The First of Many

The First of Many

To mark International Women's Day we wanted to celebrate a pioneer of engineering and the inspiration behind our Tay collection - it's the story of one woman's struggle to make it in a male-dominated world. It’s no surprise that she triumphed. Read on to find out all about it.

International Women's Day

When we were considering the naming of the Tay we looked to our local bodies of water to see if there was any interesting or of historical significance around Perth. Sure enough, a really fascinating and inspiring story emerged - the story of Victoria Drummond - the very first female marine engineer in the UK and the first woman member of The Institute of Marine Engineers.

What’s inspiring about her story is that, like many women of the early 20th Century, Victoria faced immeasurable barriers to a successful and fulfilling career in a world dominated by men. No such place could be considered more masculine than the world at sea, and becoming a naval engineer was something Victoria had always wanted. She cut her teeth on shore in Perth, at a car garage where her foreman, who had worked at the Clyde Shipyards, had been to sea and progressed to become a Chief Engineer. He supported her development of naval engineering by teaching her maths and engineering in the evenings.

Victoria moved on to work in Dundee at the Caledone Shipbuilding and Engineering Company who built a lot of steamships, tugs, cargo ships and ferries. From there she worked as assistant engineer on Anchises - a passenger liner. After two stints off-shore she returned to dry land to study, with the aim of becoming a certified Chief Engineer.

Despite having the ability, the knowledge and the skill to achieve her certification, Victoria was denied a pass mark solely on account of her not being male. In fact, such was the fervent desperation of the examiners for her not to progress in this line of work, that they persistently failed not just Victoria, but anyone who sat the test beside her - men included - so as not to appear “unfair”.

World War II arrived and with it the demand for as many people as possible, outweighing the prejudices at the hands of men. She wasn’t initially permitted to return to sea, but after enlisting as an Air Warden in London, Victoria went on to serve on seven different vessels as part of the war effort. Following this she spent her time overseeing shipbuilding in Scotland, working as Chief Engineer on multiple vessels, and saw out her days in quiet retirement as a decorated mariner with an MBE, which had been presented to her by King George VI.

Victoria Drummond MBE

She was also awarded the Lloyd’s War Medal for Bravery at Sea, when she remained at post on Bonita, a cargo ship travelling in the North Atlantic as it was bombed by the Luftwaffe - her conduct, skill and bravery saved the vessel, its crew and its cargo.

Victoria’s life was one of struggle against discrimination at the hands of her male peers - threatened and insecure. Yet in the face of such oppression, her persistence was ultimately rewarded with a reputation for being amongst the very best marine engineers of her generation. An incredible legacy of triumph over adversity.

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  • It’s a good question Lynn – there are a couple of reasons; firstly, there’s the legal side of things (where we’ve been burnt before) and that for a long while now we’ve named our watches after bodies of water (Cherwell, Coniston, Lomond, Tay etc) although recently we have had the Astro and soon to be GMT. Naming conventions are tricky to say the least!

    Oliver Goffe
  • So, as a matter of interest why didn’t you call the watch the Drummond?
    No permission? No copyright? Something like that?
    I just find calling the watch the Tay does not immediately spring this lady to mind or even celebrate women in general.
    ( I’ve got one by the way. Will leave feedback imminently…)

    Lynn Reid

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