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Press release

QMU graduation ceremony honours 135 years of education

Queen Margaret University commemorated its history at a graduation ceremony today (Wednesday 10 th November), with students modelling period costumes from the time of its first lecture, which took place 135 years ago this week.

The Edinburgh School of Cookery, the founding institution to what is now Queen Margaret University, presented its very first lecture in Edinburgh’s Museum of Scotland 135 years ago. Today, staff and students came together at QMU’s autumn graduation ceremony in the Festival Theatre, to celebrate that ambitious inaugural lecture. The spectacle of the costume design students dressed in period costumes as a lecturer, cook and nurse, also marked the launch of a fundraising campaign to support current Queen Margaret University students. graduation image

The institution’s first lecture took place before an audience of over one thousand in the Museum of Scotland on the 9 th November 1875 . According to a Scotsman newspaper report at the time - ‘all classes of the community were represented – ladies of fashion, young and old, being quite as numerous as plump cooks and girls apparently of the domestic servant class.’

In 1875, Scotland faced many social and economic divisions, inequalities, and widespread poverty. The founders of our institution set out to address two specific problems facing society at the time; firstly, the need for better education and improved career opportunities for females; and secondly, the need to improve the diets and health of ordinary people.

Following on from that first very popular lecture at the Museum, the teaching staff went out with mobile gas and paraffin cooking equipment to give programmes of public lectures and demonstrations all over Britain, literally from the Shetlands to the Channel Islands. The first generation of lecturers were almost all young women aged in their early twenties and almost everywhere they went they drew large gatherings of women eager for instruction.

Professor Petra Wend, Principal at Queen Margaret University, said: “The institution’s very first lecture took place at the Museum - almost 135 years to the day – just around the corner from the Festival Theatre, where our students are graduating today.”

Professor Wend continued: “We believe it’s important for us to mark this 135 th anniversary and remind our staff and students of the foundations on which the University is built. The two female founders of the Edinburgh School of Cookery, Christian Guthrie Wright and Louisa Stevenson, continue to be remembered with great respect and pride. Their sense of moral and social benevolence still lies behind the strategic direction of the University to this day - socially relevant education to improve people’s lives.”

graduation image Queen Margaret University has now moved on from its initial narrow field of focus, to offering a range of degree level courses in the areas of health sciences, business, media & communication and the creative industries.

Professor Wend concluded: “Today, we are as committed to the institution’s original philosophy of improving quality of life and serving the community as our founding institution was 135 years ago.”

Sir Tom Farmer, Queen Margaret University’s Founding Chancellor, joined the Costume Design students in their period outfits (which dated back over a century) for a commemorative photograph which marked the launch of ‘The135 Club’ – a fundraising campaign which will raise vital funds to support current QMU students.


Notes to editor

Students from the BA Costume & Theatre Design course created the period costumes for the commemorative photo. The costumes, which depicted clothing from over 100 years ago, were also worn and presented by students from the same course.

  • Lecturer costume – Hattie Salisbury from Preston
  • Cook’s costume – Josie Toole from London
  • Nurse’s costume – Izzy Brookes from Preston

For further information please contact Lynne Russell, Press and PR Officer, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 474 0000, mobile: 07711 011239, email:








last modified 10/11/10 Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh EH21 6UU - Tel: +44 (0)131 474 0000
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