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Soccer Stadium

Elizabeth "Lizzie" McQuillan

South Shields-born munitionette and footballer

A big thank you to John Caffery for the fascinating history and photographs of Elizabeth "Lizzie" McQuillan. John is the proud grandson of Lizzie.

Lizzie was born in 1898 in Stainton Street, South Shields, then in County Durham. She was one of 9 children: 5 girls and 4 boys. Her father was the deputy overman at Whitburn Colliery, located south of South Shields on the North Sea coast before closing in 1968.

Aged 16, Lizzie met her future husband, George Morris Featherstone, in South Shields during his posting in the area for army training. George, also aged 16, had joined the army in 1914.

 

George was wounded twice during WWI (1914-18), and on the second occasion, he came home to recover. Lizzie and George married in 1918 while the latter was still recovering.

During this period, Lizzie worked in a North East munitions factory, possibly in the town of Birtley, south of Gateshead, with one of her sisters Margaret. Lizzie was also a keen munitionette footballer, but although photographed in her kit, the team she played for is unknown. However, it is believed to have been associated with the Birtley factory.

John explains the mystery: "The photos [on this page] were saved by the family, but no one had seen them until about 18 years ago when my father passed away and we came across them."

Lizzie later had two children with George: a son, John (uncle of John), and a daughter Norah (John's mother).

 

At the outbreak of WWII, on September 3, 1939, George was serving in the Royal Engineers. He was posted to France as part of the BEF with the No.1 Docks Group, just 6 days after Britain declared war. Amazingly, he was one of the last to be rescued from Dunkirk, northern France, during the now-famous evacuation before the harbour town fell in June 1940.

While George was on active service, Lizzie again worked as a munitionette - this time in Scotswood, Newcastle upon Tyne. 

 

George was demobbed at the war's end in 1945 having attained the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2. He had served through two world wars.

George and Lizzie were married for an amazing 61 years, celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary in the Chameleon restaurant, then opposite South Shields Town Hall, in 1978. Their long marriage was even recognised by Buckingham Palace, with the happy couple receiving a congratulatory Greetings Telegram from HM Queen Elizabeth II (1952-2022). 

 

Sadly, George died the following year. Lizzie lived until 1994, aged 96.

 

"They were both much-loved grandparents who did what they had to do. Normal working-class people, but very special to us," said John.​

 

Today, keeping the family football tradition going is Lizzie's great-great-great-granddaughter, Anna, aged 13, who plays for Washington NSG Panthers, founded in Washington, Tyne and Wear, in 2013.

 

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Elizabeth "Lizzie" McQuillan

Wearing her football kit, aged 19, in March 1917.

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The munitionette
Lizzie McQuillan in her munitionette/factory clothes during WWI.

 

She is wearing a triangular On War Service medal.

Munitionette team photo
The unknown football team Lizzie McQuillan played in.

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