotlight, I was able to make my way to the waterfront in the beautiful February sunshine (hopefully not too much of a distant memory by the time you read this) to meet Andrew Richardson, a Regional Archaeology volunteer who volunteers with Vanessa Oakden, Curator of Regional and Community Archaeology in National Museums Liverpool’s Archaeology departmentRead more…

Tramcar 245 wins again!

27 February 2019 by Sharon

Liverpool tramcar 245

Liverpool Tramcar 245, restored by a partnership between National Museums Liverpool, Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society (MTPS) and Wirral Borough Council over a six year period, was launched back into service on 12 September 2015.

Following on from winning Tram of the Year for 2015 it has now been voted the Heritage Railway Association ‘Carriage and Wagon Award for self propelled vehicles.’

The award was presented by railway enthusiast and record producer Pete Waterman at a ceremony in Birmingham on 9 February. Rob Jones from MTPS proudly collected the award on behalf of the partners in the restoration project.  Read more…

Welcoming the Chinese new year of the pig

5 February 2019 by Ann

Happy Chinese New Year!

As we say farewell to the year of the dog and welcome the year of the pig we are looking forward to our annual celebrations at the gallery.  Did you know we have two galleries dedicated to Lord Lever’s Chinese ceramics which highlight his collection of 17th and 18th century porcelain which dates back to the 2nd century BCE ? Read more…

Documenting a deck apprentice’s journey

4 February 2019 by Vicki Caren

bundles of letters in air mail envelopes

The Jim Fitt collection, before

Today’s guest blog post is by Brenda McCafferty, who completed a placement with us in January as part of her Masters in Archives and Records Management (MARM) degree:

“Recently I was fortunate to receive a placement in the Maritime Archives and Library in partial fulfilment and completion of my Masters of Archives degree program at the University of Liverpool.

My work placement involved arranging and describing a recent acquisition of letters and photographs received from Jim Fitt, detailing his early experiences at sea as an 18-19 year old deck apprentice with Shell Tankers Ltd, 1962-1963.  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.