The following booklet, held by the National Trust for Scotland in the Hornel Library in Kirkcudbright, was published during the First World War, probably about 1917, at which time the Engineering Works at Tongland had not long been constructed, and was being used for the manufacture of parts for aeroplane engines. The factory had to compete for workers with the munitions factory at Gretna, and of course with the Women’s Land Army.
Engineering for Educated Women.
The Works & its Environment.
Galloway Engineering Co. Ltd.
Prominent among the industrial changes caused by the war is the remarkable manner in which women have responded to the many calls upon them from the labour market. Even such a short period ago as the Victorian era, the thought of the fair sex being engaged in such occupations as those in which we find them today we would have regarded not only with horror, but deemed impossible.
Many of the industries in which women labour is now engaged have proved to be essentially women’s work ; but of those which do not come under this category, the one outstanding is the engineering industry, and when one realises the conditions obtaining in factories where hitherto “Vulcan” has held sway, it is remarkable how the women have adapted themselves.
It is therefore particularly gratifying to note the consideration and close attention that The Galloway Engineering Company, of Tongland, near Kirkcudbright, are devoting to the conditions of the woman engineer. The heads responsible for the creation of the factory, in its magnificent rural situation, have kept well in mind the benefits to be gained by building the works in a position which affords the employees the full advantages of open surroundings ; and work under such conditions as exist in the shops of The Galloway Engineering Company must ensure beneficial qualities alike to the component and the producer.
The company photographs, taken in the immediate vicinity of the works, afford some idea of the natural beauty of the surroundings.
The factory is a “Government controlled establishment” producing components for high-powered aeroplane engines.
The terms of engagement are as follows:
Women between the ages of 20 and 30 are most suitable. The first six weeks are probationary, with remuneration at 20/- per week. If then mutually satisfactory, an agreement for three years is entered upon. Commencing with the first week after the probationary period of six weeks, and until the first technical examination, the wages are 25/-, on special classification 30/-, and afterwards 5/- per week increase every six months on the results of the examinations and on general efficiency together.
The hours are 44 per week – 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5.p.m.
A definite training is given by qualified instructors and lecturers, on the same lines as the male engineer apprentice, and material advancement depends no less on technical progress than on mechanical ability and industry. Workers rank as engineer apprentices, and it is necessary to emphasise this point. The conditions are, in fact, analogous to those of the standard engineering apprenticeship, except that the starting wages, instead of being purely nominal (as with boy apprentices), are adequate for a modest living, and instead of rising to10/- at the end of five years, are raised 5/- per week every six months (with a limit of £250 per annum) on merit.
The Company pays the whole of the National Insurance, Health and Unemployment, contributions. (The factory and the company’s hostel have been approved by the Ministry of Munitions Welfare Departments.) A list of houses is kept by the Lady Superintendent, where board and lodgings are available at about 20/- per week. The Company also run a hostel in the town in similar terms. The whole factory is generously heated and well ventilated, and there are recreation and reading rooms, library, and bathrooms ; while a mess-room, with electric kitchen, are in operation at the works for mid-day meals.
The delicacy necessary in all operations connected with the manufacture of Aero Engine parts is responded to by the skilled female worker, and as before remarked, those responsible for the initiation of these works evidently determined that in return for the difficult work expected from the employee she should have adequate compensation as regards ideal working conditions. No detail has been omitted in the appointment of the works, the institutes, and the offices connected with it, and to use the very hackneyed phrase, no effort has been spared to make the works and its accessories “a home from home.”
At the present time there is connected with the engineering industry a branch which is certainly not a portion of it. We refer to the shell-making side. Very possibly considerable women labour is being diverted from such channels as afforded by The Galloway Engineering Company, due to the fact that the remuneration during the probationary period does not quite correspond with that enjoyed by the women operatives of the shell factory ; but wages after that time depend considerably upon the operator. It must be borne in mind, also, that shell making is, as far as engineering circles are concerned, a cul-de sac, whereas the opportunity afforded to the engineering student by The Galloway Engineering Company is permanent, and leading to not only good emoluments but high positions in the industry. It is not within our scope to discuss here whether the woman engineer is likely to stay or not, because so much depends upon eventual circumstances, but there is no doubt whatever that a woman who devotes herself seriously to that portion of the engineering trade which she can master, and which is suitable for her, is sure of a business position worth having, and worth working for.
The high-grade class of work required is only possible for the high-grade worker, and to this end this booklet has been produced to interest gentlewomen who intend adopting engineering as a profession.