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Workers' lives in olden times

Deedee Cuddihy folds a paper cap and steps into the shoes of a Georgian apprentice printer.

Callendar House in Falkirk is well known for its Georgian Kitchen Experience for school groups. Now, Falkirk Council Museums Services have launched an Apprentice Printer Experience, also set in Georgian times, the hey day of the historic mansion.

Aimed at seven to 13-year-olds, the printer workshops complement several areas of the curriculum including communications, technology and history.

As apprentice printers, pupils get to dress up in costume, make a simple poster or printer's paper hat, see a Georgian printer at work and visit the kind of shop where printing supplies could be bought in the 19th century.

John Evitt, headteacher of St Andrew's Primary in Falkirk, which is within walking distance of Callendar House. is keen for his pupils to take part in extra-curricular activities, so the school regularly signs up for workshops at the museum. A P3 class went along to the Apprentice Printer Experience during its inaugural week and was delighted to see Margaret Bowden, the museum's education officer, in Georgian attire, including mob cap, and David, one of the nine interpretation officers, dressed in authentic Georgian printer's gear, right dwn to handmade leather shoes. (Sadly, since the children's visit, Mrs Bowden has died but the workshops will carry on.) There were shrieks and giggles as the seven-year-olds put on long skirts and mob caps or waistcoats, navy blue aprons and protective sleeves. "You look like old ladies!" said one of the boys.

However, they soon got down to work, with one group printing their names using old-fashioned wooden blocks and black ink (the washable kind), the other making simple Georgian printers' hats from folded paper.

Then it was upstairs to see Falkirk town centre, circa 1820, with the interiors of the premises atmospherically lit by electric mock candles, and an informative chat with Ron in the printing shop and Alison in the general store, both of them dressed in period costume.

Teacher Siobhan Harkins said: "We had been working on a language project which involved making posters and writing newspaper stories, so this visit tied in very well.

"The children always enjoy hands-on activities and love dressing up. Minutes after putting the costumes on, they really believed they were apprentice printers."

Apprentice Printer Experience, Callendar House, Falkirk, tel 01324 503781. Children 65p; workshops last about two hours

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