Moira is the Tower's first Yeowoman
January 23, 2007
by Sarah Kilby
A SOLDIER from Aldershot made history recently when she became the first female beefeater at the Tower of London.
WO2 Moira Cameron, currently a chief clerk with the Adjutant General Corps’ 145 Brigade, will become Yeoman Warder Cameron in the summer.
The 42-year-old was officially unveiled in the role at a photocall on January 11.
Dozens of reporters, photographers and film crews crowded around the Scot, and when she begins to guide groups of visitors around the tower she will again be the focus of many pairs of equally inquisitive eyes.
At the photocall, she said: “I love being the centre of a crowd, as long as I’m in control. It was a bit overwhelming at first today, but I got used to it.”
She admitted that while she was looking forward to taking up her new role she seemed rather less excited than everyone else.
While her friends and family are leaping up and down, it is only slowly sinking in with Moira that she has made history by becoming the first female Yeoman Warder in 522 years.
Naturally interest is high. While women have never been excluded from being Yeoman Warders, the requirement of 22 years’ continuous service has meant that it is only recently that women — who can now count maternity leave as part of their service — are notching up as many years as the men.
Moira is not the first woman to apply to be a Yeoman Warder, but she is the only one to have made it through the notoriously tough interview process, beating several other candidates — all men — to gain the job.
She is confident that her long career in a male-dominated profession has left her well able to counter any male opposition, while three boisterous uncles and a joke-loving father have teased any timidity out of her system.
“I had to put up with teasing long before I joined the Army,” she said.
“I’ve got a thick skin on me now. As a woman you do encounter opposition in all sorts of forms, although I’ve never come across any male colleague who has been openly aggressive.
“You do get a lot of rather envious ‘that’s just because you’re a woman’ remarks but my secret weapon is just to laugh at them.”
Moira — who grew up in the small Scottish village of Furnace, near Loch Gilpead in the Western Highlands — joined the Army aged 16 after her mother suggested she needed to see the world.
She has been stationed all over the UK, in Cyprus and early on in Northern Ireland.
The idea of becoming a Yeoman Warder was not a sudden whim.
“I’ve always looked at the job ads for years and thought that it sounded a really interesting job. It’s a challenge dealing well with people all day, but it’s what I enjoy.
“Then last summer I saw another ad in Soldier, and applied.”
Moira’s Army career over the last 18 years has been mainly people-orientated.
She’s currently a senior administrator within the headquarters of the 145 Brigade stationed in Aldershot.
“I handle pay and personnel administration, so I am dealing with people all day, which I really love. However, while some are nice, some are bland, and some downright rude.”
She feels it is all good training for dealing with thousands of international visitors, who sometimes demand rather a lot from the Yeoman Warders.
“I’ve heard that some visitors poke and prod the Warders to get their attention, or thrust cameras into their hands rather than ask for a photo to be taken, but I think I can handle that.
“I’ve already been given some essential training by one of the Warders, who has over the years perfected a ‘Paddington Bear stare’ which has instant results if anyone is rude.
“I’ve been practising and I’m getting pretty good.”
Asking her if she’s tough elicits gales of laughter.
“Not me, I’m the person who cries at Little House on the Prairie. And I’m not a feminist either — at least not a strident one who alienates people.
“I couldn’t do the job I’m doing if I was. It doesn’t work if you try to play what my female colleagues call ‘the girly card’.”
It’s been said by women in male-dominated professions that you still have to be twice as good as a man to get on. Does Moira think this is still true?
“A lot of women I know do strive for that; I’m not actually conscious of doing that myself. I’ve got a job to do and I’ll soon be told if I’m not doing it correctly.
“I’m not a massively competitive person, although a little competition is good for everyone. But I’ll happily sit back and admire people who can do something really well. I like being part of a multi-skilled team.”
Moira will be part of a team of 35 Yeoman Warders and will do exactly the same duties as the men, covering various shifts over the day and night, looking after visitor safety and conducting the guided tours.
She will wear exactly the same ‘undress uniform’ in blue as the men. These are made to measure, so will be adjusted to fit her. The famous scarlet State Dress uniforms are far more elaborate, taking several months to make, and cost around £3,500.
She does not plan to overdo the effect with jewellery — “I don’t think earrings really go with uniform,” she said — but a little make-up is certainly part of her ‘public face’.
“I’ll continue to wear what I’m allowed in the Army — a little bit of foundation plus a subtle amount of mascara and lipstick.
“I do like sparkly things, I have to admit — I thought the Crown Jewels were stunning. But I’ll save my dangly earring for dressing up and going out.”
Moira loves the cinema and plans to make the most of living in London. She’s an avid reader with at least two books on the go. Current novels include a thriller by James Patterson and the latest Andy McNab.
She added: “I play golf — my handicap is my clubs — and tennis, and I like to keep fit, but I’m not the sort of person to run ten miles a day. I like yoga too.”
After starting work this summer Moira will complete three months’ induction, during which time she must develop her own version of ‘the tour’ and perform it for the Governor and the Chief Yeoman Warder before being let loose on the public.
She said: “I’m really looking forward to doing my first tour — I enjoy storytelling and am always being called on to read bedtime stories to my three godchildren.”
As a single woman, does she believe that career and family do not mix?
“It’s a difficult one. There are women in the Army who have a great career ahead of them and have managed a family too. I decided I couldn’t make it work; if I were to have children I’d want to devote all my time to them.”
Moira’s advice to younger women coming into male-dominated professions reflects her own quiet confidence.
“You’ve got to be willing to fit into their world. Change won’t come overnight. Try to be accepted for what you are; don’t try to be something you’re not.
“I decided long ago that if people didn’t like me then fine, they’re entitled to their opinion. But I will always say if you are going to dislike me, let it be because of my personality, not because I’m a woman doing the job.”
With her warmth and humour Moira Cameron is unlikely to be disliked, but she is more than capable of soothing any ruffled feathers — and not just of the famous tower ravens.
Moira will live in a subsidised apartment at the tower, as do the other Yeoman Warders and their families.
Yeoman Warders require at least 22 years’ military service, to have reached the rank of Warrant Officer, to have been awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct medal and to be aged between 40 and 55 on appointment.