In these podcast episodes, recorded as part of The Art of Sporting Heritage month we explore the incredible story of Rose Reilly MBE, a former footballer for both Italy and Scotland. We hear how this story received long overdue recognition in recent years, in particular, we focus on a photographic portrait commissioned of Rose, that now sits in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. We discuss the reaction to this celebrated Portrait, and where it sits among the wider representations of sport in the art collection held by the National Galleries of Scotland.
Rose Reilly MBE
Today, Rose Reilly is widely acknowledged as a Scottish footballing legend, inducted into the Scottish Sports, and Football Halls of Fame, and a supreme champion of the women’s game throughout the country. Brought up in Stewarton, East Ayrshire, Rose fought hard to be allowed to play the game locally, but went on to achieve both domestic and international success representing Scotland as a striker in the early 70’s.
Dreaming of even greater heights Rose then moved, first to Reims, France, and then to Italy to pursue the game professionally, but her reward for this ambition was a lifetime ban by the Scottish Women’s Football Association from playing football in and for Scotland. Overcoming the rejection, Rose’ footballing story did continue though, both in and for her adopted country of Italy, winning multiple championships, and golden boots before winning the World Cup (Mundialito), and being voted the best player in the world.
In this podcast, Rose chats to Fiona Skillen, Professor in History at Glasgow Caledonian University, expanding on her sporting story, the challenges faced, and her thoughts on finally receiving the long overdue recognition in her home country. We hear how the portrait from photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert came about, and what it means to her to be representing women’s football in the national art collection.
Imogen Gibbon, National Galleries of Scotland
In this episode, Deputy Director & Chief Curator, Imogen Gibbon from the National Galleries of Scotland discusses how sport fits into this celebrated art collection. Imogen talks about her role at the National Galleries of Scotland, how artworks are selected, and why it’s so important that sport is represented. We hear all about the acquisition of the portrait of Rose Reilly MBE, along with some of the other notable sporting pieces that can be found in the collection. And we ask Imogen to tell us which other sporting figures and stories she would like to see featured in the collection next.
Asking the questions once again is Professor Fiona Skillen:
Image of the Rose Reilly Portrait being installed at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Photographer
“The photography of Rose Reilly came about via a photo commission assignment from The Times newspaper. I went to Rose’s house with journalist Graham Speirs, and to be honest I wasn’t aware of Rose’s story. But as is the way with these types of interviews I sat through the interview before we turned attention to photos, and thus I sat transfixed listening to Rose recount her story of playing in her career.
When it came time for the photos we did a few images in the house, with the ball, but it wasn’t quite working, then went out to the garden, where we did more, and which were proving from my point of view to be more successful. By this point it was just Rose and I chatting away, the skill of a photographer is in how he relates to people and keeps them at ease, although with Rose she was perfectly secure and at ease in front of the camera. The conversation was going very well, we’d found common themes to discuss, and I remember as we neared conclusion of the pictures Rose asking, “Do you want a coffee?”, upon which we went into the kitchen and she made espressos for us, with little Italian biscotti’s.
As mentioned, I wasn’t aware of Rose’s story before the assignment, but have since told many people of her and her story. Many times, in my career and life I get asked “who is the most interesting person you’ve met?” An impossible question to answer, as everyone is interesting, and everyone is different. But people want an answer and a name, and now I find myself telling people about Rose Reilly when I get asked this question.
So yes, it is pleasing that my photo taken for and used by a newspaper goes on to have a broader life, now hanging in the Portrait Gallery. Of course, it is nice to have work in the national collection, and hopefully through people seeing it they can learn more about Rose, her story, and that of women in sport. It’s pleasing of course, and it is all part of my long career documenting the people who make up the cultural fabric of our nation and telling the story of the country and people. As a photographer you like to have your images have a good life and get seen, not just get taken and then live on a hard drive. And it is welcome that the Portrait Gallery hangs photography beside their oil paintings, giving photos their rightful place in art and appreciation of what it can do, and that photographs and photographers are respected. Portraits of someone, photographs are never just quick snaps, and they can bring a lot of enjoyment and education to people.”