Stewarton’s First Star Remembered

Susan, the daughter of the Auchinleck Talbot star Bill Ferries, began her football career on Riccarton Park in the west of Kilmarnock where she would hone her skills in kickabouts with the boys.

At the age of 17, Susan worked in the town’s Saxone’s shoe factory and in her spear time would take to the football field taking part in 1961 in Stewarton Thistle’s debut match against Holyrood Bumbees, where she got all seven of their goals in a 7-0 thrashing.

She left Saxone’s to work at Johnny Walker’s bottling plant and occasionally turned out for the works XI but it would be with Stewarton Thistle that she would make the most impact. By 1963 she was already attracting the attention of the press, with picture features in the Daily Herald and Daily Record.

An early success came in a charity event at St Roche with veteran sports columnist Alex Cameron on hand to present the trophy. However, in 1969 she would miss out on the first national competition since the mid-1920s – the Hughie Green-inspired Butlins Cup – losing out to Westthorn United in the regional final.

Also that year, she was part of an unofficial Scotland XI which took on the famous Manchester Corinthians at Stewarton’s Strandhead Park and there would be further unofficial internationals in the following years.

Along with bright new star Rose Reilly, Susan would play a central role in Stewarton’s golden era, taking part in the inaugural Scottish Cup competition. Big wins against Airdrie and Wishaw Jags would see the side progress to the final where they would meet Aberdeen Prima Donnas. The match played on April 18th 1971 at Dundee’s Riverside Park would see Stewarton run out as 4-2 winners to take the Cup supplied by the jewellery retailer H. Samuels. (pictured right)

A few weeks later they took part the Mitre Trophy – a forerunner of today’s FA Cup – , Susan was the star of an early round 5-2 defeat of the Manchester Corinthians and a 9-2 thumping of Nuneaton Wanderers, being described in the press as the Bobby Lennox of the female football world.

The final itself played on May 8th 1971 would be mired in controversy however. Southampton had fielded a league select side to compete in the competition and although found guilty of misrepresentation and fined £25 at a WFA tribunal, they were allowed to keep the trophy. Thistle wouldn’t have to wait long for revenge as the sides would meet a few months later in the final of the Deal International Competition, the Champions League of its day. With sides deadlocked in extra-time Margaret McAuley nipped in to slot home the decider to take the trophy back to Stewarton. A charity shield win would round off a great treble for the season.

Pictured – Stewarton Thistle with the 1971 Deal Tournament cup.

The Stewarton side, re-branded Stewarton Lees would make another attempt at the Mitre Cup and at 3-1 down, Susan would beat two defenders to fire home and set up a grandstand finish. Southampton would hang on but the sides would oddly meet again in the Deal International in the 3rd/4th place play off. And with the game goalless after extra-time, Stewarton would edge it in the penalty shoot out.

Susan was capped in the early Scottish squads and in the first official international in 1972 between Scotland and England played at Ravenscraig Park, Elsie Cook – commenting on her former team mate and friend – noted;

‘Susie was the reason Stewarton stayed together and went on to reach great heights in UK Women’s football, winning the first Scottish Cup, League Cup and Deal European Cup. Susan was not only a great player but a truly amazing character with a sense of humour which she bravely retained throughout her illness.’

Susan Ferries would continue playing until 1977 and in 2012 was reunited with many of her former team mates at the First Ladies of Football exhibition opening and is included in a display at the Hampden Football Museum. It is hoped that a match might be played at Rugby Park between the Kilmarnock senior and U-17 sides as a tribute to Susan’s legacy.