Graduation 2017/1917: Tremendous Teachers

Congratulations to everyone graduating with the School of Education this morning! Today we are looking at the MA class of 1917 – specifically, three graduates who took very different paths after graduation, but who went on to become extremely accomplished teachers. We hope the successes of past graduates will inspire those graduating today.

Of the 113 MA students who graduated in 1917, a staggering 67 of them went on to teach. However in 1917 the University did not yet have a dedicated teacher training college, so those looking to train in Glasgow would have had the option of the Glasgow Provincial Training College, or the Notre Dame College of Education, run by the sisters of Notre Dame de Namur – a Roman Catholic institution for female students only1.


Kathleen Doyle and Elizabeth Duff both graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1917, before undertaking a teacher training course at Notre Dame College of Education. (Images from the Dowanhill College Magazine, Volume 1 – UGC58/4/6/1/2)

Mary Marshall Macdermott

Mary Marshall Macdermott was born on the 9th of July 1893 in Glasgow. She began what was to be a very successful University career in 1912, and won three prizes in her first year alone. She undertook an Honours degree in English, and graduated on the 17th of November with a Second Class MA(Hons) degree.


Mary Marshall Macdermott’s matriculation slip from 1915. In this year, she took Honours level English Literature and Language, and British History. (R8/5/36/7)

After graduation, Mary became a teacher, where her interest in education and learning proved to be a lifelong passion. In her later life she returned to study at the University of Glasgow, and graduated with a PhD in 1941 – only a few years before her 50th birthday. Her PhD thesis – ‘Vowel Sounds in Poetry’ – is held by the University Library.

Janet Napier Phemister

Janet Napier Phemister was born on the 11th of June 1895 in Glasgow. She followed in the footsteps of her two older brothers John and James, and matriculated at the University of Glasgow in 1913. She took classes in French, German, Natural Philosophy, and Maths, and graduated on the 17th of November with a Second Class MA(Hons) in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy.


Janet Napier Phemister’s matriculation slip from 1915. In this year, she took Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and German. (R8/5/36/8)

Janet’s spent her initial post-graduation years living at her family home, training and working as a teacher. However by the mid-1920s, Janet had left the family home and was living in Fremantle, Australia. This overseas adventure turned out to be a very successful move, and by 1928 Janet was the Principal of the Presbyterian Ladies’ College of Western Australia.

Samuel Weir

Samuel Weir was born on the 25th of July 1894 in Stirling. Samuel joined the University in 1913, and studied a range of subjects – from Latin to Geology – during his three year degree. Samuel graduated with an MA on the 24th of April 1917.


Samuel Weir’s matriculation slip from 1915. In this year, he took Moral Philosophy and English. (R8/5/36/5)

Like so many of his contemporaries, Samuel was required to put his country before his future career, and joined the Royal Army Service Corps where he was given the title of Lance Corporal. Upon his return from the War, Samuel trained as a teacher. In 1950 he was made the Headmaster of Hyndland Secondary School – a post he held for nine years. Samuel then retrained as a Minister, and went on to teach – in a different sense – the congregation of Hawick.

Congratulations to all today’s graduates, we wish you every success for the future! The profiles for all graduates up to 1917 are now available on the University Story website. If you would like to find out about any graduates from 1917 please e-mail us at
1 Who, Where and When: The History and Constitution of the University of Glasgow.

Categories: Archives and Special Collections

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