Alf Truckell is remembered by many local residents as the friendly, knowledgeable curator who looked after Dumfries Museum (1948-1982) during their childhood. He was born 100 years ago (on 14 February 1919) and he is being remembered at Dumfries Museum in a new exhibition.
The foyer display “Mr Museum” is open now at Dumfries Museum and will be on show until January 2020.
Alfred Edgar Truckell (Alf) was born at Barrow-in-Furness, and attended primary school at Noblehill, and later Dumfries Academy. After leaving school he worked at Dinwiddie’s printworks before joining the Town Clerk’s office as a junior clerk in 1937. With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 he served in various locations in Britain before being sent overseas in 1942. After the war Alf returned to work in the Town Clerk’s office and began indexing Town Council and Committee Minutes, a task neglected since the early 1920s. In 1948 Alf’s talent for local history was recognised and he was appointed Curator of Dumfries Museum. He soon developed his encyclopaedic breadth of knowledge of natural history, archaeology, history and folklore. He became a personal member of many learned societies and ran evening classes on many topics.
Alf achieved the Diploma of the Museums Association in 1952, showing his dedication to the profession from the start. Alf increased visitor figures to the museum, took on the display and curatorship of the Old Bridge House as a museum of domestic life in Dumfries and started a museum in Annan.
He acquired thousands of objects for the collections, including several sandstone slabs bearing the fossilised footprints of primitive reptiles which pre-dated the dinosaurs, one of which is a type specimen named after him. He had a strong interest in education, encouraging school visits to the museum as well as to local sites, and was awarded an MBE for his services to learning on 1 January 1970.
Alf had huge energy and enthusiasm, and continues to be fondly remembered by locals, visitors and the museum profession alike. The legacy of his work at Dumfries Museum is evident in the collections he amassed until he retired in 1982. He continued to research and support work on local history right up to his death in 2007.
In 1835 Dumfries and Maxwelltown Astronomical Society purchased a redundant 18th century windmill and commissioned a local architect, Walter Newall, to convert it into an observatory. They also asked instrument maker Thomas Morton of Kilmarnock to make a telescope and camera obscura. The building opened on 1 August 1836.
In the early 1930s the Town Council of Dumfries acquired the building and grounds, agreeing to finance the running costs of what became Dumfries Burgh Museum.
From 1948 to 1982 Alf Truckell collected large amounts of social history, textile and craft objects. With developments in mass production, transport and the introduction of new materials, the 1950s and 60s were a time of great change. The items Alf collected reflected this transformation in the lifestyles of local people.
Pop along and see the exhibition at Dumfries Museum, open Tuesday to Saturday throughout the year.