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New exhibition to pay tribute to Rutherglen's trailblazing female footballers

New exhibition to pay tribute to Rutherglen's trailblazing female footballers

A new exhibition at the home of Scottish football is to pay tribute to Rutherglen's legendary ladies football team.

Earlier this year Lanarkshire Live told how a BBC documentary is currently in the works about Rutherglen Ladies FC, who drew big crowds during the interwar years and defied the SFA's band on women playing football.

Now an exhibition looking at the team and their achievements, as well as the history of the women's game in Scotland, has been launched at the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park.

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The six month long exhibit was launched by Scottish songstress Eddi Reader, who was stunned to recently discover that her grandmother Sadie Smith was the captain of the team.

She said: "I am very proud of her.

"I was taken aback when I found out because her footballing prowess was never mentioned. They got banned but they didn’t care and they continued to play. I like that punk attitude."

Legendary Scottish player Rose Reilly, who starred abroad in Italy in the 1970s, was also at the launch and hailed the impact of the pioneering team on future generations.

She said: "Rutherglen Ladies are the true pioneers of women’s football, hats off to them. I am so proud of them. They paved the way but their story got buried."

The team toured around Scotland, England and Ireland throughout the 1920s and 1930s, including famously defeating top English side Dick Kerr's Ladies at one point.

The exhibition was a proud moment for Rutherglen woman Dorothy Connor, whose grandfather J.H Kelly managed the side throughout their existence.

New exhibition to pay tribute to Rutherglen's trailblazing female footballers

Dorothy has regularly championed the side over the years, to ensure their achievements were not forgotten.

She said: "I am so pleased and proud that the story of the world champions Kelly's Rutherglen Ladies is on show at the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden.

"They were the pioneers of their day at a time when women did not even have the vote and raised huge sums for ex-servicemen at their families after the First World War."

"It was a family affair with my grandpa James.

"His wife Ellen Kelly and son Jackie took the ticket money, his eldest daughter Margaret was the trainer and my mum Eileen was the mascot.

"He also ran dances in the Town Hall to raise funds and the "football girls" as they were know, were treated to a civic reception there after beating Dick Kerr's ladies.

"This was despite being banned by the Town Council from using the recreation ground for the match.

"On the day of that match a letter appeared in the Rutherglen Reformer thanking Rutherglen Town Council for refusing them the use of the recreation ground so that they could then go to Shawfield and get a bigger gate!

"Dr Fiona Skillen and Steve Bolton have done so much research into the team, unearthing many stories that I did not know and I am so grateful to them for that.

"It has long been a dream of mine to have them on display at Hampden and for this to happen on my birthday just makes it extra special."

The exhibition was based on research carried out by Dr Fiona Skillen, senior lecturer in history at Glasgow Caledonian University and Steve Bolton, a women's football historian.

Dr Skillen said: "There's a perception that women's football didn't happen in Scotland between the Victorian period and the mid-1950s. This research shows that it did. We are rewriting the history books with our discoveries.

"Rutherglen Ladies showed incredible resolve and resilience and had to overcome significant barriers just to play the game.

"They deserve recognition for their unique place in history."

The exhibition will run at the museum for the next six months, before then going on tour around Scotland.

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