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Soccer Stadium


Barrington Colliery, Northumberland, in 1921

The Donmouth website goes into tremendous detail about the 1921 coal dispute and the matches between Barrington Ladies and Blyth Spartans Munitions Ladies.


Once again, Patrick Brennan has come up trumps. He has also found a report on matches during the UK General Strike of 1926 (4-12 May). 

The Spartans team was:

Lizzie James, S. Rhodes, M. Long; Agnes Sample, M. Douglas, A. Snowdon, Annie Reed, M. Reay*, Bella Reay (captain), M. Scuffham and Jennie Morgan.

*M. Reay is more than likely to have been Bella's younger sister, Meggie, who later moved with her husband to Gateshead.

A 0-0 draw in front of 5,000 people meant both sides maintained their unbeaten record.


The same Blyth News article also added: "The Spartans Ladies are open for engagements. S. Ryder, 30 Cowpen Square, Blyth, is the secretary, from whom dates and terms can be obtained."


No more Blyth Spartans Ladies games were, however, recorded. In December 1921, the FA banned women's football.


A barrage of sexist government propaganda was levelled at former munitionettes via the newspapers, reflecting the patronising and hostile attitude towards working women by the Establishment. It was a call for these females, who had selflessly saved the war effort (and were not even allowed to vote), to effectively get back to "where they belong" - in the home, rearing children and looking after "their man"!


This is from the Blyth News (Monday, 19 December 1921).


Local Topics

Women Footballers

A wartime expedient which did much to amuse and entertain the people of Blyth and district is recalled by the embargo that the Football Association has put on women’s football.  When, owing to the war, Blyth Spartans dropped out of football on account of the more serious business on hand, a team of women was formed, and their record proved them to have been a skilful side.


But even the most enthusiastic supporter of football for women must admit that it is not really a suitable game for them.


The Blyth Spartan’s Ladies’ Club recognised that their sphere of usefulness on the field ceased when the boys began to come back, but unfortunately the same good taste was not shown by other bodies of a similar character. 


The result has been the ruling authority [The Football Association] in the football world has had to put the foot down on the extension of the game to women.

Anti-working class women newspaper propaganda was backed up by "experts" from the medical profession saying physical sports like football were dangerous to the wellbeing of women - a complete turnaround from when women had been actively encouraged by the government to play football during the war as a means of physical and mental exercise, and also as a means of raising money for injured soldiers that the government had patently failed to plan for.


Women's football wasn't unbanned by the FA until 1971 - 50 years later!


Lillian Ritchie with ball
Lillian Ritchie, aged 14, had scored 45 goals in 23 games.


Barrington Ladies, Barrington Colliery, Northumberland, in 1921 (footballers only)

Back row: Ida Moody, Annie Graham, Edie Scott, Gladys Saunders, Jane Reed, Jennie Guttridge

Centre row: Mary Reed, Ena Taylor, Lillian Ritchie, Mary Kilgour, Ella May Tait

Koast Radio, Ashington

When Micky Cochrane and Ed Waugh were being interviewed in September on Ashington-based Koast Radio's Feelgood Friday Show, with Lisa and Maggie, for the hit play Carrying David, the topic of women's football was raised. Lisa astounded everyone with her knowledge about the Barrington Ladies of 1921.


The reason is that Lisa's grandmother - Ena Easton (nee Taylor) - played in the team and is pictured in the group photograph above.


Barrington was once a small mining village made up of a few rows of terraced houses (with outside 'netties' (toilets)), located between Bedlington and Choppington, in Northumberland.


The houses were built for miners who worked at Barrington Colliery.


The pit was the main employer in the locale. Opening in 1821, Barrington Colliery employed 846 people in 1914 (741 working below ground, 105 surface workers).


Barrington Colliery, Northumberland, c.1916

The colliery closed in or around 1948.

The colliery closed in or around 1948. Most of the houses were demolished, meaning the village itself no longer exists. The name, however, is still present in Barrington Industrial Estate and Barrington Road, which runs from Bedlington to Choppington.


Lisa is head of a North East blood sugar charity called Bright Red and, with her partner in crime Maggie Martin, co-hosts the aforementioned Feelgood Friday with Lisa and Maggie. She told us about her goal-scoring grandmother.

I'm so proud of my Grandma

By Lisa Saxton

My grandma, Ena Easton (nee Taylor), was aged just 13 in the team photograph [see above]. She's sitting on the centre row and is the second footballer on the left, with long hair.

Playing inside forward, Ena scored five goals for the side but Lillian Richie (pictured next to her, with the ball) was the main striker with 45.

Lily was the captain and her dad, I think, called Joseph, pictured back row, top right, was the coach. Lillian was, I believe, 13 when the photo was taken. In fact, I believe the average age of the team was just 15.

My grandma was born in Barrington. She had two brothers and two sisters. As a teenager, she was employed in Newcastle for a doctor and his family. From there, she worked in the kitchens of a private girls school in Newcastle, achieving the status of Head Cook. 


She later worked in a local bakery, becoming a master baker, making cakes for all occasions including tiered wedding cakes, hand piping all the royal icing baskets and decorations.


My maternal great-grandfather was a miner. Being dependent on the pit, when the lockout of 1921 took place, football teams were established to raise money for the families of miners who were in acute poverty. The strike lasted three months and Grandma said she played in every match.

I don't know if they were organised in a league or just played friendly games but they recorded 23 matches from May to August, a month after the strike ended. That means she'd have been playing at least two games a week.


Teams didn't have the money to travel far so they played locally, against local sides.


On Wednesday, June 29, Barrington Ladies faced a re-united Blyth Spartans Munitions Ladies at Barrington Institute Ground, which is near Barrington Industrial Estate, part of the pit land at the time. It was 0-0. Around 5,000 people attended.


It's incredible to think my grandma played against the great Bella Reay.


Grandma was brought up in Allgood Terrace and then lived in Victoria Terrace in Bedlington.


She married my granddad, Jonathan "Jonty" Easton. He was one of six (two sisters and three brothers) and started as a coal teemer at Barrington Pit.


Trimmers and teemers were employed in loading coal onto ships from staithes. The teemers would open the trapdoors on rail wagons which had been positioned above the ships' hoppers and the trimmers would then distribute the coal evenly around the hopper using shovels.


When they married, their home was a flat in Pioneer Terrace. Bedlington Station. Her sister Martha lived on the same street.


Jonty later worked above ground for the pit, I’m not sure what his job was, but it was definitely clerical. In later life became the park keeper in Blyth.


Sadly, he died in 1941 from kidney failure, aged 30, when my mam Marlene - an only child born in 1936 - was barely five years old.


Grandma was left a single parent of a young child, which accounts for her steely headstrong, determination.  She had to be, there were no benefits in those days. While being a tough, determined lady who saw nothing in her way. She was a wonderful woman, and very caring about her family.

As a widow, grandma found work in Matty Robinsons, a local hardware store. Needing to leave early she would take mam along to her sister Martha’s where Marlene would climb into bed with her cousins to have an extra hour's sleep before school.


Ena soon found a job doing what she did best, cooking. She was later appointed Head Cook for the school kitchens which supplied the dinners for all the schools in the area. She would start work at 5 am on days when they baked bread to have with the homemade broth. 


Grandma never remarried and worked at the kitchens until she retired at 65. 


Mum and Dad lived with grandma until I was five when they bought their own home.


I used to stay with grandma every weekend and have lots of memories of her.


She was very house-proud; you daren't move a cushion or leave crumbs!


I remember her baking every weekend; pies and pastries for the week and often finding a cow's tongue soaking in a bowl ready to be pressed.


At home, she made fresh food from scratch and never measured anything except baking. She just knew weights and amounts instinctively.


Her brother Bob conducted the miners' brass band and I remember watching from grandma's bedroom window as Uncle Bob led his band on miners' picnic day out of the pit yard up to the picnic field.


Grandma suddenly went blind in her late 60s due to a blood clot but, despite this, still managed to cook and bake, although she threw her toaster in the bin as she could never find the toast when it shot out. And she had mum whitewashing her coal house!


She was definitely a force to be reckoned with, like a terrier once she got her teeth in she wouldn’t let go. I’m sure that would be reflected all those years ago on the football pitch.


Grandma died in 1979 aged 73. I was only seven but I can still remember her vividly. She came with us on camping and caravan holidays. My sisters Wendy, 62, and Judith 58, are some years older than me and knew grandma better.


We were all very close to her, though.


Of course, I knew she played football in 1921 but Grandma never really talked much about her on-field exploits. She loved her sport and while she had a passion for football her real love was snooker. I recall her watching it on television telling the players what colour ball to pot next - and it was a black and white telly! 


I am so proud of her.

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