Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Emily Valentine - the first girl to play rugby (1887/8)

Last week I said that I had uncovered a few facts about possibly the first girl to play rugby. Well, now it is possible to reveal her full story - including a description of her first game, in her own words. It reads like something by E Nesbit, but it is all true.

Emily Valentine was born in Ireland around 1877. She was the youngest of six brothers and sisters who lived in Enniskillen, where their father taught at Portora Royal School. The children were very keen on rugby, but the game wasn't played at the school any more, so her brothers - with her help - revived the game. Which brings us to a winter's day in 1887...
I loved rugby football, but seldom got a chance to do more that kick a place kick or drop goal, but I could run in spite of petticoats and thick undergarments, I could run. My great ambition was to play in a real rugby game  and score a try. I used to stand on the touchline in the cold damp Enniskillen winter, watching every moment of play, furious when my side muffed a ball, or went offside, bitterly disappointed when a goal was missed.
One day I got a chance. It was just a school scratch match and they were one "man" short. I was about ten 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, and see the tag of lacing at the opening. 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 toward me; I dodged, yes I could and breathless, with my heart pumping, my knees shaking, I ran. Yes, I had done it; one last spurt and I touched down, right on the line. I lay flat on my face for a for a moment everything went black. I scrambled up, gave a hasty rubdown to my knees. A ragged cheer went up from the spectators. I grinned at my brothers. It was all I hoped for. I knew I couldn't kick a goal, but that didn't worry or disappoint me; what I had wanted to do I had; the desperate run, the successful dodging, and the touchdown. 
On the way home, muddy and hot. "You didn't do badly, Em, but you should have..." and so on. Later on at tea my brothers grinned at me, passed me the jam politely, and kicked me under the table. My mother remarked that she hoped I hadn't felt cold watching the game. "I'm glad you won the match boys, " she said . My brother raised his cup, looked at me, and drank then winked. "Good luck, wasn't it mum?"
So there it is. The first recorded mention of any girl playing rugby, probably anywhere in the world (well, so far as anyone has found).

Emily went on to become a nurse, marrying a military doctor - William "Ricky" Galwey - in 1909, before going with him to India until about 1915. She had two children, and now has a dozen or more descendents across Britain and beyond. She died in 1967.


  1. great story! thanks for sharing this.

  2. Rugbybabe11:39 PM

    After reading this many years ago, this has inspired me to play rugby, and I have been playing this ever since the 7th grade :) Thank you :)


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