Jennie, Jennie Morgan on the wing!
Jean "Jennie" Morgan (1896-1981) was so entranced by football and playing for Blyth Spartans Ladies that she left her wedding reception on October 13, 1917, to turn out for her beloved team!
The nuptial ceremony took place at St Cuthberts Church, Blyth, Northumberland, when 21-year-old spinster Jennie was called Nuttall. But an hour or so after saying "I do", she was nearly seven miles away facing Burradon Ladies in aid of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Comforts Fund - except she was now called Jennie Morgan and married to William.
Wearing the famous green and white stripes and chasing up and down the left wing, Jennie celebrated her wedding by netting two goals in the Spartans’ 4-1 win. Ada Reed, who according to Jennie was "the fastest outside right in women's football", and Bella Reay scored the other two.
Thankfully, William was a football fan and continued to encourage his new wife, so the peer pressure of playing a "man's game" never became a big issue for Jennie, although it was difficult for other women to play football at the time because of backward, conservative societal ideas and gender prejudices.
Jennie and William's son, John William Morgan, was born in 1926. An only child, John later joined the RAF and moved to Forest Hall from Blyth. After a stint of duty away, John and the family returned to the region and settled in Durham.
Sadly, John, aged 94, passed away in March 2021 (during the pandemic lockdown), and we lost with him an ever-decreasing verbal memory of Blyth Spartans Ladies. Thankfully, John kept a file of memorabilia and Jeanie's cup-winning medal, all of which he passed on to his daughters Christina Watson, 66, and Sandra Kelly, 62.
"Dad was very proud of grandma and her achievements," said Christina, displaying the 1918 medal and press cuttings about the team and her grandmother.
"Although she never talked to us about her footballing days, a family story is that grandma got a black eye after bumping into the opposition goalkeeper," explained Sandra. "Grandma was worried about going home because her mam thought she shouldn't be playing football; it was supposedly "unfeminine"."
Born in 1896, near the Isabella Pit in Bebside, Blyth, Jennie left school aged 14 in 1910 and went into service. Domestic servitude comprised long hours, few days off and poor pay. The lure of a job, albeit physical and dangerous, in the docks with decent wages, shorter hours and having other like-minded women for company, led to her becoming a munitionette.
After the war, Jennie's munitionette job was rendered obsolete, and she did what the vast majority of married, working-class women did - she became a housewife.
"Grandma was only 5ft 4ins, but she was physically strong," explained Christina. "While she had no pretensions, she was a very popular, outgoing woman. She once made a clippy mat that the doctor's wife bought for £10 - a lot of money back in the day."
Jeannie and William lived in Percy Street, Blyth. William passed away in 1966. In 1973, Jeannie transferred to a retirement home nearby. She died of salmonella poisoning in 1981 - two years after Bella Reay and Mary Lyons.
"Gin was her drink of choice at the pub," laughed Sandra. "She occasionally had a flutter on the horses and never lost her passion for football, especially Blyth."
A Munitionettes' Cup winner medal awarded to Jennie Morgan (image credit: John Morgan).