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Dick, Kerr Ladies remembered with plaque in Ashton Park

Posted on - 10th December, 2021 - 4:01pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Parks, Preston Council, Preston News
Dick Kerr plaque unveiling

This morning (Friday, December 10) an event to remember the the remarkable Pioneers of the Dick, Kerr Ladies took place in Ashton Park.

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A plaque was unveiled at the service.

A speech was made by the Mayor of Preston, Councillor Javed Iqbal.

Read more: Christmas Day feed for Preston homeless and emergency services workers

He said: “Thank you for attending this morning’s event to remember and highlight the remarkable Pioneers of the Dick, Kerr Ladies. 

“The Dick, Kerr Ladies have been a forgotten jewel in Preston’s crown.

“No other town or city or country, in the world, has this unique history and at last the people of Preston are beginning to appreciate their incredible story.

“They were formed at a munitions factory on Strand Rd during the First World War and began playing football to raise funds for the wounded soldiers being treated at the Moor Park Military Hospital.

“They played their first match on Christmas Day 1917 when 10,000 people came to Deepdale, the home of Preston North End, to see them play. They won 4-0 and raised ÂŁ600 for the wounded soldiers.

“They went from strength to strength and set the football world alight during the early 1920s. Their biggest crowd was at Goodison Park on Boxing Day 1920 when 53,000 spectators turned out to watch them play St Helens Ladies, with 10-14,000  being turned away unable to get in the stadium.

“They won 4-0 and raised an amazing sum of ÂŁ3115 for charity. Today it would be worth almost ÂŁ150k.

“By 1921 their popularity was at its height, and they played 67 games of football for charity all over the British Isles with almost 900,000 people coming to watch them. But the Dick, Kerr Ladies were soon to become victims of their own success.

“On December 5 1921, the FA banned women from using League grounds, and effectively changed the course of the women’s game forever. They said, “The game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.”

“The Dick, Kerr Ladies carried on regardless and played their first match here on Ashton Park after the ban on 26 December 1921.

“Against all the odds, they continued playing football and raising money for charity until 1965, and during that time, they raised somewhere in the region of ÂŁ180,000 for charity, which today would be worth in excess of ÂŁ10 million.”

The plaque was unveiled

Then Gail Newsham Dick, Kerr Ladies Ambassador was introduced to the crowd.

Javed continued: “Gail was born in Preston and always had a love of football. Gail was always out playing with the lads in the street or on the park. When she was growing up, girls weren’t allowed to play football so there was no chance of playing in a proper team.

“The FA ban was finally lifted around 1970 and the North West Women’s Football League was formed in 1970. Gail first went to play for Peter Craig Ladies before eventually moving to Preston Rangers.

“There was no football career path for women’s football back then and she joined the WRAC (Women’s Royal Army Corps) in 1974.

“Gail came home in 1977 and returned to football playing for Ingol Belles and then returned to Preston Rangers in the early 1980s. They were a good team and had success along the way, winning the League and Cup Double in 1983/84. They also played in two WFA Cup semi-finals in 1983 and 1990.

“In 1986 Gail was responsible for setting up an International Women’s Football Tournament, The Lancashire Trophy and at the height of its success was regarded as one of the best organised in Europe. The tournament attracted teams from Austria, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland and all parts of England, all competing to be the winners.

“In 1992 Gail organised a reunion of the Dick, Kerr Ladies as part of the Preston Guild celebrations. It was the first time they had been together in almost forty years. Meeting them made Gail realise that theirs was a bigger story than anyone had realised.

“There was nothing written down about these Inspirational women, and no one really knew who they were, so Gail spent the next few years researching their history and wrote a book about them that was first published in 1994. It was the first book of its kind written by a female football player.

“Gail has never stopped learning and researching about them and they have become her extended family. Gail has recently revised and published an updated edition revealing yet more untold stories of these incredible women.”

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