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Mary Lyons (1902-1979)

England's youngest ever football international

On 20th July 1918, at the age of 15, Mary Lyons appeared in an England Munitionettes side against Scotland at St James’s Park in Newcastle in front of 4000 people. England won the game by 3 goals to 2. Mary also got her name on the score sheet, with a well-taken goal just before the interval.  As Mary appeared for her country at the age of just 15, she is the youngest player, male or female, to play for their country!

Mary Lyons was born at 120 Queens Road, Jarrow, on 2nd September 1902. Her father, Patrick Lyons, was a blast furnace labourer from Kilmaine in County Mayo. Her mother, Julia (nee Kineavy), was also from Ireland, having been born at Fairhill, County Galway. In 1911 the family, comprising Mary, her parents, five brothers and one sister were living at 4 Ferry Street, Jarrow (as their house on Queens Road had been condemned).

She first played for Palmers’ Munitionettes team at a match played at Hebburn Shipyards Recreation Ground. She later moved to Blyth Spartans (on loan), the biggest and most successful of the women’s teams in the north east. Another highlight of her career was a hat-trick that she scored at Saint James’s Park in a match against Ireland, on 18 September 1918. England won the match 5-2.

On 22 March 1919 Mary was part of a victorious Palmer’s team who won the second “Munitionettes’ cup Final”. This made her one of only two women to receive a cup medal in both years. The other was her friend and rival, Bella Reay of Blyth Spartans.

After the war Mary moved to Dartford, Kent with her mother. They worked together at Joyce Green Isolation Hospital and Workhouse as laundry assistants. Mary never married and returned to Jarrow at the end of her life. She died in Primrose Hill Hospital, Jarrow in 1979.

With thanks to Patrick Brennan,

Civil Parish: Jarrow

Birth date: 02-Sep-1902

Death date: 29-Jul-1979

Armed force/civilian: Civilian

Residence: 120 Queen’s Street, Jarrow (1902)
4 Ferry Street, Jarrow (1911 census)

Gender: Female

Contributed by Olwyn, Women's Health in South Tyneside volunteer