Museum staff who are hosting an exhibition about a trailblazing football team are appealing for memorabilia linked to the women’s game in Fife.

Curators are keen to capture how women’s football has grown locally in recent years and build a clearer picture of its earliest development in Fife.

Exhibition organisers hope that the display – which spotlights 1920s star May Watson, of Cardenden – will inspire visitors to donate items and stories to a women’s football archive.

The tribute to Rutherglen Ladies FC, who drew big crowds during the inter-war years, is at Kirkcaldy Galleries from March 8-30, before transferring to Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries in April.

Archivists with cultural charity OnFife, which runs both venues, say the display can be a catalyst that helps fill knowledge gaps in the history of women’s football in Fife.

During the 1920s and 30s, Rutherglen Ladies had to battle against the odds just to play matches, as the English Football Association banned the game, deeming it “quite unsuitable for females”. A Scottish FA ban would follow 20 years later.

Despite that, the women in Fife flourished, with teams in Lochore, Kirkcaldy, Newburgh and Freuchie. 

Before joining Rutherglen, May Watson (later Wyse) played for Bowhill Ladies. A newspaper article at the time reported: “Bowhill is one of the few villages that can boast of having a progressive female community not afraid of emulating the men … it has a go-ahead ladies' football team.”

May was later described, in a newspaper obituary of 1951, as “probably one of the best lady footballers in Britain”.

The tribute stated: “She did much in her football years to raise money for charity, and often played against men’s teams with outstanding ability.”

May toured Scotland and Ireland with Rutherglen in 1925-26 and played in the Scottish Ladies’ team that defeated Dick Kerr’s revered English side, who at the time were unofficial world champions.

The opening at Kirkcaldy Galleries will be a proud moment for venue supervisor Carolyn Johnston, who is May’s great-granddaughter.

Carolyn, also of Cardenden, said: “I am so pleased the story of Rutherglen Ladies is being widely told in Fife and very proud of my great granny’s role in it – she was, by all accounts, a remarkable woman.”

May is not the only illustrious footballer in Carolyn’s family – her uncle, Willie Johnston, starred for Scotland, Rangers, West Bromwich Albion and Hearts, winning a European Cup Winners’ Cup medal in 1972.

The exhibition is based on research carried out by Dr Fiona Skillen, senior lecturer in history at Glasgow Caledonian University, and women's football historian Steve Bolton.

Led by superstar captain Sadie Smith, the grandmother of singer-songwriter Eddi Reader, Rutherglen Ladies toured Ireland, played in exhibition games in front of thousands and raised money for charity.

Dr Skillen said: “There’s a perception that women’s football didn’t happen in Scotland between the Victorian period and the mid-1950s. This research shows that it did. We are rewriting the history books with our discoveries.

“Rutherglen Ladies showed incredible resolve and resilience and had to overcome significant barriers just to play the game. They deserve recognition for their unique place in history.”

The exhibition traces the development of the team from its foundation in 1921 through to its disbanding in 1939. It explores the lives of the manager James H Kelly and the players themselves, whilst also telling the story of their ground-breaking tours in Scotland, England and Ireland.

Anyone with information should email