Lorna Martin is an Edinburgh based playwright, award-winning journalist, former Scotland editor of The Observer, mother and author of critically acclaimed comic memoir ‘Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’. She spoke with Rona Simpson about her play ‘Rose’ which will be part of the Oran Mor: A Play, a Pie and a Pint series.

Who is Rose Reilly and what makes her story remarkable?

Rose Reilly is arguably Scotland’s most successful footballer and the only Scot ever to have scored in a World Cup final. Despite this, Rose’s isn’t as widely known as she should be. Her story is remarkable and inspiring because she faced non-stop obstacles; barriers that would have floored most of us. But with superhuman passion and determination, she pushed expectations, judgement, discrimination, and disappointment aside and battled on. Nothing would stop her pursuing her dream of being a girl who wanted to play football. This was when the prevailing attitude in Scotland was that football simply wasn’t a game for girls. Rose Reilly was having none of that.

“It’s the most empowering and inspiring story I’ve ever had the privilege and pleasure of telling.”

You seem drawn to stories that are based on real events. Your comic memoir ‘Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ was drawn from your own experiences in psychotherapy. How different was it to be exploring another person’s life and personal experiences and did you feel that there were any events or areas of Rose’s life that you decided to leave alone?

When I was younger I wrote quite a lot about my car crash romantic life, but as I’ve got older, and hopefully a little wiser, that part of my life is now too boring to write about. Also, as a journalist (I previously worked for the Herald and the Observer) I always loved interviewing people and writing about other people’s lives and stories, which were always much more interesting and fascinating than my own! With Rose, and the wider world of women’s football in Scotland in the 70s and 80s, it has been a real joy to delve into. Nothing was out of bounds.

What is your favourite scene in the play?

I like the sad bits! But there’s also a lovely scene which takes place in Greenock. In 1972, for the first official Scotland versus England women’s international, the SFA refused to allow the match to be played on any of their official pitches. Instead, it was played at Ravenscraig Park, in November, in a snow storm.

Why should people come and see Rose?

People should come and see Rose because it’s a funny and at times poignant story about a young girl from Ayrshire who became an accidental feminist and transgressor, who refused to play by society’s rules and who was eventually named the greatest female footballer in the world. It’s the most empowering and inspiring story I’ve ever had the privilege and pleasure of telling.

A Play, A Pie & A Pint: Rose by Lorna Martin was due to take place at the Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock in April.
Currently the Beacon Arts Centre is suspending all activities until further notice, to support measures to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Q&A with Lorna Martin: writer of ‘Rose’