Dates and times
Driving Force: Dorothée Pullinger and the Galloway Car celebrates the achievements of British engineering pioneer, business woman and racing driver Dorothée Pullinger. Dorothee co-founded the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and we are delighted the new display opens in its centenary year.
The centrepiece is a rare Galloway motorcar built in 1924 at the Heathhall factory Pullinger managed, which was legendary for the large number of women engineers it employed. Pullinger led by example paving the way for women in engineering as well as in motor sport. She defied the conventions of the time by becoming a young engineer, but in 1920 she came up against the prevalent gender-bias of the time when she applied to join the Institution of Automobile Engineers and was turned down on the grounds that ‘the word “person” means a man and not a woman’.
Dorothée Pullinger was born in France in January 1894. Her father was the car designer Thomas Pullinger. The family moved to the UK and in 1910 she started work at Arrol-Johnston, a car manufacturer in Paisley, Scotland, where her father was a manager.
When World War One started Dorothée was in charge of female munitions workers at Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria. While employed there she introduced a canteen system that provided meals for the workers and ended up being responsible for around 7,000 people. She was later awarded an MBE for her work during the war. After the war Dorothée returned to Scotland and to cars, resuming her engineering training. From there she became the manager of the Galloway Engineering Company, a subsidiary of Arrol-Johnston, at its factory near Kirkcudbright. In the early 1920s production of the Galloway motor car began. Dorothée Pullinger played a central role in its success.
Galloways were described by Light Car and Cycle magazine in 1921 as ‘built by ladies, for those of their own sex’. This was exactly what Dorothée had envisaged. Smaller and lighter than most cars of the time, it featured gears in the middle of the car rather than outside, the steering wheel was smaller with the seat raised and the dashboard lowered.
The 1920s was a difficult time for independent car makers, only 4,000 Galloways were made and the factory ceased production by the end of the decade. The Galloway car on show at Riverside Museum is believed to be one of only 15 that remain worldwide and one of only four in Scotland.
Dorothée also liked to drive and in 1924 she was ‘the first lady competitor’ to enter an annual race called the Scottish Six Days Trials. She won the silver cup. Also on show are two loaned objects from the Pullinger family; a small racing medal awarded to Dorothee in 1922 and her A5 sketchbook from 1908, featuring watercolours painted near their home in Dalry when she was 14. These are complemented by a thistle mascot that would have been on the bonnet of select cars, an engine badge, a Galloway catalogue, a cloche hat and a pair of 1920s shoes. Inside the car a specially-commissioned costume will be presented to reference the costume Dorothée wore when she competed in the 1924 Scottish Six Days Trials.
Three films help bring the story to life for visitors. The first, an interview with two young Scottish rally drivers, Erica Winning and Amy McCubbin, who describe what it is like to be female rally drivers today and compare their experience with Dorothée’s racing in the 1920s, explaining why she is such an inspiration. A second features a young engineer dressed in the Galloway factory uniform talking about the car and its key elements. The last film introduces two of Dorothee’s children speaking about their mother.
Driving Force: Dorothée Pullinger and the Galloway Car is located on the ground floor of Riverside Museum by the car wall at the South entrance.