Women's Football Roars Into The Twenties - Part Three

As the women’s World Cup continues, Peter Bloor now tells the story of an international “transfer” in the early days of women’s football, when the French goalkeeper Louise Ourry turned out for the famous Dick, Kerr Ladies of Preston.

Part Three: From Paris to Preston with Louise Ourry

When the French women’s football team returned home in May 1920 following its four matches against Dick, Kerr Ladies, originally a works team from Preston, it did so with one player fewer than when it had arrived. Their goalkeeper, Louise Ourry of the Fémina Sport de Paris club, remained behind, wishing to see more of a country she had described as “so beautiful and so green” in which “we were simply overpowered with kindness”, as her Manager Alice Milliat would say upon the team’s return home. Confident of finding a position in a milliner’s shop, preferably in Preston, Louise would find another position there, in goal for Dick, Kerr Ladies.

Presenting a very small, nervous figure wearing enormous gloves Louise had played in the French women’s 2-0 defeat to Dick, Kerr’s at Deepdale, where her alert and plucky performance drew repeated applause and afterwards, bouquets of flowers. In their third, drawn and rain-soaked match at Manchester City she stopped a number of shots and prevented the equaliser until ten minutes from the end, and then, in the final match of the tour, politely shouted “Pardon, pardon” having accidentally kicked someone’s shin during her side’s 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge. In December 1918, Dick Kerr’s lost at home to Lancaster Ladies, another team of munitions workers who also played under the name of the National Projectile Factory XI, and following their accustomed practice of signing the best opposing players they met signed the Lancaster goalkeeper Annie Hastie and their inside forward Jennie Harris, “the best little girl footballer yet seen in these parts.” Jennie was indeed “little”, so little that Louise was not the smallest player on the pitch at Deepdale, but she had “pace, ball skill, shooting power and is a glutton for work”, as she demonstrated in her outstanding display at inside left in that first match of the tour.

Annie Hastie also played, at one point running out to clear from the French captain Madeleine Bracquemond, and at Manchester, ‘had it not been for the excellent work of the English goalkeeper the French ladies would have added at least two more goals.’ In March 1919 Annie cleared twice in the closing minutes as Bolton Ladies tried to come back from 2-0 down, and in April was one of ‘a splendid defence’ at St. James Park in a 0-0 draw against Newcastle and District. The following year, five weeks before the first French match, she was part of the Dick Kerr Ladies team that played Liverpool Ladies, who were “not as well served in defence or in goal as the Preston side” when losing 5-0, but nonetheless, having been signed as one of Dick, Kerr’s best opponents, she now temporarily lost her place to another – Louise.

Despite her mistake at Stamford Bridge for their goal, leaving “her charge unprotected”, Dick, Kerr’s duly followed their usual practice and signed Louise, who travelled from London to Blackburn for her first match, against St. Helens Ladies. The advertisement for the match advised that Dick, Kerr’s would be “Assisted by the French International Goalkeeper Mlle. Louise Ourry” against a “Reputed Team of Triers” that would also provide the opposition in two more of the matches Louise played, at Morecambe and at Harrogate in September, wins by 6-0 and 7-0 suggesting that she did not need the help of the mascot she had attached to the net at Blackburn before the 6-0 win there.

At Harrogate Louise “came in for an especially warm reception as one of the representatives of the French team which recently toured this country”, a tour that had been undertaken on the understanding that Dick, Kerr Ladies would make a reciprocal visit.

After travelling with her temporary team mates to Paris in October Louise played as well against them in the 1-1 draw in her home city as she had in England, prompting captain Alice Kell to observe, while perhaps overlooking Minnie Lyons’ 30-yard equaliser, that “she has been at Dick Kerr’s for some months and we trained her. She has certainly given a good account of her training today.” This was not an empty boast – interviewed in May, Alice Milliat had said that “The English girls have been so fair. They have even told our girls how to improve their play” - but any such training did not help Louise in the three defeats that followed, 2-0 in Roubaix, 6-0 in Le Havre and 2-0 again in Rouen.

This sequence of results was to mark a sad end indeed to the association of the small milliner-goalkeeper from Paris with the works team from Preston, for by the time France next played Dick, Kerr Ladies in May 1921 Louise had lost her place to Yvonne Lévêque.

The quotes and other information in this article are taken from the Lancashire Daily Post, the Liverpool Daily Post, the Weekly Dispatch and other national and local newspapers 1918-1921.

Photographs Agence Rol/Source gallica.bnf.fr/Bibliothèque nationale de France

Dick, Kerr Ladies v. St. Helens Ladies match ticket courtesy Preston Digital Archive


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