Glasgow City videographer, Stuart Gibbs women's football art exhibition

Glasgow City's videographer, and full time artist Stuart Gibbs has started his tour of his women's football art exhibition recognising the key founders of the sport.

The first show, titled ‘The First Ladies’ has been held at the North Ayrshire Heritage Centre in Saltcoats. It is a continuation from the exhibition held last summer at Hampden's Football Museum as project organiser Stuart Gibbs explained.

"After last summer’s show I hoped to turn it into a touring community based show and the Saltcoats event is the first even. I'm hoping to have more shows around the country in the coming months."

Among the pioneers featured in the exhibition was Edna Neillis who was not only a star with club and country but was one of the first players to play professionally abroad. Speaking at the show’s opening last week Edna remembered some of the high points of her career.

"I grew up in the East End of Glasgow and I played with the Ruchazie Boys team but a lot of the time in the streets. I remember way back in the 60s playing at Queens Park for the boy's side against another boy's team and we were on a black ash pitch, I'll never forget that pitch it was black, black, black. One of the first games with a women's team was Westthorn Utd against the Hoover (Cambuslang Hooverettes) played in Cambuslang. Another game was against Jersey Kapwood Ladies was played at the Vale of Clyde park in Glasgow, as in the 1970s we were still not recognised by Wullie Allen and the SFA and that's why it was unusual to play in even a junior park in they days."

An early tournament for Edna was the UK Women's Championship organised by Hughie Green for his Opportunity Knocks programme. Edna's Westthorn side reached the regional final at Ayr's Bultins Holiday Resort where they took on Stewarton Thistle.

"Hughie Green came to the Ayr game and we were introduced before the match I think he flew over for it from Amsterdam; I met him again down at the Grand final in Brighton. We had Fodens in the final they were a good team."

Edna missed out on the title that day but there was no time to commiserate as the teams were whisked to Thames Television's Teddginton Studios for the recording of the following night's edition of 'Opportunity Knocks.'

Edna also took part in the 1972 Scotland - England match recognised as the first official international in British soil where she set up the opening goal of the game for Mary Carr but they nearly never got there as Edna remembers.

"The bus did not turn up for us and me Rose, Elsie.etc etc had to hitch a lift to the game in the back of a old van, as the saying goes you could write a book."

After domestic honours which included Scottish Cup, the first national league title and even an FA Cup final appearance it was time for Edna to move on and long with team mate Rose Reilly she tried her hand at the professional game on the continent.

"Our first stop was France playing for Reims, it was late in the season when we got there so we only really played for about four months. I also got homesick a lot the first year so I went back for a bit."

Edna however was to return this time to Italy were she would play for the next ten years with various teams which included Milan. In recognition of her achievements a smaller version of the exhibition painting was produced and former Westthorn team mates Rose Reilly and Elsie Cook were on hand to make the presentation.

The show runs at Saltcoats until March 29th where it then moves to Riverside Inverclyde Gallery in Greenock for the month of June.

Images and content with thanks to Stuart Gibbs

25.03.13