A recent story from Simon Barnes of The Times and a little bit of research from ScrumQueens.com writer John Birch suggests that the first lady of rugby may well hail from Enniskillen.
Simon Barnes wrote a piece in 1985 about a rugby match that was played at Portora Royal School, in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland back 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 three-quarter line, there was the daughter of the acting headmaster.
There his piece ended, but some research by ScrumQueens.com writer John Birch, who runs the Letchworth Girls Blog, unearthed that the woman in question was a 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 either South Africa or Canada.
For now it appears that the record of Miss Valentine playing rugby pre-dates anything else documented on the subject.
But, so far, the researchers have no idea of Miss Valentine’s first name, and no photograph which is where they need your help.
John Birch said: “It’s an amazing story because this is 1884 – Victorian Britain – not a time when well brought-up young girls would have normally been seen doing anything particularly energetic or sporting.
“If we think that prejudice against women in sport is bad now, it is nothing compared to what it would have been like then.
“She was clearly a remarkable young woman – and her story probably deserves to be better known.”
Anyone with information on the subject, please get in touch with Alison Donnelly from ScrumQueens.com or John himself – contact details below. We are also interested in any other information on women or girls playing rugby from before the 1960s.