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Female police officers mark 100 years of women in police with celebratory event in Dumbarton

UK Police

Written By: Jenny Foulds  2/7/15

Serving and retired officers came together to share their memories and experiences about life in the force over the decades.

When Nora Irwin joined the police nearly 60 years ago, she rose to the challenge of being one of very few women in the force — becoming the first female in Scotland to be a full-time traffic patroller.

Despite loving her Dumbarton-based job, a strict rule forced her to give it all up after becoming engaged. It was one of many restrictions imposed on women and is in startling contrast to the wide ranging opportunities now available for women serving with Police Scotland.

Last week, 51 years later, she found herself back at Dumbarton Police Station celebrating a special event marking 100 years of women in the police. Serving and retired officers came together to share their memories and experiences about life in the force over the decades.

Nora knew she wanted to be a policewoman from the age of 12 and was one of two full-time female traffic patrollers covering Dunbartonshire. She said: “Speed traps were different in those days.

“It was a stop watch and a white hanky. There would be one police officer with a stopwatch and a second police officer further down the road with a stop watch and they would drop a white hanky to alert the third officer, who would stop them.”

She said the force had changed “tremendously”and added: “There are so many opportunities now for women. We only got 90 percent of a policeman’s salary.

“Women also weren’t allowed to wear trousers but when we were finally allowed to wear them, we didn’t like it as everyone would stare at you. Women were allowed to wear trousers in 1959 but we didn’t like it and asked if we could go back to skirts.”

She left as a constable in 1964, adding: “I was getting married and in those days you weren’t allowed to serve if you were female and married. The feeling was you would have a baby and be off work for a long time.”

Superintendent Gail McClymont said the event was a chance to invite officers past and present to celebrate the milestone and see how far the force has progressed through the ages.

She said: “Many years ago there was a clear distinction between male officers and female officers but there are no barriers now.

“More and more women are joining the police and I think we will see that increase year on year and see more female police officers in higher ranks.”

It was only 1937 that women police officers were allowed to take fingerprints and in the 1970s that women were allowed to participate in dog handling.

Margaret Shields, from Dumbarton, served in the police for 30 years and worked in a variety of different roles across the area, working her way up to sergeant.

She said: “It was an excellent career and I hope the young women who are joining up now enjoy it as much as I did.

“Every day was different. It was challenging being a policewoman then and you had to give it 110 percent.

“There was only about eight policewomen in Dunbartonshire when I joined in 1964.”

Sergeant Lynn Davis, based in Dumbarton, experienced huge changes after leaving to raise her new-born son in 1981 — and returning 15 years later. She said: “I left because at that time, there was no part time work or job share so it wasn’t practical for family life.

“There are no barriers now to juggle work with family life. There’s part-time work and flexi working. We have
all these things now which means we have more women working in the police. I worked for 11 years of those 15 years elsewhere but I never lost the passion to serve. I wanted to come back.”

Source: Daily Record http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/female-police-officers-mark-100-5986751

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