Engineer of the Week No.78: Mrs Veronica Jean Kathleen Milligan (“Ronnie”, nee O’Neil) BA, C.Eng., MIEE, AMBIM (11th March 1926 - 3rd September 1989)
Today we remember electrical engineer Ronnie Milligan on the 30th anniversary of her death.
Born in 1926 in Pontypridd, South Wales, “Ronnie” Milligan (nee O’Neil) would spend her entire life living and working in the Principality. Her father was a school teacher and it initially looked as though Veronica would follow in his footsteps, as she gained a degree in English and Economics from the University College of South Wales and trained to become a teacher. However marriage to Francis Milligan in 1945 led to her joining him and her brother, Maitland, in studying part-time for an HNC in electrical engineering, whilst also raising her two baby sons. By dint of offering to work for nothing with the South Wales Electricity Board she was instead offered a paid graduate traineeship and hence became the first female engineer in SWEB. Her first big responsibility was to check and rectify all air break links in the 11kv line in a district, with a gang of 12 far more experienced men to oversee, after previous engineer electrocuted himself. 1959 she gained her chartered engineer status with the Institution of Electrical Engineers (now IET), and moved to planning electrification schemes.
In 1961 she and her husband set up their own consultancy, CivLec Industrial Advisory Services, which was intended to be part time while they both had jobs but quickly became too demanding so the consultancy became full time. She took a diploma in management studies and became a member of the British Institute of Management. This led, in the 1970s to many appointments with government advisory panels on industrial management, principally in the heavy industries and nationalised industries, including the Commission on Energy and Manpower and the Council of Engineering Institutions.
Having joined the Women’s Engineering Society in 1964 she was soon active, setting up and running a new branch in Wales in 1966, joining the WES council in 1968 and becoming the society’s president in 1978-79. Her great interest was in careers guidance for girls and she visited scores of schools in Wales promoting engineering careers, as well as advising careers guidance professionals. She died in her long-time home in Rhiwderin ,Newport, Gwent in 1989 after a short illness and was survived by one of her two sons.