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Emma Clarke: Women’s football pioneer honoured with plaque at a Hornsey school

PUBLISHED: 14:29 06 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:53 09 December 2019

A plaque was unveiled for pioneering female footballer Emma Clarke. Pictures: Haringey Council

A plaque was unveiled for pioneering female footballer Emma Clarke. Pictures: Haringey Council

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A pioneering black female footballer was celebrated this week – with a plaque unveiled at a Hornsey school to mark her 148th birthday.

Young footballers at Campsbourne School with Faye White at the unveiling of a plaque to Emma Clarke. Picture: Haringey CouncilYoung footballers at Campsbourne School with Faye White at the unveiling of a plaque to Emma Clarke. Picture: Haringey Council

The memorial honours Britain's first black female footballer Emma Clarke, who played in the British Ladies team that toured the country - and played in Nightingale Lane.

On the wall of Campsbourne School, it commemorates Emma, her sister Jane who also played for the team, and the rest of the British Ladies Football Team of 1895.

The introduction of the plaque was conceived and organised by the African and Caribbean community organisation Nubian Jak, which has also created the Emma Clarke Gold Cup girls football tournament.

The school's head Jonathan Smith said: "We are immensely proud and excited to be taking part in this event to celebrate the life of Emma Clarke and her achievements, and to be able to play our part in reminding everyone of the fascinating history that is weaved through the fabric of the community."

Emma Clarke with her British Ladies FC teammates in 1895. Picture: National ArchiveEmma Clarke with her British Ladies FC teammates in 1895. Picture: National Archive

The unveiling saw schoolgirls play a mini-football tournament and former England football captain Faye White help to celebrate her forebear.

Historian Stuart Gibbs worked to uncover Emma Clarke's life and how she came to lace up her boots and take the field.

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He said "it had been quite the journey" and added: "Working with limited information there has been a few false steps along the way.

The plaque to Emma Clarke. Picture: Haringey CouncilThe plaque to Emma Clarke. Picture: Haringey Council

"But together with others in the field, we now have a good understanding of Emma.

"Girls today can take inspiration from the fact that diversity has existed in women's football for almost as long as the women's game itself."

Mr Gibbs discovered Emma was born in Plumstead on December 2 1871 to John and Caroline Clarke and he then picked up on a South Wales Daily News report from November 1895 which described her as "the dark, fleet footed girl on the wing".

The plaque was sponsored by the Black History Walks group.

Founder Tony Warner said: "Finally, after 148 years 'the dark, fleet-footed girl on the wing' will receive permanent recognition for kicking off a legacy of black female footballers.

"As a 'coloured' woman on the sports field the many obstacles she overcame will be familiar to present-day sisters in the struggle."

Mayor of Haringey Cllr Sheila Peacock said: "It is an absolute honour to pay tribute to Emma Clarke, a true pioneer for BAME women in football.

"We are thrilled to have this plaque here."


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