Aye Lassie – Episode 4

Written by on 27th April 2019

Episode 4 – Sport

In Episode 4 of Aye Lassie Delaina looks at the history of Scottish women in sport. She speaks with contributors Karen Grunwell – post graduate researcher from the University of Stirling – about the history of Scottish women’s football  as well as David Milligan – former roller derby referee for Glasgow Roller Derby and bench manager for Team Scotland – about working with a female led sport team and finally Zoe Neill – accomplished roller derby and Crossfit athlete – about her experiences in sport.

You can find out more by following the Aye Lassie Twitter account.


Extra Materials


Aye Lassie

from The Illustrated London News

Mary, Queen of Scots was rumoured to be a keen golfer. She was reportedly spotted on the links of St. Andrews in the aftermath of her husband Lord Darnley’s death but these claims were made by her enemies to possibly suggest callousness and guilt in the wake of Darnley’s murder.


Victorian Sporting Activities


review from the Nottinghamshire Guardian 20 May 1885 about the England vs Scotland women’s football match in Glasgow, 1881

After the first England vs Scotland women’s football match held in Edinburgh in 1881, the teams played again shortly after in Glasgow but this time, they were subjected to verbal abuse and threatened with physical harm from the crowd.


Aye Lassie

Scottish women’s football team, 1885


Aye Lassie

advert for the Bygrave convertible skirt

Victorian women’s clothing, particularly long, heavy skirts, were cumbersome and potentially dangerous when riding a bicycle because they restricted movement and could get caught in the bike’s chain.


Aye Lassie

Lawn tennis was one of the few sports Victorian society permitted for women. Not necessarily valued for the physical exercise, tennis provided opportunities for socially acceptable interaction between men and women.



Belle Moore

Aye Lassie

Belle Moore, 1914 (Photo by Quigs1969)


Aye Lassie

(L-R) Belle Moore, Jennie Fletcher, Annie Speirs and Irene Steer (Published in The fifth Olympiad: the official report of the Olympic Games of Stockholm 1912, printed in Stockholm in 1913, pl. 36)

Competing in 1912 in Stockholm, Moore and her relay team were the first British women to participate in the newly opened Olympic swimming events for female athletes. Moore holds two impressive ‘firsts’. She is still the youngest British swimmer to win an Olympic gold and the only Scottish woman to claim this achievement.


Short feature on Belle Moore from STV’s The People’s History Show  (S03E05)


Nancy Riach

Aye Lassie

Motherwell-born swimmer Nancy Riach

Riach was a local celebrity for her swimming achievements. By the age of 19, she held 28 swimming records.


Movietone news footage including Riach at the ASA Championships in New Brighton, 1946


Tragically, Riach died shortly before she was due to compete in the 1947 Olympics in London. Her funeral procession attracted thousands of mourners.


Contributor: Karen Grunwell

Karen is a postgraduate researcher from the University of Stirling. She is researching the history of Scottish women’s history from 1960 onwards. Her work featured on the BBC’s Our Story and included interviews with football heroines Rose Reilly, Margaret McAuley Rae and Elsie Cook. She also hosted a conference called “Everything To Play For: Women’s Football in Scotland – Past, Present and Future” held at Hampden on 8 March 2019 that gathered together historic female footballers as well as variety of contemporary female head coaches and managers.

Aye Lassie

Aye Lassie

Everything To Play For programme. Hosted at Hampden on 8 March 2019.


Aye Lassie

Rose Reilly was a driving force behind the development of Scottish women’s football. She and fellow players played despite FA bans from facilities and public apathy.


In an interview with Scotland National Team, Reilly describes how she had to change her name to Ross and get a ‘short, back and sides’ to play with the boy’s team. Her efforts nearly got her signed to Celtic but that offer was revoked once the recruiter found out she was a girl.


Roller Derby


Aye Lassie

Roller Derby circa 1970s (Photo by AI Aumuller)


Aye Lassie

Roller Derby of the 1970s (Photo by J.A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)


Aye Lassie

Roller Derby circa 1970s (Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images)

In 1970s America roller derby was a regular feature on Saturday morning television. Bouts (as games are called) aimed to entertain with theatrics and dangerous stunts rather than showcase athletic achievement. Eventually, this version fell out of favour and disappeared.

The game was revived in Austin, Texas in the 00s as a full contact, female only sport.

What the heck is roller derby? Is it like British bulldog on roller skates? Nope. Not even close. To help clear things up, the sport’s governing body – the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) – breaks down the game for you here.


Started in 2007 Glasgow Roller Derby (then called Glasgow Roller Girls) had a distinct athletics-meets-punk-rock feel to it. This video is a 2007 news feature from STV on the club while they were recruiting for new members. Sorry about the quality but it captures the look and feel of the nascent team.

While the game could be described simply with “skate fast, turn left,” the rules and strategy have come a long way.

All formed around 2007 the first few were Glasgow Roller Derby (Glasgow), Auld Reekie Roller Derby (Edinburgh), Granite City Roller Derby (Aberdeen) and Dundee Roller Derby (Dundee). There are tons of derby teams in Scotland now.


Contributor: David Milligan aka Knuckles


Aye Lassie

David and Team Scotland 2011 (Photo by Dave McAleavy)

By 2001 there were enough roller derby teams playing at a good level in enough countries that the first Roller Derby Word Cup was organised and hosted in Canada. Scotland entered a team and David Milligan aka Knuckles was the bench manager.


Aye Lassie

David aka Knuckles and Sarah Oates celebrating after she scored Team Scotland’s only point against Team America. (Photo by Dave McAleavy)


David aka Knuckles with Team Scotland players Minnie Riot and Mo B Quick (Photo by Dave McAleavy)


Aye Lassie

Wherever in the world they play, Team Scotland is protected and inspired by the unicorn, Scotland’s national animal.


Contributor: Zoe Neill aka Shorty

Zoe is a sporting Renaissance woman. She is an accomplished roller derby and Crossfit athlete as well as a keen horse back rider, hill walker, snowboarder and cyclist.


Aye Lassie

Zoe aka Shorty playing with Team Scotland (by Anja Wettergren)


Aye Lassie

Zoe aka Shorty playing with Auld Reekie Roller Derby (by Zero G Photography)


Aye Lassie

Zoe snowboarding (Photo courtesy of Zoe Neill)


Aye Lassie

Zoe horse back riding (Photo courtesy of Zoe Neill)


Other Extreme Sports

Lee Craigie

Aye Lassie

Mountain bike racer Lee Craigie


This video “Ride Like A Girl” is Glasgow based mountain bike racer Lee Craigie giving a TedxGlasgow talk in 2017. In order to encourage more girls and women into the sport, she started The Adventure Syndicate.


Mia Paton

BMX racer Mia Paton shares her thoughts about being a female competitor in this 2018 BBC Scotland episode of The Inside Track.


Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood

Aye Lassie

Joanne “joJo” Calderwood (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/LA Daily News)


Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood is perhaps Scotland’s most beloved Mixed Martial Arts fighter. As this 2017 footage taken by attendee Barry McGinness shows, she enters with a techno version of the Braveheart song and was given huge support from the home crowd complete with customary chant of “Here we, here we…”.



A full transcript with citations and a bibliography are available here.


About The Hosts

Dr Delaina Sepko is a researcher and archivist. Although she’s not Scottish, she has a great love and respect for the women who have helped make her adopted country a fierce nation. She is drawn to and inspired by the Scottish suffrage campaigners and especially curious how they used music in their activism. When she’s not revelling in Scottish women’s history, she’s running DMF Research and most likely doing something music-related. You can check out her other work via her Twitter account.

Dr Delaina Sepko

Delaina with Samson


Trish Caird is interested in women’s histories and she’s been a member of the Strong Women of Clydeside since 2013. She’s helped flesh out histories of Mary Barbour and other women involved in the Glasgow Rent Strikes as well as the Women’s Peace Crusade campaign. Her work in film, as a history tour guide and as a singer give her a unique perspective when researching and sharing stories about remarkable Scottish women.

Trish Caird



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