Hartlepool footballer scored first ever goal for England in an international

The players of Brown's Girls Athletic Club Football Team 1917-8.
The players of Brown's Girls Athletic Club Football Team 1917-8.

Fleet-footed winger Mary Dorrian shot her way into the history books when she scored the first goal in the first international football game ever held between two women’s teams.

World War One was still raging when Mary, alongside fellow Hartlepudlian Nellie Kirk, took part in the ground-breaking match against Ireland on Boxing Day 1917.

“Mary honed her skills playing for Christopher Brown Sawmills in Stranton before being picked for England,” said historian Norman Kirtlan.

“She was only 17 at the time of the match in Belfast but, such were her skills on the ball, that she went on to become a regular in the team.”

Mary, daughter of steel works labourer James and his wife Sarah, was born in West Hartlepool in 1900 and spent her early childhood at 19 Garibaldi Street.

By 1911 census the family had moved to 11 Whitby Street and several of the older children were working - including millworker Kate and upholsterer Patrick.

“Both James and Sarah were Irish, but their oldest child Patrick was born in Jarrow, while the others - including Mary - were born in Hartlepool,” said Norman.

“It would have been tough bringing up six children, one of which later died, on just a labourer’s salary, but the Dorrians produced a daughter to be proud of!”

Women’s football thrived throughout the war, with many firms - including munitions factories, ironworks and sawmills - fielding teams of highly-trained players.

Some of England’s biggest’s grounds, such as St James’s Park and Ayresome Park, hosted matches - but it took until 1917 for the first international to be held.

“Some websites claim the first international women’s game was in April 1920, when a Preston team took on a French team - but that’s incorrect,” said Norman.

“It was actually three years earlier - after the North East Munitionettes’ Cup Committee, which was staging a major women’s tournament, came up with the idea.”

A trial match was held at Wallsend on December 15, when players were split into two teams - Probables and Possibles - before a final line-up decision was made.

Both Mary and pal Nellie had a “number of shots” during the game and, despite failing to find the back of the net, did enough to impress the selectors.

Just a few days later, in front of a 20,000-strong Belfast crowd, Mary put England ahead after ten minutes - scoring with a high shot into the net.

The Irish responded to the challenge and soon levelled the score. But England scored again just before halftime and, when the final whistle blew, England were the 4-1 victors - including a goal from Nellie.

“Mary went on to play for England several times before starting a family. One of her sons, Bryon Hanna, won an MBE for his work on the New Deal for Communities,” said Norman.

“She was a very talented lady, and her football skills should be remembered.”