Robert Anderson ROXBURGH Helen Anderson ROXBURGH  ROXBURGH Mary Hutchison BELL Mini tree diagram

Mary Evelyn ROXBURGH

10th Oct 1896 - 24th Apr 1973

Life History

10th Oct 1896


24th Apr 1973



  • Mary Evelyn Roxburgh (1896-1973)

    Always known as Evelyn.

    I met Naena and Evelyn several times but can only distinctly recall one occasion. So much so, that they are indissolubly one item, NaenaandEvelyn, rather than being two clear-cut individuals. This is not because in reality they lacked identity - very much the opposite as I hope in part to show, but in my mind they are an item.

    Neither married, both for good reasons. They refer, in the course of their notes on other members of the family, to living in various places in Scotland as well as moving to London, but the only place I knew them to live was in Long Wittenham where both of them died and are buried. One sister was tall and stately, the other was short and jolly. I think Evelyn was the former.

    Viewed from hindsight, Evelyn appears the more shadowy figure, but this may be simply because she committed fewer of her thoughts to paper, or maybe she destroyed more of her papers than Naena did her own.

    I should maybe preface what little I know about the two Misses Roxburgh by explaining how some of their possessions came into our hands. They were very close as sisters and, although they did not always live together certainly did so for the last 20 or 30 years. Both made their wills out naming the other as principle beneficiary. Evelyn died about 3 weeks before Naena and although Naena was I think aware of the problem was unable to take action in time to avoid dying intestate. There was a particular irony in this as Naena was for many years secretary and more (as will appear) to not only a lawyer, but an Appellate Lord Justice, Sir Leslie Scott. The 'estate' therefore forfeited 40% immediately to the state and the remainder was divided equally between the surviving immediate descendants of the sisters. One of the named executors was Lord Diplock, an erstwhile colleague or protégé of Sir Leslie's - this at a time when there was a crisis in Anglo-Irish relations and Lord Diplock was in the very process, I think, of establishing the so-called 'Diplock Courts' to deal with Irish terrorists. Clearly handling a rather messy intestate estate would have been inconvenient. As one of the beneficiaries (my father Dick Linklater) lived quite close and was able and willing to act as executor most of the final administration of the will fell to him.

    The contents of the house were valued for probate and other beneficiaries notified of the opportunity to purchase items at probate valuation. Whether anyone did so I do not know. We i.e. Dick and Peggy Linklater myself and Robin were able to buy a number of things. It also fell to 'us' to clear the house ready for sale. This included vast amounts of accumulated junk - the sisters were inveterate hoarders and had kept all christmas cards etc since the year dot. There was also a considerable collection of papers of all sorts which we carted off lock stock and barrel with a view to 'looking through them later.' Among these papers were Naena's diaries and some letters and other documents which form the basis of the material for this.

    According to Evelyn's birth certificate she was born Mary Evelyn Roxburgh at 9.40 a.m. at 1, St Bernard's Crescent, Edinburgh, which means she was a couple of years younger than Naena.

    My knowledge of either of the sisters is very limited, but particularly so for Evelyn. To say it is 99% holes and 1% substance is probably giving it the benefit of the doubt. That both sisters enjoyed an active 'social' life as chilren is tesified by the large numbers of  invitations they received to various childrens parties; Hallowe'en (ÙSBring mother!ÙT), birthdays, Christmas, fancy dress (ÙSour little guests are coming in the names of flowers. Please wear the one you selectÙT) but most are Hogmanay. Most just state what day the party is on but a couple have the year and they are 1903 and 1907. One other insight into their childhood is provided by a set of home-made paper cut-out dolls. These are carefully preserved in tissue paper and, although rather faded with age (as presumably about 100 years old!) are a charming example of children's amusements from a bygone era. (They appear to be the handiwork of a child rather than an adult.) Interestingly, underneath it all both dolls are anatomically correct and detailed down to pubic hair.

    The next thing (apart from her birth!) I 'know' about Evelyn is only from hearsay and that is that she was engaged to be married, but her betrothed was killed in the 1914-18 War. Who this could have been I have no idea as yet, as I have come across no direct reference to him. Indeed the only possible reference is so elliptical as to be applicable to any number of events and is contained in a letter from Naena to Aunt Celie. Carefully preserved among their papers were two printed cards of ÙSthanks for the consolation which your kind message of sympathyÙT had brought to Mr and Mrs W.B. Galbraith on the death in the first instance of Lt W. Brodie Galbraith 1/7th Highland Light Infantry aged 23 who died of wounds on 14 July 1915 in action at the Dardanelles and subsequently killed in action also at the Dardanelles on 20 Aug 1915 2nd Lt David Boyd Galbraith aged 21. Enclosed with the latter was a photo of him. Then again there is also a 23rd Battalion Royal Fusiliers Christmas card from 'Ted' plus a pencil written letter from him addressed to "Dear Evelyn" from 16th G Hospuital at Le duc Port in northern France where he was recovering from being blinded for 5 days after a gas attack ÙSon Wed 21st, the day of the Arras-Albert offensive started.ÙT The letter gives no hint of intimacy although they evidently had friends in common and 'Ted' was familiar with the Roxburgh's home. What became of him or who he was I do not know.

    Like her sister, Evelyn seems to have acquired a driving licence early on. The Edinburgh School of Motoring, on 9th Dec 1918 awarded her a 1st Class Certificate testifying that she had "received a course of instruction in Motor Car Mechanism and Driving."

    Evelyn then proceeded to acquire a number of other certificates and diplomas from Heriot-Watt College which led to her being the first woman in Scotland to be awarded a Diploma in Electrical Engineering dated 13 Oct 1924

    On hearing that she had been awarded the Diploma Evelyn had evidently contacted The Women's Engineering Society (incorporated 1920 and based in George St., Hanover Sq., London) because a letter from the secretary dated 30 July 1924 offering congratulations and support in her search for work - which, with the post war slump combined with the return to the labour market of numbers of experienced and/or qualified men who had not died for King and Country must have made the competition for jobs seem harder than ever. From the letter it seems that employment with Metropolitan Vickers Works was the preferred option and this appears to have borne fruit as there is a note dated 4 Sept 1925 from the works manager of Metropolitan-Vickers awarding Evelyn thirty shillings for her "suggestion no 528 Improvement in jig for drilling asbestos pieces." Lest there be any doubt that Evelyn was operating in a man's world, note that the slip is addressed for the "attention of Mr E. Roxburgh."

    Evelyn evidently soon ran up against typical restrictive union practices as a typed memo from her shows.

    Extract from letter from E.R. 14/11/26. [To whom is not known, but presumably not Vickers.]

    I enclose the letter I got from the firm about my suggestion. The rate fixer on the job I altered (drilling asbestos distance pieces) stopped me and asked me if it was I who had put through the suggestion, and when I admitted it he sadly shook his head. I asked him if it meant altering the price and he said yes. He added that no one put in suggestions for the alteration (speeding up) of a process they themselves were engaged on, because their price would be cut. He instanced a man working on condenser bushings who had suggested altering the process with such success that the orders were completed in half the ordinary time. At the end of this period work so slackened off that men had to be suspended and he was one who had to go. He got 30/- far his suggestion and was suspended for a fortnight losing pounds, "So," the rate-fixer said " you keep your ideas to yourself. It'll pay you better and everyone else."

    It seems that the great difficulty lies in shortage of work. A man will nurse a Job for days and make it spin out until he sees the prospect of another because as soon as he has no work he is suspended. It doesn't pay to hurry unless we are very busy. Of course if he hugs the job he possibly loses on his piece work bonus, but an ordinary wage is better than no wage at all. This is one of the many flaws in the piecework system, but piecework has proved itself to be the best incentive to production so far.

    Here is a case which shows how careful both employer and employee are not to help one another! A foreman I know used to work overtime nearly every night while he was 'on the clock' as they call it, and got paid for overtime. The firm watched this for a bit and found he was making too much money so transferred him to the staff where one works overtime without pay. He of course got all staff benefits such as better status, pay though absent up to 14 days, pay on holidays etc. but no overtime pay. The firm wouldn't pay him for overtime and seemed to consider it cheaper to put him on the staff! Of course I do not know how much actual work he did, although he stayed after hours. But this cat and mouse attitude is what I want to point out - very little co-operation. All time workers 'down tools' before the buzzer goes because it doesn't pay to be over-conscientious. I think if something were done to prevent the brains of the workers belonging entirely to the firm in such matters we would get some startling inventions. Meanwhile no-one troubles because any invention, though worked out and constructed in the man's own home, out of hours, belongs to the firm. I understand that is legal. Mr Vaughan (one of the lecturers at Heriot Watt College) used to be very strong on this in the College days. He told us of a Swiss who made a valve gear now universally adopted for locomotives. He got practically nothing for it and his firm must have made thousands out of it. The great cry in our works is "it doesn't pay to have ideas". I have heard it time and again.

    I don't know when or how but Evelyn spent most of her life working as a radiographer. There are certainly a number of photographs supporting this  plus references in Naena's diaries. She rose to become Senior Radiographer presumably at Surbiton Hospital judging by the following reference dated 21st August 1950 from Dr G. Simon, Assistant Radiologist written on headed note paper from the Department of Diagnostic Radiology, St Bartholomew's Hospital, London

    To whom it may concern.
    Miss Roxburgh was Senior Radiographer for many years when I worked at the Surbiton Hospital.
    She was an extremely capable radiographer and ran the Department very well indeed.
    She was kind to the patients and co-operative with the Doctors, as well as showing first rate ability with radiography.
    I think she would fill the post of Senior Radiographer with great distinction should she resume her radiographic work again.

    This rather suggests that she left the job in 1950 without actively seeking another. Coinciding as it does with their move from The Red House at Brightwell to The Grange, Long Wittenham it may be that she retired at this time even though she was only about 54.

    Other than that I know precious little!

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