THROUGHOUT the 1920s the Hey’s Ladies had been at the forefront of the pioneering age of women’s football in Britain.

The girls from Hey’s brewery bottling plant on Lumb Lane in Manningham become nationally and even internationally renowned. Although the slow strangulation of women’s football in the wake of the Football Association ban in 1921 might have deterred many from taking up further sporting endeavours, it was not the case with Hey’s Ladies.

They turned their attention to cricket and once again became not only pioneers of women’s cricket, but also a highly successful team, winning many of the competitions they entered.

Durham-born Mary May (née Borthwick) was one of those players. Mary came to Bradford in the early 1920s and found work in the bottling plant under the supervision of Mary Tetlow, who took the place of bottling foreman.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Hey's bottling plant.Mary Tetlow is in the background, far right. Pic: Malcolm ToftHey's bottling plant.Mary Tetlow is in the background, far right. Pic: Malcolm Toft

It wasn’t long before the pair were regulars in the Hey’s ladies football team and they both travelled to Paris for an international match at Stade Pershing in April 1923.

They also played in other matches including many against the Dick Kerr’s team. Hey’s were a magnificent post-ban side, managing more games in the 1921-22 season than the entire ELFA Cup competition.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Hey's Ladies football team Hey's Ladies football team

When the girls disbanded football in 1925, Mary May, Mary Tetlow and their team mates formed a cricket team.

Our main photograph of the ladies cricket team, at Valley Parade, shows: front row far left: Mary Borthwick, second from right Mary Fieldsend. Back row: far left Mary Tetlow, second from right Mabel Benson.

Mary May was a keen cricketer and when Hey’s did not have a game, she would turn out for the Great Horton Ladies team.

She also joined the Lister’s Ladies hockey team but it was cricket that she was known for in Quarry Street, Heaton, where the family lived.

Mary’s third son Malcolm vividly remembers some teenagers refusing to let her join their game on Heaton Hill because apparently they were worried about the humiliation of being bowled out by a woman in her forties.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Malcolm May with his mother's team photo Malcolm May with his mother's team photo

The team ethic that was such a part of the Hey’s Ladies success is reflected by the fact that long after the girls had hung up their boots, Mary’s eldest son,Walter, remembered coming home from school to find the house full of former players reminiscing over sandwiches and a few bottles of Hey’s beer.

Mary was a much-loved neighbour and was often relied upon to help deliver babies in the close-knit community of Quarry Street.

She was known to keep about one hundred hens on a plot of land next to Heaton graveyard.

In the years immediately after the Second World War, eggs were rationed and her son Malcolm remembers furtive knocks on the door as a few additional eggs had found their way into the neighbourhood’s frying pans. Quite what the minister of Heaton Baptist Church, who rented the land to Mary, made of all this is left unrecorded.

The two cricket matches played at Valley Parade mentioned in the report are thought to have taken place in 1925.

Unfortunately the names are out of sequence in the team photograph. More research is in progress.

l Earlier this year the Telegraph & Argus ran a series of articles by Dave Pendleton and Kathryn Hey on the origins and success of Hey’s ladies football team, which emerged from the brewery bottling plant at Joseph Hey & Co Ltd, known as Hey’s brewery.

Last December was the 100th anniversary of the Football Association ban on women playing at football league games. The game was “unsuitable for females” declared the FA.

The ban was maintained for 50 years and lifted in 1971.

In two years Bradford team Hey’s Brewery Ladies went from playing their first match at a Peel Park carnival to representing England in matches in France and Scotland.

Despite the FA ban a few women’s teams, including Hey’s, battled the odds to continue playing the game. “They had to overcome significant barriers and in doing so, generated awareness of their cause and raised thousands for charities,” said Kathryn.

Most young women on Hey’s team worked in the brewery’s bottling department. The team included four international players. Seven of the team were under 17 years old and all were under 20. The brewery’s close link to Bradford City led to Hey’s first high-profile match at Valley Parade on October 19, 1921 against Dick Kerrs.

Hey’s team highlights include being crowned Yorkshire Champions in 1921, beating a French national side in Paris in 1923 and winning a Scotland v England International in 1922.

The Hey’s team was celebrated in a major gallery celebrating women’s football, which opened at the Scottish Football Museum, Hamden Park, Glasgow, last autumn to coincide with the centenary of the FA ban.