It is wonderful how the Scotland women's international football team has come into the national consciousness this year, packing over 18,000 into Hampden for their friendly victory over Jamaica, and its achievement of reaching the World Cup finals in France. Shelley Kerr has brought the women's game into the mainstream and given new vigour to the word 'hopefully' that so often concludes reports of the aspirations of players and coaches before they line up for a major match or competition.
Such has been the positive impact on the national footballing psyche that we have also become aware of the recent history of Scottish women's football at the national and international level. In particular, we have become aware of the injustices done to Scottish women footballers, largely because of male prejudices and entrenched gender stereotyping, as recently as the 1970s and 1980s – and as highlighted by Gerry Hassan's
exploration of the career of Rose Reilly, and of the misogynistic mindset of the SFA during that era.
Reports of the recent successes, and of the frustrations of the 1970s and 1980s, give the impression that Scottish women's football in the international arena was a late developer as well as being one that was often thwarted by male cynicism. However, there was a much earlier foray into international women's football by Scottish teams, one that was enthusiastic, prolific – and brief.
Ann Caroline Baliol was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1862, the daughter of John Thomas Baliol, reputed to be a medical doctor, and his wife, Mary Ann Baliol. When the 1881 census was taken on 3 April 1881, she was in Campbeltown, boarding in lodgings as an actors' servant – in the company of her employers James Cole, age 23, actor, and his wife, Louisa Cole, age 18, actress. Ann Caroline Baliol was 19 and travelling under the name of Carrie H Baliol. Five weeks after the enumerator's recording of her presence in Campbeltown, on 7 May 1881, she was lining up with 10 fellow sportswomen at Easter Road, Edinburgh, for a momentous occasion. A full account appeared in the Glasgow Herald two days later:
Ladies' International Match
Scotland v. England
A rather novel football match took place at Easter Road, Edinburgh on Saturday between teams of lady players representing England and Scotland – the former hailing from London and the latter, it is said, from Glasgow. A considerable amount of curiosity was evinced in the event, and upwards of a thousand people witnessed it. The young ladies' ages appear to range from eighteen to four-and-twenty, and they were very smartly dressed. The Scotch team wore blue jerseys, white knickerbockers, red stockings, a red belt, high heeled boots and blue and white cowl; while their English sisters were dressed in blue and white jerseys, blue stockings and belt, high-heeled boots, and red and white cowl. The game, judging from a player's point of view, was a failure, but some of the individual members of the teams showed that they had a fair idea of the game. During the first half, the Scotch team, playing against the wind, scored a goal, and in the second half they added another two, making a total of three against their opponents' nothing. Misses St Clair and Cole scored the first two, and the third was due to Misses Stevenson and Wright.
Through the months of May and June 1881, seven international matches were reported:
9 May, Edinburgh: Scotland 3 – England 0
16 May, Glasgow: abandoned in second half
21 May, Blackburn: England 1 – Scotland 0
13 June, Bradford: England 2 – Scotland 3
20 June, Manchester: Abandoned near half-time
25 June, Liverpool: England 1 – Scotland 2
27 June, Liverpool: England 0 – Scotland 2
It is apparent that the spectators, as was common well into the post second world war period, were almost totally male and were a boisterous lot with a sense of mischief-making. They were also intolerant of the women's inexperience in tactical finesse, skill and preparation, and lack of adherence to the convention of 'rules' which were only a recent innovation in formalising football as a spectator sport.
The reporting of the players' outfits, however, suggests that the teams took their appearances seriously – even although one reporter considered them to be 'costumes… neither graceful nor very becoming'. Yet the description of the Scotland strip is one that is instantly recognisable nearly 140 years later.
An intriguing question nonetheless arises as to how these teams came together. Carrie Baliol had links to the theatre, which was dominated by the music hall circuit. In the line-up, and sharing the credits for one of Scotland's goals in the initial match, was Louisa Cole, actress, and to whom Carrie was recorded as 'actors' servant' in Campbeltown only a few weeks earlier. And at least one other player, 19-year-old forward, Minnie Brymner, was an 'apprentice actress' in the 1881 census.
Further investigation needs to be undertaken on other team members, but it seems likely that the hectic series of Scotland v England international matches were never intended to be serious sporting events, but instead were theatrical performances. And while the crowds were sometimes disruptive to the extent that two matches had to be abandoned and the 'players' had to beat hasty departures, such chaos would not have been unknown to music hall performers.
Carrie Baliol went on to have a colourful career, especially in her personal life. In Paisley, in 1884, she married comedian James Jessiman, by which point she described herself as a comedienne, so she had made the breakthrough from a theatrical handmaiden to becoming a performer in her own right. The couple had three sons, the first being John Baliol Jessiman who went on to have a long music hall career under the stage name of Jack Clifford. Jack married my 'Aunt' Peggy, Margaret Perrie Hutchison, who had broken away from her roots in the coal mining communities of Lanarkshire to perform as a prize-winning dancer and escapologist.
James Jessiman died, age 34, in 1894. Soon after, Carrie entered what appears to have been a stormy marriage to widower Dominick Salvona, who was a considerable number of years her senior. They had a daughter, Caroline, in 1896, who lived only seven months. In 1899, Carrie then entered a third 'marriage' – with Halbert George Baillie – and she became Caroline Baillie, giving birth to a son, George, the following year. While George's birth certificate gives very specific information on the date and place of his parent's marriage, this seems to have been a complete fallacy and a rouse to enable George's birth to be registered as 'legitimate'. Equally, there was no record of Dominick, Carrie's second husband, dying during the closing years of the 19th century, or of the couple going through the then uncommon procedure of obtaining a divorce.
It turns out that Dominick, resident in Edinburgh during his short marriage to Carrie, had moved to Inverness in later years where he was known as Ambrose Salvona. In the north, he became an active member of the Salvation Army and when he died in poverty in Inverness in 1917, admirers erected a stone on his grave which declared 'Ambrose Salvona, Lion Tamer died at Inverness, 13th October 1917, aged 89 years'.
Dominick Salvona was born some time between 1828 and 1838 close to Nice, then part of the Kingdom of Sardinia. So his age of 89 in 1917 can only be approximate, while his title of 'lion tamer' may well have been conveyed to friends during later life in the course of an 'old man's tales'. Official records variously described him as circus proprietor, a travelling showman and a travelling gymnastic performer; they also consistently show him to have been illiterate.
In the records of Dominick's later life, his brief marriage to Carrie is expunged from the narrative, just as Carrie herself entered into 'marriage' with Halbert George Baillie with understandable reticence to mention her marriage to Dominick – did Halbert George Baillie even know of this relationship? Baillie, a humble shoemaker rather than a flamboyant travelling showman, died in 1914. Carrie, international footballer and comedienne, died in 1930. She was 68 years old.