Writer seeks information on war-time women's football match played in Alnwick

A new play about the incredible story of women's football in World War One is coming to Alnwick Playhouse in March – and the writer is asking for anyone with artefacts or memories of relatives who played football at the time to contact him.

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 12:00 pm
Bella Reay, left, and Jennie Morgan, one of the Blyth Spartans cup-winning players.
Bella Reay, left, and Jennie Morgan, one of the Blyth Spartans cup-winning players.

"It's based on the heroic women who flocked into industry once men were conscripted in 1916, following the human carnage of the Somme in 1916," said Ed Waugh of his latest piece, Wor Bella.

"Millions of selfless women filled the domestic employment roles left by men.

"When the phenomenon of women's football in World War One metaphorically exploded throughout the country between 1917/1918, teams were largely based on the munitionettes who were employed in heavy industry like munitions factories, shipyards, steel mills and cable manufacturing."

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Ed continued: "In contrast to teams from industrial heartlands like Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Darlington, Sunderland, Newcastle, Wallsend and Jarrow, Alnwick never produced a team - that we know of - but the mighty Blyth Spartans Munitions Ladies played a match at St James' Park in the town on May 11, 1918.

It was a warm-up match a week before Blyth's Munitionettes Cup final against Bolckow Vaughan from Middlesbrough, which Spartans won 5-0 at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough, in front of 22,000 people."

The Alnwick duel featured Blyth playing Armstrong Whitworth 60 shop in aid of the Alnwick Branch of the Discharged and Demobilised Soldiers' and Sailors' Federation.

"The event raised an impressive £43, the equivalent to £2,600 today," said Ed. "There must have been at least 1,000 people in attendance given the entry fee was 6d (£1.50 equivalent today) and money was deducted for the teams' expenses."

Blyth won the match 4-2 with the famous Bella Reay notching two of the goals. Blyth were undefeated in their 30 matches, during which Bella scored an incredible 133 goals.

"But this is where things get sketchy," said Ed. "Despite raising money for wartime charities and playing in front of thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of people - the heroic deeds of these selfless football-playing women were barely recorded.

"Sadly, this is the only recorded match played in Alnwick and we'd interested in any more information for the Wor Bella website."

For further details visit www.worbella.co.uk