Lily Parr

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Lily Parr
Personal information
Full name Lilian Parr
Date of birth (1905-04-26)26 April 1905
Place of birth St Helens, Lancashire, England
Date of death 22 May 1978(1978-05-22) (aged 73)
Place of death Goosnargh, Preston, England
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Playing position Outside left
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1919 St Helen's Ladies
1920– Dick, Kerr's Ladies
0000–1951 Preston Ladies
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Lilian "Lily" Parr (26 April 1905 – 24 May 1978) was an English professional women's association football player who played as a winger. She is best known for playing for the Dick, Kerr's Ladies team, which was founded in 1917 and based in Preston, Lancashire.[1]

In 2002, she was the only woman to be made an inaugural inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame at the National Football Museum.[2]


Early life

Parr was born in a rented house in Union Street, Gerrard's Bridge, St. Helens; the fourth of seven children born to George and Sarah Parr.[3] Her father was a labourer at the local glass factory and the family rented out space in the yard and rooms at their house for extra income.

As a girl Parr displayed little enthusiasm for traditional pursuits such as sewing and cookery. Instead her fearless streak and robust frame allowed her to compete alongside boys in both football and rugby. Under the tutelage of her elder brothers she became proficient in both sports.[3]

Dick, Kerr's Ladies

During the First World War in England there was a growing interest in women's football and Dick, Kerr & Co. was the name of the Preston munitions factory where most of the women on the team worked. The Dick, Kerr's Ladies team regularly drew large crowds including a famous event on 26 December 1920 at Goodison Park that drew more than 53,000 spectators.[4]

During her time working for Dick, Kerr & Co she lodged in Preston with one of her teammates, Alice Norris. She was good friends with her teammate Alice Woods, who was also from St Helens. While playing for the Dick, Kerr's Ladies she was noted for her large appetite and almost constant smoking of Woodbine cigarettes.[5]

Unlike women's teams today, Parr played against both male and female teams and she reputedly had a harder shot than any male player.[6] She had started life playing football with her brothers on waste ground in St Helens, before playing for the St Helen's Ladies team. There she was spotted and recruited into the Dick, Kerr's Ladies and a job in the Dick, Kerr & Co. factory in Preston, with 10 shillings in expenses per game.[1]

Parr scored 43 goals for the team in her first season, when she was 14 years old.[7] She totalled more than 900 goals in her career between 1919 and 1951.[8]

International games

Parr played in the first ever recognised women's international football tournament between England and France in London in 1920. There were four games in total, and a crowd of 25,000 saw the Dick, Kerr's Ladies—representing England—win 2–0 at Deepdale, home of Preston North End.[4][9]

The Dick, Kerr Ladies went on to tour France, playing against local teams.

Later life

The number of women's teams had continued to grow during this time until 1921 when the Football Association banned women from playing on their member grounds. Support for women's teams declined, but many women such as Parr continued to play on village greens and other non-associated land. The Dick, Kerr Ladies toured North America in 1922 following the English ban. Banned again on their arrival in Canada, they toured the US and played nine games. They won three, drew three and lost three against the top division men's teams.[10] Parr continued with the Dick, Kerr's Ladies even when they lost the support of their factory and were renamed the Preston Ladies.[1]

After working in the Dick, Kerr & Co. factory Parr trained as a nurse. She worked in Whittingham Mental Hospital until she retired. While working at the hospital she continued to play women's football for the Preston Ladies until 1951. This included taking part in a further tour of France.

Parr lived out most of the rest of her life in Goosnargh, near Preston. Openly lesbian, she lived with her partner Mary and has become a LGBT rights icon.[11][12] She died of breast cancer in 1978, aged 73, and is buried in the town of her birth, St Helens, Merseyside. Her heir was a nephew, Roy Parr.[1]

Playing style

Get me to the hospital as quick as you can, she's gone and broken me flamin' arm!

–Attributed to an unnamed professional Football League goalkeeper who blocked one of Parr's shots[13]

At almost six feet tall, Parr's strength was said to be one of her greatest assets. She was particularly noted for the power of her kicking, both in delivering from the left flank and shooting at goal.[13] Teammate Joan Whalley later wrote: "She had a kick like a mule. She was the only person I knew who could lift a dead ball, the old heavy leather ball, from the left wing over to me on the right and nearly knock me out with the force of the shot..."[14]

The programme from a September 1923 fixture between Dick, Kerr's Ladies and Stoke described Parr as "Big, fast and powerful, is tricky and can take corner kicks better than most men."[15] It also noted that Parr "scores goals from extraordinary angles with a left foot cross drive, which nearly breaks the net."[15]

Aggression was another feature of Parr's play. During Dick, Kerr's Ladies' 1922 tour to the USA, the Washington Post reported that "Miss Lily Parr, at outside left, put up an aggressive game registering two goals in seven tries she had at the net"[14] following a 4–4 draw with Washington's top male club. In April 1921 Parr and Hilda Durbar of Stoke United were sent off for fighting in Dick, Kerr Ladies' fractious 2–0 win before 13,000 fans at The Old Recreation Ground.[16] Parr was also praised for her overall technique and vision.[13] Contemporary Scotland international footballer Bobby Walker described her as the "best natural timer of a football I have ever seen."[14]

Lily Parr Exhibition Trophy

On 11 February 2007, Lou Hart from Camden LGBT Forum approached the London Lesbian Kickabouts[17] team with a view to setting up a lesbian football event for Camden LGBT History month To honour the only woman in the FA Hall of Fame ( before they banned women from playing football on their grounds in 1921) the Lily Parr Exhibition Trophy was born and the Kickabouts played the Paris team Arc en Ciel (Rainbow)& re-enacted the first match between the Dick Kerr Ladies and the Paris ladies team. The London Lesbian Kickabouts won 7–3.[18] The event was named the Lily Parr Exhibition Trophy and special commemorative medals were struck.

On 9 February 2008, the 2nd Lily Parr Exhibition Trophy match (again sponsored by Camden LGBT Forum) took place between LLKA and Paris Arc en Ciel at the Hub in Regent's Park, London. LLKA won 4–1 with their goals being scored by Christelle Quiniou (2), Gill Rimmer and Kim Bourke. Their captain was Sib Trigg. The trophy was presented by comedian Rhona Cameron and historian Barbara Jacobs, author of The Dick, Kerr's Ladies.

The 2009 Lily Parr Exhibition Trophy took place at the Hub Regent's Park, London, as part of Camden LGBT History month again, on Sun 15 Feb after a meet the team event at the Black Cap on 14 Feb The game featured Arc on Ciel from Paris, the London Lesbian Kickabouts and Valley Fire from the USA in honour of the 1922 Dick, Kerr Ladies tour. This was the last Lily Parr Exhibition Trophy to be staged as part of Camden LGBT History month.


  • Newsham, Gail J (1997). In a League of Their Own! The Dick, Kerr Ladies Football Club 1917–1965. Scarlet Press. ISBN 1-85727-029-0.
  • Jacobs, Barbara (July 2004). The Dick Kerr's Ladies. Constable and Robinson. ISBN 1-84119-828-5.
  • Galvin, Robert (September 2011). The Football Hall of Fame: The Ultimate Guide to the Greatest Footballing Legends of All Time. Portico. ISBN 1-906032-46-7.


  1. ^ a b c d Jacobs, Barbara (July 2004). The Dick Kerr's Ladies. Constable and Robinson. ISBN 1-84119-828-5.
  2. ^ Ian Herbert (2 December 2002). "Football's Hall of Fame snubs Sir Geoff, hat-trick hero of 1966 and all that". The Independent. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Lily Parr". Fyne Times. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  4. ^ a b "History of women's football". 4 January 1972. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
  5. ^ Arnot, Chris (12 April 2011). "English women's football aims to score again". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  6. ^ Leighton, Tony (11 February 2008). "Women's football: FA apologies for 1921 ban | Football". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
  7. ^ Winterman, Denise (14 November 2006). "An article on Women's Football History at the BBC". BBC News. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
  8. ^ Galvin, p. 11.
  9. ^ "A brief history of women's football". Sports Kerlectables. 2005. Archived from the original on 10 October 2007. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
  10. ^ "Notes including details of the USA Tour". Retrieved 11 September 2009.
  11. ^ "International match to honour lesbian football hero". Pink News. 16 January 2008.
  12. ^ "The ladies football team so good the men at the FA banned them". The Sun. 1 September 2010. Archived from the original on 7 December 2013.
  13. ^ a b c Galvin, p. 12.
  14. ^ a b c Simkin, John. "Lily Parr: Biography". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  15. ^ a b Jean Williams (2003). A game for rough girls?: a history of women's football in Britain. Routledge. p. 51. ISBN 0-415-26338-7. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  16. ^ Brennan, Patrick. "Stoke Ladies". Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  17. ^ "Lily Parr from London Lesbian Kickabouts". Retrieved 11 September 2009.
  18. ^ "The Pink Paper" (PDF). The Pink Paper. 22 February 2006. p. 47. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 March 2007.

External links

  • An interview with Parr's nephew on BBC Woman's Hour
  • Lily Parr on Spartacus Educational
  • Gay Great From Fyne Times Magazine
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