While William Webb Ellis is famous for picking the ball up at rugby school in 1823, it was Emily Valentine who is the first ever-recorded lady to play the game. She was born in Ireland around 1877 and was the youngest of six brothers and sisters who lived in Enniskillen, where their father taught at Portora Royal School. The children were very keen on rugby, but the game wasn’t played at the school any more, so her brothers – with her help – revived the game.
Her memoirs record on a winter’s day in 1887, Emily not only played for the School, but also against all odds scored a try, dodging opponents’ on-route to the try line. After the game at tea her brothers grinned at her, passed her the jam politely, and mischievously kicked her under the table. Her mother remarked that she hoped she hadn’t been too cold watching the game. “I’m glad you won the match boys”, she said. Her brothers raised their cups, looked directly at their sister, drank and then winked. This charming story provided the inspiration for the Emily Valentine brand.