Rail firms unite to honour forgotten Preston women’s football team

Posted on - 15th November, 2021 - 3:44pm | Author - | Posted in - Education, History, Nostalgia, Preston buildings & attractions, Preston News, Preston Railway Station, Sport, Transport
Dick Kerr’s Ladies Football Team, Preston 1920 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Dick Kerr’s Ladies Football Team, Preston 1920 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Two rail firms have joined up to honour one of England’s earliest known women’s football teams.

Avanti West Coast has teamed up with Community Rail Lancashire (CRL) to share the feats of Dick, Kerr Ladies – the most successful women’s football team in history – with young people in Lancashire.

The initiative aims to spark interest in the significant role the Dick, Kerr Ladies played in the war effort by inviting the public to share stories of the football team with a new audience.

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The Dick Kerr factory in 1916 Pic:
The Dick, Kerr factory in 1916; note the number of women employed, over 2,000 in 1915 Pic:

Shirley Ross, Avanti West Coast Station Manager at Preston, said: “As we mark Remembrance, we also want to remember the service and sacrifice of those who were left behind, including the contribution the Dick, Kerr Ladies made during the First World War.

“We’re proud to be working with Community Rail Lancashire, local people, and those with a football connection to ensure this team is never forgotten.   

“At Avanti West Coast, we want to connect people and places to opportunity, so we hope this great project will document this important part of history in a new way and inspire the next generation to pass on a key part of Preston’s heritage.”

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Dick Kerr International Ladies Football Team 1917-1925 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

It was launched as part of Preston station’s Remembrance Service to highlight the connection between the football club and the First World War. The team formed at the Dick, Kerr and Co Ltd munitions factory.

In 1917, they began playing charity matches, where they raised money for wounded soldiers.

Richard Watts, Chair of Community Rail Lancashire, said: “Community Rail Lancashire is pleased to be pausing to recall, honour and remember those who left families, friends and their homes to serve in conflict, especially remembering those who left our railway family and the thousands that travelled through Preston station, including the sick and injured.

“We are pleased to be acknowledging the work of those who remained at home to care and work, and as we start a new project to commemorate the Dick, Kerr Ladies Football Team, we are seeking those with memories, friends and families to share their stories and information.”

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Funded through Avanti West Coast’s Community Rail Project Fund, CRL will work with young people to create a series of postcards about the Dick, Kerr Ladies and their important place in history. They will also connect with the region’s football community, including Preston North End and the English Football League.

2021 is particularly poignant as it is the centenary of women being banned from playing on the Football Association’s (FA) pitches – a decision the Dick, Kerr Ladies fought against by continuing to play matches and raise money for charity until 1965. They were the only women’s team to do this.

The Dick, Kerr Ladies had a run of over 200 games without defeat and were acknowledged as World Champions in 1937 after winning a match against Edinburgh Ladies.  

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Gail Newsham has a connection to the Preston PALs memorial and has spent nearly three decades bringing the story of the Dick, Kerr Ladies to a wider audience.

Newsham said: “Today gives us another chance to reflect and remember all those who gave so much.

“We remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, and those, like the Dick, Kerr Ladies who did so much to help those in need as they tried to rebuild their shattered lives.

“I am absolutely thrilled that Community Rail Lancashire and Avanti West Coast are helping to promote the legacy of the Dick, Kerr Ladies by engaging with young people in the region. It will help keep their name alive for the next generation and beyond.”

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To share information and memories, contact Caroline Holden, Community Rail Lancashire’s Community Rail Development Officer, by email or ring 07973 312844.

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