World War II shipyard worker Janet Harvey receives honorary degree

27 November 2018

“Work as hard as you can to reach your goals.”

Those were the inspiring words of Second World War shipyard electrician Janet Harvey. The 96-year-old was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Engineering in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the war effort with the Glasgow shipyards, and her commitment to the common good.

The presentation came as Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) celebrated its winter graduations at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall.

As an electrician in the River Clyde’s shipyards, Janet played a crucial role in Britain’s war effort and helped break down gender barriers. She was one of just a handful of women working as an electrician alongside the 100,000 men toiling around the clock in the city’s shipyards.

When peace was declared, and the city’s male workforce returned from the front, Janet and women like her across the country were told their services were no longer required. She began a new career with the Co-operative Society but, given the opportunity, would have loved to continue her career as an electrician.

She said: “I was just a girl, but I learned to appreciate the value of hard work. My fingers were nimble back then. Being an electrician was like knitting, just following the pattern! I was good at it and showed that you didn’t need a Y chromosome to be a successful sparky.

“I’m delighted GCU has acknowledged my contribution all those years ago. Hopefully, it inspires many more women to study electrical and other engineering subjects.”

At the same ceremony, Street Soccer founder and CEO David Duke MBE was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science, in recognition of his outstanding commitment to social enterprise in line with the University’s mission for the common good.

He said: “My mission today is to help people who have fallen on hard times. Street Soccer provides a platform for people to come together, to build relationships. The solution to people’s problems is other people.

“Glasgow Caledonian is the arguably the best university in the world because it’s for the Common Good.”

The honorary guests joined over 450 students graduating from the School of Engineering and Built Environment and the School of Health and Life Sciences.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE said: “I am delighted to be able to celebrate the work and achievements of these individuals, who are outstanding examples of our university’s enduring commitment to work for the common good.”