Talk on Ladies’ cup win 100 years ago

The successful Blyth Spartans Ladies team. Bella Reay is in the centre of the front row.
The successful Blyth Spartans Ladies team. Bella Reay is in the centre of the front row.

Blyth Spartans may have stunned the world of professional football 40 years ago when the team reached the 5th round of the FA Cup, but a lesser documented success was when Blyth Spartans Ladies won the Munitionettes’ Cup 100 years ago.

The prestigious victory took place in May 1918 at Ayresome Park, the then home of Middlesbrough FC, when 8,000 spectators watched the women from Northumberland run out 5-0 winners against the Middlesbrough-based munitions factory team of Bolckow, Vaughn & Co.

To mark the victory, a talk is taking place at a town centre venue next week.

When men were called up to fight in the First World War, women filled the gaps at home by entering workplaces.

Munition factories were all over the North East, especially in the industrial areas, and by 1917, 80 per cent of munitions workers were female.

Blyth Spartans Ladies was started by the young women working on the South Docks loading ships with fresh ammunition for the front.

During work breaks, they kicked a football around on the beach.

On July 28, 1917, they officially formed a regular team.

They were supported by Blyth Spartans FC, which gave them green-and-white striped shirts.

Within nine months, on April 28, 1918, Blyth Spartans Ladies were playing at St James’s Park in the final of the Munitionettes’ Cup.

Spartans had Bella Reay up front and in the 1917/18 season, the 18-year-old from Cowpen bagged an incredible 33 goals in 30 matches.

Attended by 15,000, the final at St James’ Park ended in a 0-0 draw.

The replay on May 18 at Ayresome Park saw Spartans go in 1-0 ahead at half-time.

Bella eventually scored a hat-trick – the other two goals were scored by Jennie Morgan and 15-year-old May Lyons from Jarrow, who won the Woman of the Match accolade.

On May 31, the people of Blyth gave the team a heroines’ welcome when the cup was presented at the town’s Theatre Royal.

Following the end of the war, Blyth Spartans Ladies folded in 1919, but they retain the honour of being one of the best women’s football teams ever from the region as they were unbeaten – with 26 wins and four draws.

Actress Vik Kay and playwright Ed Waugh will speak during the talk, which is being held at 2pm and 7.30pm on Friday, May 18, at the Headway Arts centre, Cypress Gardens.

Entry is free. For more information, call Mr Waugh on 079600 66377.