Monday, 18 January 2010

Operation petticoat.

Simon Barnes Chief Sports Writer

Last week in this space I was looking for information about the first woman to play rugby. I am delighted to say that I now have information in overplus. The first lady of rugby - rugby's Eve - is Emily Frances Galwey, nee Valentine, born in the 1870s, at first a tomboy and then a lady of much spirit. She later wrote a rather splendid memoir and here is a chunk of it.

"I loved rugby football, but seldom got a chance to do more than kick a place-kick or drop goal, but I could run in spite of petticoats and thick undergarments. My great ambition was to play in a real rugby game and score a try. One day I got a chance. It was just a school scratch match and they were one 'man' short. I was about 10 years old. I plagued them to let me play. 'Oh all right. Come on then.' Off went my overcoat and hat - I always wore boys' boots anyhow, so that was all right.

"I knew the rules. At last my chance came. I got the ball - I can still feel the damp leather and the smell of it ... I grasped it and ran dodging and darting, but I was so keen to score that try that I did not pass it, perhaps, when I should; I still raced on, I could see the boy coming towards me; I dodged and breathless, with my heart pumping, my knees shaking, I ran. Yes, I had done it, one last spurt and I touched down."

Thus was set in train the events that will lead to the women's rugby union World Cup, which will be held again this year.

The Times (London, England) (Jan 18, 2010): p69

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