Simon Barnes Chief Sports Writer
There will be a women's rugby union World Cup in England this summer, which is all splendid stuff. But here is a question: who was the first female rugby player? Who was women's rugby's Webb Ellis? Who was rugby's Eve? Greatly to my surprise, I am told that I supplied the answer myself in a column in this newspaper in 1985. A rugby match was played at Portora Royal School, in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, in 1885. The school was short of numbers, because the headmaster had just decamped and taken half the pupils with him. But they still got a XV out, and in the threequarter line, there was the daughter of the acting headmaster.
But who was she? John Birch writes to tell me it was Miss E. F. Valentine, who together with her three brothers, set up the school team, in the face of some opposition. Miss Valentine went on to become Mrs Galway and emigrated to South Africa.
It seems clear that Miss Valentine both trained for and played rugby, and this predates anything else documented on the subject. But, so far, the researchers have no idea of Miss Valentine's first name, and no photograph. Anyone with information on the subject, please get in touch.
The Times (London, England) (Jan 11, 2010): p61