Food and drink in Scotland: Food provision, scarcity and health

This is the third and final post exploring food and drink in Scotland during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Here we look at the provision of food as payment, examples of when food was scarce, and the link between food and health.

Provision of food

There are many examples found in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland of food being provided as payment for services rendered. “Of old times, and at this very day, there is a proverb used in the Highlands, which, when translated, expresses literally, that it is, for decent food and accommodation, and not for wages, they (domestic servants) serve.” (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 195) In Fossoway, County of Perth, “the wages of an able day-labourer throughout the year, is 1 s per day; the wages of a woman for the harvest, 8 d; for men between 10 d and 1 s per day; with breakfast and dinner for both.” (OSA, Vol. XVIII, 1796, p. 462) In the parish of King Edward, County of  Aberdeen, it was reported that all rent was paid in grain (OSA, Vol. XI, 1794, p. 403), whereas tenants in the parish of Slamanan, County of Stirling, generally paid most of their rent with butter and cheese. (OSA, Vol. XIV, 1795, p. 83)

Interestingly, one landlord in the parish of North Knapdale, County of Argyle, had his rent paid to him chiefly “in feasts given at the habitations of his tenants. What he was to spend, and the time of his residence at each village, was known, and provided for accordingly. The men who provided these entertainments partook of them; they all lived friends together; and the departures of the chief and his retinue never failed to occasion regret.” This ‘friendship’, however, had changed in more modern times. “Till very lately, in this neighbourhood, Campbell of Auchinbreck had a right to carry off the best cow he could find upon several properties, at each Martinmas, by way of mart… The Crown now has converted these cows at 20 s. a head, and taken away this badge of slavery.” (OSA, Vol. VI, 1793, p. 257)

It was not just about farmers and farm-labourers. In the Statistical Accounts, you can also discover the eating habits of those working in mills at the time. In the parish of New Abbey, County of Kirkcudbright, it was reported that women who worked spinning yarn “make sorry wages of it, not above 3 d. per day;-which can afford very scanty food”. (OSA, Vol. II, 1792, p. 132)

Towne, Charles; Backbarrow Cotton Mill, near Newby Bridge; Lakeland Arts Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/backbarrow-cotton-mill-near-newby-bridge-145131

Towne, Charles; Backbarrow Cotton Mill, near Newby Bridge; Lakeland Arts Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/backbarrow-cotton-mill-near-newby-bridge-145131

In Lanark, County of Lanark, the diet of children working in the mills “consists of oatmeal porridge, with milk in summer or sowens, i.e. oat-meal flummery, with milk in winter twice a day, as much as they can take, barley broth for dinner made with good fresh beef every day and as much beef is boiled as will allow 7 ounces English a piece each day to one half of the children, the other half get cheese and bread after their broth, so that they dine alternately upon cheese and butchermeat with barley bread or potatoes; and now and then in the proper season they have a dinner of herrings and potatoes. They as well as the others, begin work at six in the morning, are allowed half an hour to breakfast, an hour to dinner, and quit work at 7 at night; after which they attend the school at the expense of the proprietor till 9.” (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 37) In Lochwinnoch, County of Renfrew, ” the persons employed in the cotton-mills work twelve hours five days in the week, and nine hours on Saturday. They have one hour and forty minutes for both breakfast and dinner.” (NSA, Vol. VII, 1845, p. 104)

There is even an example given of what prisoners ate! In Linlithgow, County of Linlithgow, the prisoners’ “diet is excellent, consisting of six ounce of oatmeal made into porridge, for breakfast, with three-fourths of a pint of buttermilk. Dinner, ox-head broth, four ounce barley, four ounce bread, and a proportion of vegetables, each alternate day, pease-brose, fish, and potatoes. Supper the same as breakfast.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, P. 187)

Food scarcity

Some parish reports mention the years 1782 and 1783 in particular, when many harvests in Scotland failed. It is really interesting to read about what caused the failure of crops, according to the parish report of Kilwinning, County of Ayrshire.

“Different causes, no doubt, contributed to this failure, in different parts of the country: But in this parish, and in others immediately on the sea coast, the chief cause of its failure was owing to a very severe west wind, about the middle, or towards the latter end of the month of August, which continued with the utmost violence for a considerable time. The corns had their roots loosened, and were otherwise much damaged by this storm. From being in general very green, when it happened, in a few days afterwards they grew white, but never filled. Snow also, in such parts of the parish as were at the greatest distance from the sea, fell earlier, and in greater quantities, than ever had been known at that season of the year.” (OSA, Vol. XI, 1794, p. 153)

In Peterhead, County of Aberdeen, “the crop of 1782 was as defective in this parish as in other parts of Scotland; and without very great efforts, both of a public and private nature, many would have perished for want of food.” Everyone rallied together to avert death and suffering. This included “a considerable quantity of meal sent by Government, partly gratis, and partly at a low price” and “collections were made in the different churches, and voluntary assessments raised from the greatest part of the heritors”. (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 579)

In Gargunnock, County of Stirling, “a large quantity of white peas being commissioned from England by a man of public spirit, and grinded into meal, assisted the other expedients which were then adopted to prevent a famine in this part of the kingdom.” (OSA, Vol. XVIII, 1796, p. 121) The parish of Kilmadan, County of Argyle, was not so hard hit as others, “but the crop in general, over the whole, suffered from the summer’s cold and the wet harvest. The poor were the better for the supply granted by Government.” (OSA, Vol. IV, 1792, p. 340) A particularly poignant account of food scarcity during these years and the affect it had on people can be found in the parish report of Keithhall, County of Aberdeen. “One family wanted food from Friday night till Sunday at dinner”.(OSA, Vol. II, 1792, p. 544)

A long period of food scarcity was also experienced in the parish of Kilsyth, County of Stirling, during the last seven years of the 17th century (also know as the seven dear years). The price of food became exorbitant and even the more opulent residents could not buy any corn. “Greens boiled with salt, became a common food. Fodder was as scarce as grain. Many of the cattle perished at the stall, and many of them who were driven out to seek a scanty pittance expired in the field.” (OSA, Vol. XVIII, 1796, p. 302)

Food and health

There are several mentions of the link between food and health in the Statistical Accounts, with some opinions apperaing contradictory! In the parish of Carsphairn, County of Kirkcudbright, “scurvies are little known, though most of the inhabitants live all the year round on salted provisions, which they use in great abundance. The pernicious consequences of this mode of living are obviated by the plentiful use of potatoes, and other vegetables.” (OSA, Vol. VII, 1793, p. 514)

It was noted in the report for Kilbrandon and Kilchattan, County of Argyle, that “dropsies are likewise observed of late to be more frequent, particularly since potatoes have become the principal food of the lower classes of the people. And certainly, though this useful and wholesome root contains no hurtful quality, yet change of diet must gradually affect and change the constitution. While many, therefore, whole food was more solid in their early period of life, and to whom this root was scarcely known, but now live by this three-fourths of the year, no wonder though disorders should prevail which were formerly less common.” (OSA, Vol. XIV, 1795, p. 160)

In the parish of Kelso, County of Roxburgh, it was thought that the food eaten by the labouring classes and the large quantity “may be one cause of laying the foundation of glandular and visceral diseases. Although the mechanics in town generally eat meat for dinner, the labourers in town and country seldom do so; but one and all of them live much upon hasty pudding, and boiled potatoes with milk; without deviation, they all breakfast or sup upon the one or the other. Most of the adults eat of this food, at a meal, from 6 to 8 English pounds weight, including milk”, resulting in various unpleasant complaints and even death. (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, p. 594) In this parish, the sheer amount of food people ate, as well as the “sudden change from vegetable to animal food and the too frequent use of spirituous liquors” was believed to inflict many health problems on its residents.

Painting called 'The Doctor's Visit' by Thomas Faed, 1889. Queen's University, Belfast; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-doctors-visit-168946

Faed, Thomas; The Doctor’s Visit; 1889. Queen’s University, Belfast; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-doctors-visit-168946

In Banff, “an infectious fever prevailed here, with unusual violence, about the year 1782. Unwholesome food, particularly an immoderate use of potatoes, (that year of a bad kind), were among the secondary causes to which this fever was ascribed.” (As you know, the year 1782 was a bad year for crops!) Mr Skene, “the late minister of this parish, wrote a wrote a small treatise on this fever, in form of a “Serious Address to the People,” etc. This short address, which Provost Robinson had paid to print and publish, “contained several plain sensible instructions respecting the prevention and treatment of the disease, and points out the means by which health may be preserved from every disorder of an infectious nature.” For examples of his recommendations see OSA, Vol. XX, 1798, p. 347.

Scrofula was a disease that had prevailed in times of food scarcity (when food was lacking in both quantity and quality) in the parish of Duthil, County of Elgin. “In the summers of 1808, 1816, and 1817, many families subsisted for several successive weeks on the tops of nettles, mugwort, turnip thinnings, and milk, without any corn food; and such as subsisted on this miserable substitute for food, are labouring under the […] disease.” (NSA, Vol. XIII, 1845, p. 125) There was, however, better news for residents of the parish of Borgue, County of Kirkcudbright. “From greater attention to cleanliness, and a more plentiful use of vegetables and fresh animal food, scorbutic and cutaneous diseases are less prevalent than formerly.” (OSA, Vol. XI, 1794, p. 34)

Surprisingly, tea was seen as bad for the health in several parish reports! In the parish of Delting, County of Shetland, some thought that the increase of diseases “may be ascribed to the change in the mode of living, especially to the general use of tea, of which the consumption is amazing, even in the poorest families, who will stint themselves in many essential necessaries of life, in order to procure this article of luxury.” (OSA, Vol. I, 1791, p. 386) This extract on the use of tea found in the report for Gargunnock, County of Stirling, is very amusing. “Tea is universally used. Even the poorest families have it occasionally, and the last cup is qualified with a little whisky, which is supposed to correct all the bad effects of the tea.” (OSA, Vol. XVIII, 1796, p. 121) Conversely, in the parish report for Kirkcudbright, County of Kirkcudbright, tea and coffee are called “wholesome and enlivening beverages”. (NSA, Vol. IV, 1845, p. 37)

Conclusions

It has been fascinating to discover what the Scots ate and drank during the times of the Statistical Accounts. People had to grow and rear what they could to eat. This makes us think that those in the countryside would have had a better diet than those in the cities. But, this was not necessarily always the case. There were certainly differences between parishes due to their topography and climate. In some cases, inhabitants did not make the most of what the land and water had to offer, either because of a lack of knowledge and/or not enough hard work! There were also periods of food scarcity due to poor harvests, which affected everyone, both rich and poor. It must also be pointed out that, in many instances, the farmers sold their produce in the town and city markets.

Looking through the reports, it is clear that many changes took place between the Old and New Statistical Accounts, with improved agricultural practices and a growth in industry and technology, all resulting in increased production and trade. These benefited both those in the country and those in built-up areas. It was particularly interesting to find out what and when mill workers ate during the day, as well as what the link between food and health was believed to be in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There is a wealth of information on food and drink in the Statistical Accounts. Why not explore it and see what you can find?

 

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Edinburgh Apps Final Pitch Event

This afternoon I’m at the EdinburghApps Final Pitch event, being held at the University of Edinburgh Informatics Forum. As usual for my liveblogs, all comments and edits are very much welcomed.

EdinburghApps, is a programme of events organised by Edinburgh City Council (with various partners) to generate ideas and technology projects addressing key social challenges. This year’s Edinburgh Apps event has been themed around health and social care (which have recently been brought together in Scotland under the Public Bodies Joint Working Bill for Health and Social Care Integration).

The event has run across several weeks, starting with an Inception weekend (on 6th & 7th Feb, which I blogged some of here), then a midway catch up/progress day (held on 27th Feb – you may have seen me tweet from this), and culminating in today’s final pitch event, at which we’ll hear from previous winners, as well as this year’s teams. The challenges they have been addressing around health and social care challenges fall under five headings (click to see a poster outlining the challenge):

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EdinburghApps Event LiveBlog

This afternoon I’ve popped in to see the presentations from this weekend’s EdinburghApps event, being held at the University of Edinburgh Informatics Forum. As usual for my liveblogs, all comments and edits are very much welcomed. 

EdinburghApps, which also ran in 2014, is a programme of events organised by Edinburgh City Council (with various partners) and generating ideas and technology projects to address key social challenges. This year’s events are themed around health and social care (which have recently been brought together in Scotland under the Public Bodies Joint Working Bill for Health and Social Care Integration).

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to be part of the full weekend but this presentation session will involve participants presenting the projects they have been coming up with, addressing health and social care challenges around five themes (click to see a poster outlining the challenge):

And so, over to the various teams (whose names I don’t have but who I’m quite sure the EdinburghApps team will be highlighting on their blog in the coming weeks!)…

Meet Up and Eat Up

This is Ella, an International Student at UoE. Meets people at events but wants to grow her network. She sees a poster for a “Meet Up and Eat Up” event, advertising food and drinks events for students to get together. She creates a profile, including allergies/preferences. She chooses whether to attend or host a meal. She picks a meal to attend, selects a course to bring, and shares what she will bring. She hits select and books a place at the meal…

So on the night of the meal everyone brings a course… (cue some adorable demonstration). And there is discussion, sharing of recipes (facilitated by the app), sharing of images, hashtags etc… Ratings within the app (also adorably demonstrated).

So, Ella shares her meal, she shares the recipe in the app…

The Meet Up and Eat Up team demonstrate their app idea.

The Meet Up and Eat Up team demonstrate their app idea.

Q&A

Q) Just marketed to students or other lonely people?

A) Mainly at students, and international students in particular as we think they are particularly looking for those connections, especially around holidays. But we’d want more mixing there, might put it into freshers week packs, introductory stuff…We might need to also arrange some initial meals to make this less intimidating… maybe even a Freshers week(s) event – there are five universities in town so opportunity to have mixing across those groups of students.

Game of Walks

Our challenge was to encourage walking to school so our audience was children, parents but also schools. We have turned our challenge into Game of Walks…

So, we’d find some maps of good walks to schools, routes that are longer but also safe… And along the route there would be sensors and, as you walk past, an image – appropriate to a theme in the curriculum – would appear on the pavement… So the kid will be a team and looks for an image appropriate for their team (e.g. sharks vs jellyfish).

Now, when we tested this out we discovered that kids cheat! And may try to rescan/gather the same thing. So it will randomly change to avoid that. And each week the theme will change…

So, there is also a tech angle here… We would have a wide field sensor – to trigger the device – and a narrow field sensor would enable the capturing of the thing on the walk… So that’s arduino operated. And you’d have 3D printed templates for the shape you need – which kids could print at school – so you’d just need a wee garden ornament type thing to trigger it. And once a week the kids would gather that data and see who won…

 

The Game of Walks team demo their idea for gamified school walks.

The Game of Walks team demo their idea for gamified school walks.

 

Q&A

Q1) How expensive will these be?

A1) Tried to pick sensors and devices that are cheap and cheerful. Arduino nanos are very inexpensive. LEDs probably more expensive… But keep it cheap, so if vandalised or stolen you can either repair or deal with loss.

Q2) How would you select the locations for the sensors… ?

A2) We thought we’d get parents and schools to select those… Encourage longer routes… The device will have that badge until collected… If lots of kids in the same place there’ll be a constant procession which could be tricky… Want, in a zone around the school, where you’d have smaller groups this would trigger.

Q3) Who programmes the Arduino

A3) Lots of schools teach Arduino, so could get the kids involved in this too, also the shapes, the data collection and users. And you will have footfall data as part of that capture which would also be interesting… Maybe get kids involved in potentially moving the sensors to new places because of lots/not enough footfall…

Comment) I think that’s exciting, getting the kids involved in that way…

Team Big Data

Note: this is almost certainly not their name, but they didn’t share their team name in their presentation.

So, I’m a user for our system… My mum has just recovered from cancer and I’m quite concerned about my own risk… So my friend suggested a new app to find out more… So I enter my data… And, based on a bigger data set my risks are calculated. And as a user I’m presented with an option for more information and tips on how to change… The database/system offers a suggestion of how to improve his practice… And maybe you reject some suggestions, so receive alternative ideas… And the app reminds you… In case you forget to cut back on your sausages… And based on those triggers and reminders you might update your personal data and risk… And the user is asked for feedback – and hopefully improves what they do…

Team Big Data demo their idea for an app nudging good health and personal care through an app and big data risk/suggestion database.

Team Big Data demo their idea for an app nudging good health and personal care through an app and big data risk/suggestion database.

Q&A

Q1) What stuff is going to be worked on… What would be held?

A1) We did a demonstration with a computer sharing all of your data in one place… It’s currently in lots of different places… We did a few simple designs that holds all the data of the users… Not trying to be the big brothers… We presented the user experience… But not so much the behind the scenes stuff…

Q2) How does the app know about the beer count? (part of the demo)

A2) We demonstrated this as an app but it could be a website, or something else… You can perhaps get that data based on purchase history etc. The user doesn’t have to do anything extra here, its using existing data in different places. Also people often share this stuff on Facebook.

Comment) You have tackled a really difficult problem… You’ve made a good start on this… It’s such a massive behavioural change to do…

Comment) Many people are happy to volunteer data already…

Q3) How do you convince Tesco to share data with this app?

A3) I think you’d need to have an agreement between NHS and Tesco… For a new form of membership where you opt into that sharing of data.

Comment) Might be a way to encourage people to sign up for a ClubCard, if there was a benefit for accuracy and advice in the app.

A3) Maybe also there are discounts that

Comment) Maybe bank cards is a better way to do that. So there may be a way to join up with those organisations looking at being able to link up with some of these…

A3) This idea isn’t any kind of competition… Might give you ideas about data access…

Comment) I was just wanting to raise the issue that if you were working with, e.g. Tesco, you’d need to also get data from other large and small companies and working with one company may put others off working for you – incentivising users to, e.g. get a ClubCard, isn’t going to incentivise, say, Sainsbury’s to work with you with the data they hold. There are also data protection issues here that are too complex/big to get into.

Simply SMS

Note: this is a charming father/son team including our youngest participant, a boy named Archie who seems to be around 9 or 10 years old (and is clearly a bit of a star).

So this is an app to help people with cognitive impairments to engage and communicate with the younger generation. Maybe a teen, Billy Boy, wants to help out his Grandad, who has had a stroke… So Grandad has an app, and Billy Boy has a reciprocal App. They have slightly different versions.. And they can exchange pictograms… Billy Boy can prompt Grandad to brush their teeth, or do other things to keep in touch and check in… Grandad can ask Billy Boy how he’s doing…

The Simply SMS team demo their idea for an app connecting lonely people across generations through pictogram messages.

The Simply SMS team demo their idea for an app connecting lonely people across generations through pictogram messages.

Q&A

Q1) How do you get this working over SMS?

A1) Would actually be messaging system, which could use words as well as pictures… Perhaps as time goes on you could change it so different people with different cognitive impairments could use it – e.g. number of stars so you could indicate how well you were eating. Also there would be some messaging between, say, carer, homehelp, relatives etc. So that all of those engaged in care can share updates, e.g. that Grandad has been taken to hospital…

Q2) What do you want to do next?

A2) We were looking at Meteor that lets you chain server, iPhone and Android apps together and they have a really nice chat room style system, for public or private chat rooms. So we would look to create plugins for that for pictograms and the right sort of mix of public and private messages. And bring together people involved based on the care package that person has.

Q3) Can this be done so that Billy Boyd can use his existing messaging apps could tie into that?

A3) It may be that there are ways to do that. Often there are things to integrate things together… Tools to post to multiple sites at once, so could maybe use that…

Q4) Could you compare our big data approach to yours?

A4) This isn’t really big data. The intelligence isn’t really in the application, it’s in the people who are involved in the care and using the apps who have the intelligence.

Q5) Do you think people would be able to learn these sorts of pictograms?

A5) We’d have to see… But there are some simple things you can do – like the stars. But people retiring now include those used to working with technology… So pensioners are getting more adept at these things. People will adopt new technology.

Q5) Have you heard of a thing called Talking Mats. It’s a communication tool for people with dementia using pictures. Would be good to look into that, and how that could fit together.

A5) There are lots of things out there… Doing parts of this. And part of this idea is about getting teenagers involved too.

Q6) How about animated gifs?

A6) Lots of the development would be about what people actually need to know… Have a friend who calls to check her ageing relative has had a shave, or what they did today.

Comment) One nice next step might be to test out that pictogram language, see if they find that works, including teenagers and older people…

A) Debating what a bank or a school or shop might look like, for instance…

Closing Comments – Keira (We Are Snook) and Sally Kerr (Edinburgh City Council)

Keira: We have so many new ideas, and we started yesterday with our challenges but nothing else. Obviously a two day hack has its limitations… It’s not the way to get things perfect. But we have the opportunity now to come together again in a few weeks time (27th Feb)

Sally: So our next event is here (University of Edinburgh Informatics Forum) as well, on Saturday 27th February. Then after that midway event there will be pitch session on Sunday 13th March. We’ll contact you all, share information on the blog, get challenge owners on the blog… And get you to the next stage.

Keira (We Are Snook): So I’m going to hand out a wee plan for the next few weeks so that you can get your ideas ready, the milestones for your journey, who the key actors are, who will do what. You should have left team outlines to me, and forms that will help us share your ideas with others too. And we’d welcome your feedback on the event as well. And finally I have one of our Snook plywood phones for Archie (our very youngest participant at around 10) for prototyping lots of app ideas!

And with that, the day was done – although conversations continued over coffee and KitKats. A really interesting set of ideas though, and I’m told there is another team who will be along at the next sessions but weren’t able to make the show and tell today. I would recommend keeping an eye on the EdinburghApps website or @EdinburghApps on Twitter for more updates. I’ll certainly be eager to find out if we (my colleagues at EDINA and I) can offer any technical help as some of these ideas progress further. 

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NHS Health Atlas – risk and disease

risk

Risk of Melanoma – from BBC and Imperial College London

NHS Choices have published a health atlas that maps the risk of a number of illnesses across England and Wales. The research behind the map, which compiles data from over 25 years, was carried out by Imperial College London.

The Data was collected between 1985 and 2009 from the ONS and from cancer registers. The 11 diseases and conditions that have been mapped are:

  • Lung cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Malignant melanoma
  • Bladder cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Liver cancer
  • Coronary heart disease
  • COPD mortality
  • Kidney disease
  • Stillbirth
  • Low birth weight

A cursory glance at the map will reveal expected trends such as the risk of skin cancer being higher in the South-East where there is more sunshine and higher risks of lung cancer coinciding with larger cities where airborne pollutants are more likely. However, i am sure that there are other interesting observations that could be extracted if you have time to explore the data.

You can explore some of the data on the NHS Choices website and read about it on the Independent and the BBC website.

I will try to find the data and post it in ShareGeo, but until then you might want to explore this dataset that shows death related to air pollution.  I really need to get some happier datasets into ShareGeo!

Our 20th Century Industrial Heritage

Manufacturing Pasts

If you have an interest in the social history of 20th Century industrial Britain you will want to know about a  new set of resources recently released by the University of Leicester. Manufacturing Pasts is a collection of digitised material documenting the changing lives of  those working in factories after World War II. It contains an array of primary sources including photos, maps, factory plans, newspaper articles and audio interviews with the workers themselves.

Christmas celebrations, ‘J’ Department, N. Corah & Sons Ltd., 1960s
Manufacturing Pasts: University of Leicester

A set of learning materials has been created around these resources on themes encompassing de-industrialisation and urban regeneration.

Indian Visitors to the Corah Factory 1939
Manufacturing Pasts: University of Leicester

All the Manufacturing Pasts resources and the accompanying learning materials can be retrieved and browsed via Jisc MediaHub and are part of  My Leicestershire History, which can be viewed via our Explore by Collection page . Why not extend your search and explore other Jisc MediaHub collections which contain industrial heritage material?

Amber Films

Amber Films was set up in the North East of England in 1968 and has been producing documentaries and feature films since that time, many of which cover the effect of declining industries upon working-class communities.

Newcastle’s Quayside before redevelopment
Quayside: Amber Films 1979

‘Quayside was made in 1979 as an elegy to Tyneside  and was part of Amber’s campaign to preserve the industrial heritage of this area. It captures the mood and atmosphere of Newcastle’s Quayside and a way of  life now gone through combining oral accounts with a visual portrait of the old industrial architecture.

Films of Scotland

This wonderful collection contains a range of  films documenting life, industry and social change in Scotland from the 1930s until 1982.

‘Wealth of a Nation’ is one of seven films made for the 1938 Empire Exhibition. It looks at how the decline in heavy industry in Scotland after WWI resulted in the birth of new manufacturing industries and  how the ensuing social change  offered workers a different way of life, including time for leisure activities. This new golden age brought problems of its own as machinery replaced manual labour and jobs were cut.

Working men discuss the impact of new machinery on their jobs
Wealth of a Nation: Films of Scotland 1938

A few decades later a brand new factory was purpose built at Linwood, in the West of Scotland, for the manufacture of the Rootes Group’s Hillman Imp. ‘Rootes Group’  is a documentary film which tells the story of how this innovative car was created in the early 1960s  to rival the new Mini.

Manufacture of the Hillman Imp
Rootes Group: Films of Scotland 1963

New estates were built near the car plant to attract workers from nearby Glasgow, where unemployment was high. By 1966, however, the future looked bleak for many of those who had relocated to Linwood as 450 workers were to be made redundant. You can follow more stories like this in the Newsfilm collections:

The Newsfilm Collections

Explore our extensive Newsfilm Collection to research the history of different industries across the 20th C and into the 21st C.

The dying art of pottery making in Stoke-on-Trent
Pottery : ITV News 28-08-1978

This 1978 ITV newsclip shows how  the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke-on-Trent organised a display of pottery manufacturing to demonstrate rare skills which were disappearing in the area. Modernisation of the pottery industry, combined with global competition, led to a major decline in  the workforce. Although many potteries have been closed or bought out by foreign companies, there are still potteries which are thriving around Stoke-on-Trent.

Men searching for coal on spoil tips at Grimethorpe Colliery
Grimethorpe One Year On: Miners Strike Anniversary: Story 2: Channel 4 News 04-03-1986

The mining  industry  underwent radical change during the last half of the 20th C as coal stocks declined and foreign imports became cheaper. This culminated in the Miners’ Strike of 1984 which is arguably the bitterest UK labour dispute in living memory and has had not only a huge political impact but blighted communities permanently. In this clip  mining families from Grimethorpe Colliery reflect on the changes which have taken place as a result of the dispute.

The University of Brighton Design Archives

This special design archive contains images of artefacts which were products of British design between 1945-85. The collection contains material from the major post-war exhibitions as well as posters, product design images and photographs of British retail spaces. Part of the collection relates to manufacturing processes such as furniture, glass and printed textiles.

Whitefriars Stained Glass
University of Brighton Design Archives 1946

Whitefriars Glass was one of the most successful glasshouses in England, rising to prominence during the 19th C as the Gothic revival created a demand for stained glass. Some of the designs were created by William Morris and  other celebrated artists. The image above shows how design rolls were stacked on shelves for storage.

S. Clarkes and Sons, leather goods manufacture
University of Brighton Design Archives : 1947

This photograph, taken at the factory of S.Clarke and Sons in 1947, shows women machining and tying off trunk handles. There are many more images of leather luggage manufacture at this factory, with a proportion of tasks still done by hand.

 Royal Mail Film Classics

The GPO Film Unit were responsible for making many groundbreaking documentaries about British industries around the time of WWII. As well as  celebrated classics such as ‘Nightmail’ there are many other films portraying social change stemming from technological advancements which took place during 1930s  Britain.

A worker wears basic protective clothing while spraying cars with paint
Men In Danger : Royal Mail Film Classics 1939

‘Men in Danger’ resulted from a growing awareness that accidents occurred more readily among those carrying out repetitive tasks with potentially dangerous machinery. Until now there had been little regard for health and safety issues and working people were often exposed to risk. This beautifully crafted film shows the measures which could be taken to make the workplace safer.

A Steel Workers’ Brass Band
Spare Time : Royal Mail Film Classics 1939

‘Spare Time’ is a black and white film, made in 1939, which shows how people enjoyed their leisure hours. It looks at three communities from the steel, cotton and coal industries and observes how their different shift systems have had an influence on their activities.

North Highland College (Johnston Collection)

The Johnston Collection offers a unique glimpse into the lives of those around Wick before the Second World War. Many thousands of  archive photographs reflect the work and leisure activities of the community and show us fascinating details of industries which have long since gone.

Gutting the Herring
North Highland College (Johnston Collection) c1925

At one time the small town of Wick was the biggest herring port in Britain  but the industry began to decline in the 1930s as herring shoals became less common and faster transport links removed the need for salting and curing. The photo above shows James More’s herring curing station around 1925. The fish were gutted as soon as they were landed by girls who worked in “crews” of three; two gutters and one packer. If the fishing was heavy they worked on into the night in all weathers and open to the elements.

Miss Christine Gunn, Herring Queen in 1953 and her attendants
North Highland College (Johnston Collection) c1955

The herring industry was of such importance that for many years the community of Wick celebrated the summer ‘Herring Queen’ festival. This eventually stopped during the 1950s when the industry declined.

There are many more industries which can be researched through Jisc MediaHub, so why not take some time to explore our collections for material which interests you.

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Legacy of the Genetic Codebreakers

The Wellcome Library has launched a major new digital resource which tells the story of genetics. ‘Codebreakers: Making of Modern Genetics’  contains the digitised archives of the most prominent individuals in this field, together with lots of supporting material.

To celebrate the launch of ‘Codebreakers’ we would like to show you a special selection of MediaHub resources which help illustrate the huge impact the work of these geneticists has had on society and how it has already changed our lives.

It is sixty years since’ Nature’ published  Watson and Crick’s  paper on the structure of DNA. This breakthrough is considered to be one of the greatest achievements of the 20th Century. Since that time enormous progress has been made in the field of genetics and molecular biology.

Francis Crick : Nobel Prize-Winning Scientist
Getty (still images) : 23-04-1993

Legendary Geneticist : James Dewey Watson
Getty (still images) 23-04-1993

Genetic Fingerprinting

Alec Jeffreys discovered the technique of DNA fingerprinting by chance while carrying out research at the University of Leicester in 1984. It revolutionised the field of forensic science and police were now able to use DNA evidence to link  a suspect to the scene of a crime. A few years later the technique had been developed sufficiently to make it commercially available. Click on the following ITV news clip to hear how DNA fingerprinting is carried out and the impact it was to have on criminal investigation procedures.

Genetic Fingerprint Techniques
ITV News 13-11-1987

Jeffreys went on to refine the process further and developed DNA profiling, a technique which made it possible for DNA databases to be established. This has led to ethical questions about whose DNA should be stored and for how long.

However, the use of DNA evidence in court is not without its issues. In 2007 attempts to convict an individual for the Omagh bombings failed due to problems with ‘Low Copy’ DNA that ‘did not stand up to scrutiny’. Watch the ITN news clip below to find out more about the implications this has had for the Crown Prosecution Service.

DNA evidence to be reviewed after Omagh bomb trial verdict
ITN 21-12-2007

Sequencing and Mapping of the Human Genome

The Human Genome Project, established in 1989,  allowed geneticists to work collaboratively on sequencing  the entire human genome. This involved identifying every chemical  base pair within every gene of each human chromosome (around 3 billion base pairs).

Base pairs which make up the structure of a DNA double helix
Book of Life : Wellcome Film 2001

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, based in Cambridge, carried out nearly a third of the work; the rest was sequenced by institutions  in the USA .  The ‘Book of Life‘ was made by the Wellcome Trust and is a fascinating account of how the sequencing work was done and the immense potential this has released to understand how genes contribute to human disease. We now have the information to discover the genetic basis of  cancer, diabetes and heart disease, as well as many other illnesses such as Alzheimer’s. Find out more about how the work was done by clicking on the image below:

Publication of the entire human genome
Book of Life : Wellcome Film 2001

This immense task was completed to a high degree of accuracy by 2003;  timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the discovery of  the DNA double helix.

Frederick Sanger, the researcher after whom the Sanger Institute was named,  pioneered methods of  sequencing  DNA which would form the basis of the high-speed technologies in use today. In the interview below you can hear this modest man discuss his work and how the life of a research scientist is usually strewn with failures from which occasional breakthroughs are made.

Frederick Sanger
Sanger. Sequences [Dr F. Sanger Interviewed by Mr H. Judson, 13 November 1987] Biochemical Society

The process of DNA sequencing is constantly advancing and becoming cheaper. In 2007 it cost $10 million to sequence a human genome whereas in 2012 it could be done in one day for around $1,000. This is having a revolutionary effect on  scientists’ abilities  to defeat diseases which mutate quickly, such as HIV and malaria, as well as for a multitude of other applications.

Many more genomes of other species are now being unravelled, expanding our knowledge of genetics further. Accompanying these advances will be a host of new ethical issues surrounding the use to which this information is being put and whether it is being used for commercial gain.

Greenpeace activists protest against genetically modified maize crops grown by US company, Monsanto.
Getty (images) 03-05-2005

Giant biotechnology companies such as Monsanto have been accused of introducing genetically modified organisms to the detriment of indigenous species and the environmental health of the planet.

The Genome of Neanderthal Man

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology are trying to sequence the Neanderthal genome following the discovery of ancient DNA within well preserved Neanderthal bones . It will allow scientists to compare human and Neanderthal genomes and identify the changes which are unique to modern man. It is hoped this will give clues to how man evolved and why Neanderthals disappeared.  Watch this Channel 4 Newsclip below to find out why scientists think this work could also contribute to our understanding of human speech disorders.

Neanderthal Skull
Technology: Scientists close to mapping genetic code for Neanderthal man: Channel 4 News 15-11-2006

We now stand on the threshold of a new age in which biomedical technologies will be used diagnose and treat disease, design new drugs and provide us with solutions to help make vital resources more plentiful. This promises to improve all our lives but, as with the advent of all new technologies, we will have to confront previously unknown ethical dilemmas along the way.

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Tutankhamun

The 16th February 2013 marked the 90th anniversary of Howard Carter’s historic unsealing of the royal burial chamber of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings. He had been searching for the tomb for many years, with the financial backing of Lord Carnarvon, and its discovery was not only the greatest achievement of his career but also the greatest archaeological find of modern times.

Crowds gather around the entrance to the tomb of Tutankhamun
Lord Carnarvon: Gaumont Graphic Newsreel 05-03-1923

Howard Carter’s personal diary and journal (now held at the Griffith Institute, Oxford)  provide a fascinating account of how the tomb was finally discovered in November 1922.  On Sunday the 5th November, he sent the following telegram to Lord Carnarvon

At last have made wonderful discovery in Valley a magnificent tomb with seals intact recovered same for your arrival congratulations

It took several months to record the hundreds of wonderful objects stored in the antechamber before the team could proceed to investigate the sealed burial chamber. Lord Carnarvon  travelled from England to witness the event on 16th Feb 1923 and the world press descended.

The following clip from Gaumont Graphic Newsreel includes Howard Carter showing  Lord Carnarvon and others around the site in early March 1923. A month later, Lord Carnarvon died suddenly from blood poisoning which originated from a mosquito bite and rumours began to circulate about the curse of  Tutankhamun.

Howard Carter talks to Lord Carnarvon at the tomb of Tutankhamun
Lord Carnarvon: Gaumont Graphic Newsreel 05-03-1923

Tutankhamun ruled Egypt between 1336 and 1327 BC and was a Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Although his tomb was relatively small for an Egyptian Pharaoh it was of enormous significance because very little looting had occurred and the burial chamber was still sealed. HV Morton, the only journalist allowed into the tomb, wrote vividly of astonishing sights which included not only magnificent treasures but also stores of food, perfumed face creams and withered garlands of flowers. The King had been buried with everything he could conceivably need to sustain him in the afterlife.

Carter was famous for his systematic approach to recording archaeological artefacts, ensuring the context of an object was recorded in addition to information about the object itself. His team used Carter’s own card system to record the contents of Tutankhamun’s tomb and he employed Harry Burton to photograph the excavation as it progressed, providing an invaluable visual record of the tomb in situ.

Contents of the tomb are removed in wooden crates after they have been carefully recorded
Lord Carnarvon: Gaumont Graphic Newsreel 05-03-1923

The discovery of Tutankhamun captured the imagination of the public at a time when such exciting events could be watched on early newsreels as well as being reported in print. This was to have a big impact on archaeology and the way in which it was communicated to a new audience.  Brian Hope-Taylor talks about this in the following  film called ‘The Investigators’ and discusses how archaeologists are equally concerned with finding out about the lives of ordinary people as well as royal ones.

A statue of Anubis guards the tomb of Tutankhamun
Who were the British?: The Investigators: Anglia Television Library 1965

Egypt’s tourist industry boomed as the media fuelled public interest in Egyptology. Take your own tour of  Aswan, Luxor and the Valley of the Kings by watching this 1959 Roving Report presented by the famously combative George Ffitch.

George Ffitch is driven to the Valley of the Kings
The Grandeur of Egypt: Roving Report 29-04-1959

Until the 1960′s all artifacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb were housed in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. As a result of political change it was made possible for the major items to be exhibited throughout the world and they still continue to travel the globe .

The Treasures of Tutankhamun‘  came to the British Museum in 1972 and was their most successful ever exhibition attracting over 1.6 million people. Click on the image below to watch an ITV news clip broadcast on the eve of its opening.

Scarab Beetle from the ‘Necklace of the Sun in the Eastern Horizon’
Tutankhamun Exhibition Opened: ITV News 29-03-1972

Tutankhamun has drawn people to Egypt for decades. Click on the image below to watch ITN footage of the Princess of Wales visiting Cairo and the Valley of the Kings in 1992. She was lucky and did not have to queue in the heat to see all his splendours.

Princess of Wales looks at the Golden Mask of King Tutankhamun
Princess of Wales Egypt Visit: ITN 14-05-1992

We now know much information about the boy king as a result of modern technology. There have been many theories about  Tutankhamun’s early death at around 19 years of age and many believed he had been murdered (evidenced by a skull injury). In 2005 the king’s mummified remains were scanned and results indicate  it is much less likely that he was deliberately killed. DNA testing  in 2010 shows he probably suffered from malaria which would have resulted in a weakened constitution. Death most likely occurred as the result of a leg injury which failed to heal properly. You can follow this story and find out more about his parentage and physical condition by clicking on the image below:

The real face of Tutankhamun
DNA reveals some mystery on King Tut: Getty (moving images) 2010

Recent work on the analysis of mummies has given us valuable information about our own health. This Lancet article shows that evidence of atherosclerosis existed in a third of the mummies which were examined, suggesting that modern lifestyle factors are not completely to blame for an individual’s predisposition to heart attack and strokes. Instead it’s possible atherosclerosis  may be linked more directly to the human ageing process.

The public face of the King – the Golden Mask of Tutankhamun
DNA reveals some mystery on King Tut: Getty (moving images) 18-02-2010

Controversies continue to follow Tutankhamun. There are problems concerning the deterioration of the King’s remains following their removal from the protective atmosphere of his sealed burial chamber, as well as the condition of the tomb itself. In addition there are the ethics of displaying a dead body, stripped of all the objects with which it had been buried. Many will argue  this is preferable to the looting which would have taken place once the location of the tomb was known, though some believe mummies should not be disturbed.

The legend of Tutankhamun, who died over 3,000 years ago and was sent into the afterlife with treasures beyond imagining, continues to fascinate us and even now he still  holds on to many of  his secrets.

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UK Bio Bank

While watching the news on Friday night, yes it doesn’t get much more exciting than that these days, i saw a piece on the UK Bio Bank.  UK Biobank is a major national health resource with the aim of improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of serious and life-threatening illnesses – including cancer, heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, eye disorders, depression and forms of dementia. UK Biobank recruited 500,000 people aged between 40-69 years in 2006-2010 from across the country to take part in this project. They have undergone measures, provided blood, urine and saliva samples for future analysis, detailed information about themselves and agreed to have their health followed.

So what is the significance of this study?  There are a a couple of important differences from previous studies, most obvious being the number of participants.  Half a million subjects is a huge, and importantly significant, sample size.  It should allow researchers to cut through background noise and discover trends that have not been apparent in smaller studies.  Another difference is that this study focuses on a diverse range of people. Some are already suffering from an illness but many are perfectly healthy.  Much of the previous research has focused on just those that are already suffering from an illness.

So why am I writing about the UK Bio Bank on a geospatial blog? Well, along with the wide array of physiological measurements that are being collected about each subject, the research team are collecting information about:

  • where participants live
  • where they grew up
  • where they have lived throughout their life
  • the income of their family while they grew up
  • their employment

and I am sure many more things.  This gives the study a spatial element and geographical factors can have a strong influence on health.  With such a large sample size GIS is the obvious tool to analyse and extract patterns from the noise of the data.  Packages such as ArcGIS and R Stats will help researchers explore the dataset.  I am sure the UK Bio Bank will become a an important research resource in years to come and will have a significant impact on epidemiology research.

UK Biobank was established by the Wellcome Trust medical charity, Medical Research CouncilDepartment of HealthScottish Government and the Northwest Regional Development Agency. It has also had funding from theWelsh Assembly Government and the British Heart Foundation. UK Biobank is hosted by the University of Manchester and supported by the National Health Service (NHS).