Engineer of the Week No.35: Miss Mary Evelyn ‘Evi’ Roxburgh (10th October 1896 - 24th April 1973)
Today we remember Evelyn Roxburgh, on the 46th anniversary of her death. Scotswoman Evelyn Roxburgh is thought to have been the first woman to qualify as an electrical engineer in Scotland. Born in Edinburgh in 1896 into a family of lawyers, she gained her Diploma in Electrical Engineering, from Heriot-Watt College, Edinburgh, in 1923, when the only other women studying engineering in Scotland seem to have been doing civil engineering. She then got a job in the electrical switchgear department of Metropolitan Vickers, presumably in Birmingham. Metro-Vicks as it was known, was one of the biggest engineering companies in the country and also the foremost employer of women engineers in the interwar period when such work was extremely difficult to find for women, regardless of their experience or qualifications.
She afterwards moved to Metro-Vicks rivals (later they merged), British Thomson-Houston, also in the Midlands. In 1928 Evelyn was appointed to become an HM Inspector of Factories, following what was described as a “limited competition” to enter this civil service role. At this time in her life her career changes are a bit unclear but she and her sister Helen ( lived in London and she retrained as a radiographer, and rose to become the head radiographer at Surbiton Hospital, Surrey. One eminent consultant radiologist was known to remark that he had rarely seen radiographs of a greater diagnostic value then those taken by Miss Roxburgh. Presumably her technical skills enabled her to manipulate machine settings to best advantage. In 1950 her father died, leaving the sisters enough money for them to both retire to the Oxfordshire village of Long Wittenham. For most of her adult life her sister Helen had been ‘the right hand’ of Lord Justice Scott, a Judge of the Appeal Court, but these two well-educated urbane and urban sisters settled very happily into rural life. Evelyn soon became president of the local Women’s Institute and sat on the Parish Couincil for 15 years. She also started the local branch of Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England. She and her sister died within months of each other and are buried with their longtime friend and housekeeper, Jane Waite, in the village’s St. Mary's churchyard.