I couldn’t let Beefeater bullies win, says Tower of London trailblazer who won her war on sexism (From Gazette)
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I couldn’t let Beefeater bullies win, says Tower of London trailblazer who won her war on sexism
9:20am Tuesday 15th October 2013 in News
IT takes a strong woman to be a pioneer in any profession... But one with a 528-year male tradition is particularly tough.
Moira Cameron became the first female Yeomen Warder, also referred to as a Beefeater, at the Tower of London in 2007.
She was severely bullied from within the Beefeater guards, which got so bad that at one point her hair started to fall out.
Six years on, she has overcome the bad times and is encouraging women to step up to the plate and become warders.
Ahead of a visit to Clacton to talk about her experiences, Moira says: “There is a completely different atmosphere at the Tower now and it is a much nice place to work.
“In the past six years, 13 places have become available, but no women have applied. I know my story of being bullied was in the media so maybe that is partly why women are not applying for the role. “But you have to remember bullying can take place anywhere.”
Beefeaters are ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. In principle, they are responsible for looking after any prisoners in the Tower and safeguarding the Crown Jewels. But, in practice, they act as tour guides and are a tourist attraction in their own right – a point the Yeoman Warders acknowledge.
All warders are former senior non-commissioned officers with at least 22 years of service.
The name Beefeater is of uncertain origin, with various suggested derivations. The most likely proposition is considered to be from the Yeomen of the Guards’ right to eat as much beef as they wanted from the monarch’s table.
Moira found out about the job when she was working within the military.
She says: “I read about the position in the soldier’s magazine and it immediately appealed to me. “I have always been someone to fight for things and I liked the idea of being the first female Yeoman Warder.
“When I got the job I discovered there was a macho culture and they thought they had to be big, all bellies and egos. But I felt straight away that it was not reflective of people’s lives today and things needed to change.”
When Moira joined the warders she experienced four years of being bullied.
There was a seven-man group of Beefeaters known as the “Ripper Crew” who took the public on Jack the Ripper tours of London in their spare time. Moira was allegedly bullied by fellow Yeoman Warder Mark Sanders-Crook, who was sacked following an internal investigation.
She says: “There were times when I thought I might leave, but I am glad I stayed. It was a case of breaking the mould and changing the place, rather than leaving and letting it continue.
“There was a small village mentality and am glad I stayed and got through it. It was four years of my life and it was not easy, and I sacrificed a lot in that time.”
A tenacious attitude is inbuilt in Moira.
She says: “I wasn't surprised I had the strength to get through it because I have always been strong and had to fight what I achieved.
“I grew up in the west coast of Scotland in a small rural area. My brother joined the military and my later mother, Eva, encouraged me to go as a way to leave the village and travel and see the world in a way she hadn’t done. “She felt the longer I stayed there, the longer my wings would be clipped and I might never leave.”
She was 20 when she joined the military, initially in the Women’s Royal Army Corps, Royal Signals, before transferring to the Royal Army Pay Corps in 1989. She quickly climbed up the ranks and completed 22 years service in June 2007. It has taken a while to get used to the way of life at the Tower, where the warders live and work.
She says: “It is a bit strange to live in the tower. Waking up to the view of Tower Bridge can be a bit overwhelming to start with, but you get used to it.
“I have sacrificed a lot of my personal life due to this job. I didn’t really socialise at all when everything was going on with the bullying, I just worked and stayed indoors.
“I now have friends outside of work and I don’t really get involved with socialising in the Tower. I think that’s healthy.”
It is still a vibrant place, but also a nice place to work.
“There are a lot of personalities and it is a dynamic place,” says Moira. “There are still grumpy old men, but there are grumpy old men everywhere!
“I feel strongly that it needs to be more equal in order to reflect the way things are in modern Britain I always said I would stay for three years and I would like to see another female warder join before I left. But there are no ties keeping me here. I’m not married and I don’t have kids.”
For people with the right credentials, there are jobs available for women. Moira, 48, says: “There is one coming up early next year you apply for.”
Moira is coming to the Princes Theatre, Clacton, on January 27 to talk to the Clacton and North East Essex Arts and Literary Society. A season ticket for 16 performances costs £44, or its £10 for individual performances. Call 01255 422958.
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