Police box display marks 100 years of women in force

Retired police officer Christine Dawson and Monty Roy, owner of the police box. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Retired police officer Christine Dawson and Monty Roy, owner of the police box. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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CARRYING their batons in a handbag, wearing a skirt and having to leave the force if they got married – just some of the memories retired police officers have recalled at a city exhibition.

To mark the milestone of women being part of the police force for 100 years, Monty Roy, who owns the old police box in Leith Walk, reopened the tiny venue and restored it to its former glory for one day.

Featuring a host of photographs and the original sink and chair, residents were given the chance to peer inside and catch a glimpse of what it was like to work as a police officer decades ago.

Monty said it was important the people of Edinburgh recognised the milestone, and how much the duties of women doing the job have changed over the years.

She said: “I’ve owned the police box for three years and it gets used for a variety of events.

“I thought this was a really special one to use the box for.” Retired police officers from across the Capital gathered at box and discussed memories from their careers.

Christine Dawson, 59, who is originally from Leith but now lives in North Berwick, worked at the Lothian and Peebles Constabulary before moving to Leith police station in 1976.

She said: “I joined the police at the age of 19 and the role of women has changed enormously since back then in a number of different ways.”

Christine, who retired earlier this year, added: “There’s now a lot more opportunities for women and a greater understanding of diversity.”

She said one of her most vivid memories of her earlier days in the police force was not being allowed to wear trousers.

She said: “We had to wear a skirt, shirt and were given a handbag for our batons.

“It was quite stereotypical back then in comparison to what it’s like now.”

Wilma Robertson, 60, recalled her interview to join the police when she was just 19.

She said: “I vividly remember my interview, and it was something along the lines of, ‘do you have a boyfriend?’

“Followed by, ‘are you planning to get engaged anytime soon?’

“Back then if you got married or had children you had to leave so they weren’t going to waste money on training you up if that was your intention.

“Women weren’t treated equally to men – we weren’t even allowed to take our breaks in the same room.”

Superintendent Liz McAinsh, who attended the event, said marking 100 years of women in policing was a “real celebration” and that there had been “so many advances” made over the years.

courtney.cameron@edinburghnews.com