Cathryn McGahey, a former Howell’s pupil and Head Girl, is now a barrister who served for ten years on the ‘Bloody Sunday’ Inquiry into the events in Northern Ireland in 1972.
Q. Your name?
Q. Your school?
Howell’s School, Llandaff
Q. Your current occupation?
Q. Your favourite subject at school?
Q. Your best and worst memory of your school days?
Best: the annual St David’s Day eisteddfod
Worst: the plum crumble
Q. What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I have no idea. I decided to be a barrister when I was 10, long before I knew what a barrister was.
Q. What do you feel you gained by attending a girls’ only school?
It was assumed without question that girls could achieve anything. That unspoken assumption gave me the confidence to try all sorts of activities, to take whatever subjects interested me and to follow the career that I had chosen.
Q. Any advice for parents choosing a school for their daughter?
It is sometimes said that girls should attend co-educational schools because they will spend their careers working alongside men. I do not agree. I work very happily in a profession that is still dominated, at least at the senior end, by men. I have never felt in the slightest disadvantaged by having been educated at a girls’ school. I believe that the academic qualifications I obtained, as well as the confidence I gained at school, have been invaluable. I would always recommend that girls attend a girls’ school.
Q. Any advice for girls planning their university and/or career choices?
If you would like to be a lawyer, it is best to choose traditional, academic subjects at A level. It does not matter whether you do arts or sciences. I would suggest that you take the subjects at which you are likely to achieve the best grades. The field is now so competitive that many barristers’ chambers will be looking for straight As at A level and a minimum of a 2:1 at degree level.
Q.Anything you would like to add?
I have enjoyed every minute of my career at the Bar. I have a job that I find fascinating and which carries with it the independence and flexibility of self-employment. My sister, who is also a barrister and has two small children, has found that she can combine her career and childcare without too much difficulty. She often has to work late into the night but most barristers have to do that, anyway…