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New display dedicated to trailblazing automotive engineer Dorothée Pullinger opens in Glasgow
Yvette Le Couvey (in blue) and curator of Transport and Technology with Glasgow Museums Heather Robertson (in red). © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

GLASGOW.- Riverside Museum, Glasgow has unveiled a new display celebrating the achievements of British engineering pioneer, business woman and racing driver Dorothée Pullinger. Driving Force: Dorothée Pullinger and the Galloway Car marks the centenary of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), which Pullinger co-founded.

The centrepiece is a rare Galloway motorcar built in 1924 at the Heathhall factory Pullinger managed, which was legendary for the large number of women engineers it employed. Pullinger led by example paving the way for women in engineering as well as in motor sport. She defied the conventions of the time by becoming a young engineer, but in 1920 she came up against the prevalent gender-bias of the time when she applied to join the Institution of Automobile Engineers and was turned down on the grounds that ‘the word “person” means a man and not a woman’. She was the first woman inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame.

Chair of Glasgow Life, Councillor David McDonald said: ‘Dorothée Pullinger was a trailblazer. A gifted engineer, she was also a successful businesswoman and determined racing driver. As a founder of the Women’s Engineering Society Dorothée Pullinger’s legacy lives on. We hope this new display will assist in ensuring her story continues to inspire others, particularly girls, to live as she did and follow their dream of becoming an engineer.

‘Riverside Museum is home to Glasgow’s world famous transport and technology collection. As such I think this new display is a welcome addition to Scotland’s award-winning transport museum.’

Dorothée Pullinger’s daughter Yvette Le Couvey and grandaugther Miya Le Couvey visited the museum to unveil the new display dedicated to their mother and grandmother. They were joined by Curators of Transport and Technology Heather Robertson and Neil Johnson-Symington, who worked with the family to create Driving Force: The Dorothée Pullinger Story.

Yvette Le Couvey added: ‘It is wonderful to see the new display open at Riverside, I think my mother would have been very proud.

‘The museum does a great job of using interesting objects to tell important stories. My mother was a great business woman and she really cared about her staff. I know she would want her experience, told in this display, to encourage people to pursue their ambitions and to treat those with whom we share our working day with respect.’

Dorothée Pullinger was born in France in January 1894. Her father was the car designer Thomas Pullinger. The family moved to the UK and in 1910 she started work at Arrol-Johnston, a car manufacturer in Paisley, Scotland, where her father was a manager.

When World War One started Dorothée was in charge of female munitions workers at Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria. While employed there she introduced a canteen system that provided meals for the workers and ended up being responsible for around 7,000 people. She was later awarded an MBE for her work during the war. After the war Dorothée returned to Scotland and to cars, resuming her engineering training. From there she became the manager of the Galloway Engineering Company, a subsidiary of Arrol-Johnston, at its factory near Kirkcudbright. In the early 1920s production of the Galloway motor car began. Dorothée Pullinger played a central role in its success.

The 1920s was a difficult time for independent car makers, only 4,000 Galloways were made and the factory ceased production by the end of the decade. The Galloway car on show at Riverside Museum is believed to be one of only 15 that remain worldwide and one of only four in Scotland. Galloways were described by Light Car and Cycle magazine in 1921 as ‘built by ladies, for those of their own sex’. This was exactly what Dorothée had envisaged. Smaller and lighter than most cars of the time, it featured gears in the middle of the car rather than outside, the steering wheel was smaller with the seat raised and the dashboard lowered.

Dorothée also liked to drive and in 1924 she was ‘the first lady competitor’ to enter an annual race called the Scottish Six Days Trials. She won the silver cup. Also on show are two loaned objects from the Pullinger family; a small racing medal awarded to Dorothee in 1922 and her A5 sketchbook from 1908, featuring watercolours painted near their home in Dalry when she was 14. These are complemented by a thistle mascot that would have been on the bonnet of select cars, an engine badge, a Galloway catalogue, a cloche hat and a pair of 1920s shoes. Inside the car a specially-commissioned costume will be presented to reference the costume Dorothée wore when she competed in the 1924 Scottish Six Days Trials.

Three films help bring the story to life for visitors. The first, an interview with two young Scottish rally drivers, Erica Winning and Amy McCubbin, who describe what it is like to be female rally drivers today and compare their experience with Dorothée’s racing in the 1920s, explaining why she is such an inspiration. A second features a young engineer dressed in the Galloway factory uniform talking about the car and its key elements. The last film introduces two of Dorothee’s children speaking about their mother.

Driving Force: Dorothée Pullinger and the Galloway Car is now open, it is located on the ground floor of Riverside Museum by the car wall down at the South entrance.

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