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Experiments with first woman announcer

On 22 August 1935, The Bulletin newspaper carried a story in which it suggested there was the possibility that a woman announcer might be contemplated for the BBC's Scottish Region. The previous night Enid Maxwell read the Herring Fishing Bulletin from the Edinburgh station and announced the running commentary on the Association football international match at Hampden Park, Glasgow. It was "thought in some quarters" that she was being tried out for a permanent post, although the official explanation from the BBC was that most of the regular announcers were on holiday. Maxwell, who normally assisted Cecile Walton, organiser of the Scottish Children's Hour, had a voice that was described as "pleasing and clear".[1]

Two months later, Kathleen Garscadden began announcing at the Glasgow studios, hailed as "the only woman announcer in Britain". The BBC said her appointment as announcer was not intended to be permanent and that she was merely helping cover a shortage of staff in the Glasgow studio. However, if listeners showed "very great approval of the experiment" then it might reconsider its policy.[2]

The addition of Garscadden resulted in the majority of Scottish announcements being made by two women. So successfully did they accomplish their task that, contrary to previous experience, listeners began to express their appreciation of their work. The Scottish Region's publicity officer, George Burnett, said:

Quite a number of letters have been received expressing appreciation of the work of the women announcers. An interesting thing about the majority of the letters is that they come from women, as it was principally women who had objected to their own sex announcing when they were first tried. The arrangement whereby Miss Maxwell and Miss Garscadden announce is only temporary during the absence of male announcers.

The Scottish Daily Mail credited the two women with successfully braking down the prejudice against women announcers.[3]

Garscadden returned to do duty as Glasgow announcer in May 1936.[4]

Women staff

By 1936 there were 55 women on the BBC's permanent pay-roll in Scotland. However, nearly all them were secretaries, typists, clerkesses, cleaners, telephonists, filing clerkesses and canteen attendants. A very small section of them — about two or three only — were on the creative side of broadcasting, though many were assistant to programme devisers when they typed out the umpteen copies of every script apparently necessary. 38 of the 55 were in Edinburgh, ten in Glasgow, and seven in Aberdeen.

The supervisor of women's staff was Mrs D. Haverfield, who had a long BBC career, her first memories of the Corporation being in the Savoy Hill days. At one time she had been secretary to Sir John Reith, Lord Gainsford and Lord Clarendon.[5]


  1. 'Woman announcer: may be considered for BBC Scottish Region', Evening Times, 22 August 1935.
  2. 'Only woman announcer in Britain', Scottish Daily Express, 15 October 1935.
  3. 'Women as BBC announcers', Scottish Daily Mail, 5 December 1935.
  4. 'News of Scottish broadcasting', Edinburgh Evening Dispatch, 2 May 1936.
  5. Glasgow Weekly Herald, 20 June 1936.