I was featured in the Lincolnshire Echo last week. They were interested in a football report I’d uncovered in Lincoln Library about Nettie Honeyball and the British Ladies. As you’ll know if you’ve read my blog before (or my Girls FC books or Here Come the Girls), I have a bit of a soft sport for our Nettie.
Nettie Honeyball c. 1895
Nettie Honeyball founded the British Ladies FC in 1895 to show the world that girls were more than ‘useless ornaments.’ With her squad she toured up and down the British Isles over a period of about eighteen months playing exhibition matches. Of course they weren’t great at football – how could they be with their lack of training and ridiculous outfits? Unfortunately that only led to ridicule and censure in the press. The report I found of the match they played at Sincil Bank, Lincoln City FC’s ground, was typical of the time. The Chronicle’s journalist had a field day mocking the women.
The front page of The Lincolnshire Chronicle that featured the report. The actual newspaper is a wonder to behold. The library has the original copies, kept in huge purple hardback covers.
Here’s an extract from the report I copied out by hand. It couldn’t be more patronising if it tried but I accept it was written in 1896:
…Altogether there were sixteen of the ‘ladies ’. The eight representing the South wore red jerseys and the champions of the North were attired in dark blue. Very soon after the start of the game they nearly had a fit of the blues for the Reds, from a free-kick about four yards from goal managed to put the ball in the net. ‘Jimmy Burke’ I believe was the charmer who notched the point. I must confess ignorance as to the proper name of the damsel, my native bashfulness not permitting a visit to the dressing room to enquire. For the same reason I am unable to identify that sprightly tartlet whom the spectators donned ‘Bloomer’ or that pretty girl ‘Smallman’ or the sprinter ‘Tommy’ or any of the others for that matter. Those four I have mentioned could play a little but the others couldn’t hardly kick the ball for nuts. Consequently Mr J Hobbs who kept goal for south being hardly able to refuse the girls the treat of seeing him between the sticks and Mr Brumpton who kindly acceded to a similar request made to the ladies of the blue had very little to do but look on and laugh. Anyone could do this to their hearts content for the way one of the ladies stopped the ball and prevented her opponents from getting it was simply side-splitting and caused roars of laughter every minute. In fact, those who went for the fun of it got it and no mistake but those who went for football had better stay away. The croakers deserve no sympathy. Some expected a scientific game, forgetting that ladies are not built that way.
Result of match. North 0 South 1
You can read the feature in the Lincolnshire Echo here. By the way, Ed Grover, the journalist who write the article, used to be a pupil of mine back in the day when I was a teacher. How smart is that!