A god-daughter of Queen Victoria, Victoria Drummond grew up at Megginch Castle, near Errol, Perthshire. After school, she studied at Technical College in Dundee, at the same time as doing her apprenticeship as an engineer.
After qualifying as a marine engineer at the Caledon Ship Works in Dundee, the only woman among 3,000 men, she began working on board ships or in port. She had to overcome hostility and prejudice in order to progress, and earned the respect of many of her fellow seamen.
Victoria Drummond attempted the examination to become a Chief Engineer over 30 times, but was never able to pass. Although it was never said directly, it was hinted that as a women, she would never be allowed to succeed. She did, however, receive a Chief Engineer’s qualification from Panama. Her skill as an engineer was recognised over the years by fellow mariners, most notably by her success in keeping a ship’s engines going in wartime while the ship was under enemy bombardment.
Did You Know?
Her aristocratic background meant that as she sailed into various ports, she would be invited to visit people who were friends or contacts of her family. Taking off her oily overalls, she would dress herself in smart clothes and white gloves, and go off and pay visits. We could wonder how she was able to make her fingernails clean enough for such occasions!
There is a plaque in her honour (number 14 on the Dundee Women’s Trail) at 36-40 Bell Street, Dundee, DD1 1HG.
An Inspiring Woman
During her career as a marine engineer, Victoria Drummond had several difficult situations to deal with, including some narrow escapes from death. The most notable of these was in August 1940, when she was a Second Engineer on the ship, SS Bonita, exporting goods to the USA in return for supplies. 300 miles out to sea, an enemy plane began firing on them. Realising that their only chance of survival was to dodge the bombs, she banished her fellow engineers from the engine room, and managed to keep the engines going, all the while being sprayed by scalding water from a damaged service pipe. On another occasion firing from a plane overhead resulted in the death and wounding of several of her shipmates. On one of her trips the Second Mate fell overboard at night and they only discovered his absence in the morning. Fortunately they were able to turn back and managed to rescue him.