Dick, Kerr Ladies Historian (and biggest fan ever!!)

If I can offer any advice in your search for information about the Dick, Kerr Ladies, it would be this: do not believe everything you read on Wikipedia. I have no idea who is responsible for writing the stuff on there, but it contains many things which are simply not true. And they obviously haven't bothered to read the more recent edition of my book because the playing record has been updated and amended since the original publication.

I know, and have known, many of the Dick, Kerr Ladies personally, I have met family, friends and team mates who were very close to them and all have shared their stories with me. We have become good friends over the last twenty six years and it is fair to say that we too have become a family. I have always only ever wanted the best for them, and most importantly to me, they know that to be true and I have their trust. You really can't put a price on that.

Little was known of the history of the Dick, Kerr Ladies until I organised their first ever reunion back in 1992. Of course people had heard of them before, especially in their home town of Preston. They knew they were a pretty good side but no one really knew just how big their story actually was, or indeed, who the women were behind this legendary team. There was a very good book written by David J Williamson in 1991, Belles of the Ball, revealing a short history of women's football from its early beginnings in eighteenth century Scotland, to its rise and subsequent fall during the early 1920s. If you have read this book, you will know exactly how much was known about the Dick, Kerr Ladies and the players who made up this unique team.

To put things in perspective, there was some knowledge of a match at Goodison Park in front of a record crowd, but no result or details of the game. Some details of playing the French team home and away, and a little information of a tour to the USA, but no one really knew the longevity of the team or what they had actually achieved. Indeed, no one had any idea of its origins or how they were formed. After that wonderful reunion had taken place in August of 1992, it was obvious to me that there was no official record of this pioneering team, and I knew in my heart that something needed to be done to put this right. I was very proud of the history of women's football in my home town of Preston and I wanted to try to get some proper recognition for them.

There was no internet back then though, and unlike researchers today, I didn't have the luxury of simply sitting at a computer and pressing a few buttons to discover the real story behind these women, there was literally no complete historical record of the team at all and I really did have to start from scratch. For example, all that was known about Lily Parr in 1992, was that she once pulled a girls hair during a match, and that she had scored a couple of goals in America. That is honestly all that was known about the now very famous, Lily Parr.

There was no such thing as a sat nav to guide me around the North West of England to uncover this hidden history either, Tom Tom or Garmin had yet to be invented! Looking back I don't know how I managed to do it, other than having the constant feeling that I was being guided by 'someone'.

It took me two years of initial research to document the history of the Dick, Kerr Ladies and during that time I was extremely fortunate to meet a number of them who actually played before the FA ban of 1921, and I was able to capture their stories and recollections before they were lost forever. I also met many more ladies who played before the 2nd World War and the post War years, who actually knew some of the original players. Their insight and knowledge was priceless. I recorded all of my interviews with these ladies and this enabled me to save a unique and valuable part of history. It all came together nicely and my book was first published in hardback in 1994 and three years later, it was updated and published in paperback. My book was very well received, and reviews at the time acknowledged that until its publication, their story had never before been told. People were amazed by the incredible success of the Dick, Kerr Ladies.

Then along came the internet and unbeknown to me, my research was being used on websites and Wikipedia, as was some of my personal photo collection. I suppose it's a back handed compliment really but no one ever asked, or indeed in many cases, ever even acknowledged where the information in their writings had come from. Isn't there a word for that? Wikipedia for example has quite a lot of incorrect information about the ladies. Someone has claimed that the 1932 Olympic medal winning sprinter Nellie Halstead had played for the Dick, Kerr Ladies, but I have never seen or heard anything to substantiate this claim. Nellie played centre forward for Bolton Ladies and I know this to be a fact and the evidence to support it is documented in the Special Centenary Edition of my book. Lily Parr did not play in the first international against the French team in 1920, newsreel footage of the match supports that, and according to family members who I have spoken with, and other close friends who knew her personally, they all state quite categorically that Lily did not live an openly 'gay' lifestyle. She was a shy and private person who just got on with her own life. Some have also said that Lily was 'paid' to play football and that this somehow helped her buy her home. In all my years of research, I have never come across anything to suggest such a thing and I can honestly say that every former player I ever met and interviewed, all told me exactly the same thing; they were never paid for playing football. They played for the love of the game. If they went to play a match during works time, they received no payment from their employer but were reimbursed for loss of time at work, and any accommodation expenses that may have been incurred, from the gate receipts of the match they were playing in. If there is any real evidence to the contrary, I would certainly love to see it. And let's remember that back in those days,. Lily Parr was regarded as just another good player within a good team. She would have been treated no differently than any of the others.

For me, the story of the Dick, Kerr Ladies represents Lancashire women at their very best and we should all be proud of that they managed to achieve against all the odds. But after all the trials and tribulations, there is finally a very happy ending for these trailblazing Lancashire Lassies. The first Blue Plaque in the world for women's football was unveiled at the factory where they were formed in 1917, and a permanent memorial to them was installed at Preston North End FC, where their journey began on a cold Christmas Day during the First World War. You can read all about this, and so much more, in the Special Centenary Edition of my book, 'In a League of Their Own!'