The varied and often electric delights of Dalbeattie museum

My mum’s family comes from the Scottish Borders, and on a visit there we went to visit my Auntie & Uncle who live in a town called Dalbeattie.

Dalbeattie has a small museum of local history, which my Auntie & Uncle help to run. The artifacts on display there cover a range of periods, and there’s a sizeable space dedicated to local man William Murdoch, who was First Mate on the Titanic. That section takes pains to clarify that, contrary to how he was portrayed in James Cameron’s moderately successful film, Murdoch wasn’t a grubby, murderous coward. There’s a letter from one of the film’s producers on the museum’s wall acknowledging this fact.

There are a number of weird and wonderful exhibits elsewhere in the museum. My photos document my favourites, with the latter shots taking a definite turn for the… the… the… electric.

Vintage till

Dalbeattie museum vintage till

Dalbeattie museum old till

I couldn’t help looking at this beautifully decorated old thing and mentally comparing it with the bleeping Serve-U-Bots in my local Tesco. Old tills never barked at you for putting unauthorised items in the bagging area, did they?

Most elaborate apple-peeler in history

Old apple peeler

I’m being flippant. If you were producing gallons of jam or something, a machine like this would really cut down on labour. There’s just something comical about seeing a singular apple on there. I like to think that somewhere there’s a nutcracker that’s even larger and has twice as many working parts.

High school-leaving certificate (click to enlarge)

Dalbeattie museum school leaving certificate

I love the passive aggressive undertone to this document. There is not a single note of congratulations. The opening paragraph is almost begrudging:

You are now leaving school. The first stage of your education, which is what the school provides, is completed.

“You’re done. What do you want, a certificate? Fine. Here it is.” When you consider that this high school is located in Scotland, the following line is insanely idealistic:

Beware of strong drink – it is the deadly enemy of health and efficiency. It leads to and accompanies nearly every social evil. As you value your character, which is your best possession, abstain entirely from it.

No celebrations for you, Sonny Jim. Oh, but hang on – then the schoolmaster instructs the recipient to:

fill your hours… with intercourse with good friends…

Yes sir!

World War I school memorial

Dalbeattie museum: World War I school memorial

This memorial shows the names of the local school pupils who died serving in the First World War. It’s in the museum because the school was going to chuck it out – apparently it was rescued from a skip, which is simultaneously depressing and heartening, when you think about it.


Dalbeattie museum knobkerry

A knobkerry is basically a club for clouting people on the head. They’re used in Africa and sometimes they sport marks to show how many men/beasts they’ve killed. I chose not dwell on the meaning of the marks seen on this one.

I might have missed the bit about why this is in a museum in Scotland.

Electric bed warmer

Dalbeattie museum bed warmer

Someday I might get around to writing a love letter to my electric blanket, although I’m not sure I could ever sufficiently put my ardour into words. This is its ancestor – I kind of like the suggestion that the designers were unable to think beyond the shape of the traditional hot water bottle.

Electric corset (click pic to enlarge)

Dalbeattie museum electric corset

Yes, we’re getting into our electric stride now. I’ve discovered recently that I like any olde time bits and bobs that claim to cure “biliousness”, and the electric corset makes that claim among others. “But where did they tuck the batteries?” indeed.

Electric Shock Therapy Machine (click pic to enlarge)

Dalbeattie museum electro-shock treatment machine

It’s portable! So handy when the mentally disturbed are too lazy to come to you.

Roger’s Vitalator electric cure-all machine (click pic to enlarge)

Dalbeattie museum Vitalator cure all machine

And so to the solution for problems that couldn’t be cured by your run-of-the-mill electric shock therapy machines: Roger’s Vitalator.

The Vitalator, as far as I can tell, was a kit that came with a variety of different-shaped electrodes. You applied your electrode of choice – depending on your ailment – to the base thingy, and zapped away your badness. And their ain’t no badness this electro-magic wand couldn’t wipe out.

First up, let’s take a look at what you get in the box. (Click pic to enlarge)

Dalbeattie museum Vitalator parts

Obviously you have your common or garden Nasal or ear electrode, and your dental electrode – we’ve all used those. Standard. But there’s also an eye electrode, a rectal electrode and – oi oi, ladies – a vaginal electrode. To these we can also add the (prepare to wince) urethral electrode. There’s a rectal dilator too, and an ozone inhaler. Essentially everything you need for a quiet night in.

Shall we take a look at the kind of aches, pains and incurable conditions the Roger’s Vitalator can “treat”? (Click pics to enlarge)

Dalbeattie museum Vitalator ailmentsDalbeattie museum cure-all machine treatment chartDalbeattie museum electric Vitalator treatment chart

Coo. Well chaps, don’t think the vaginal electrode means you go uncatered for. Impotence can be nipped in the bud by whipping out electrode no.1 – that’s the one with the “sharp spark” – and moving it back and forth atop your old chap for a few minutes.

No.1 electrode is clearly a multi-use item, because it can also be used to cure insomnia, lumbago, “nervousness” (because what calms one down quicker than an electrode to the skin?), pneumonia (just pop a blanket around your shoulders and place electrode in hand), constipation, diabetes, freckles, bronchitis and dyspepsia, among numerous other inconveniences. Just wash it before and after each session, I imagine, especially if someone in your household is impotent.

If a touch of cancer is getting you down, no.7 electrode can clear that up for you – but only “surface cancers, not too far developed”. No.2 electrode is the one that takes care of “female troubles”. Just “lubricate before insertion” and zap those blues away. Careful, mind, because:

during menstruation an excessive flow of blood may result as High Frequency currents draw the blood.

If I tell you that electrode no.20 can get rid of your piles, you can probably guess what’s involved.

If you’re intrigued enough to require further information about this medical marvel that has, for whatever reason, fallen out of favour amongst modern physicians, check out

So there you go – Dalbeattie Museum is fun for all the family, especially if the family likes to apply electricity to itself.


  1. Auntie Floss

    Stuart, your Auntie Floss and Uncle Bob are very proud of you and your marvellous turn of phrase, the publicity will do no harm either. We have had a really good laugh, particularly at the mental pictures that came to mind, we will tell all our fellow volunteers, but keep your address

  2. Nick Jones

    Are the gloves we can see handling the electric corset, museum issue for handling artefacts or, strangler issue for handling strangers?
    Sorry we botched your birthday, there is more than one Wahaca it turns out – and you were at the wrong one.

  3. Stuart

    Those are my mum’s hands, you heartless swine!

  4. Nick Jones

    *applies urethral electrode*

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