FAMOUS NAMES: FAY TAYLOUR Mar 27, 2009 20:15:41 GMT 1
Post by administrator on Mar 27, 2009 20:15:41 GMT 1
FAY Taylour was a red-haired Irish lass who lived for speed on two and four wheels. She was a pioneer speedway rider when the bike sport came to Britain from Australia in 1928. When the Auto Cycle Union banned the girls after one of them fell in a pre-meeting parade at Wembley in 1930 and was injured, Fay turned to four wheels making international midget car racing her speciality until the mid-1950s.
In the 1930s, Fay became known as the ‘Queen of the Speedways’ and it was a fitting testimonial to her skills. She was equally as fast in big circuit cars and in the early 1930s broke Sir Malcolm Campbell’s one-lap records at the famed Brooklands track in Surrey.
On the speedways, Fay used to feature in match races against other women riders like Jessie Hole and Eva Asquith. And at Wembley in 1928 she proved she could go faster than the men when she broke American star Ray Tauser’s one-lap record of 36.81mph with a speed of 37.18mph. Fay managed to keep racing for a time on speedway even after the ACU’s ban on women, but in the 1930s started to concentrate on car racing.
The big banked track at Brooklands - something akin to a modern super speedway - saw Fay among its leading exponents in 1932 and 1933. She also excelled in driving cars in hill climbs and time trials. But, before turning full-time to cars she made one last bid to get back into speedway by turning g up for a 1931 practice session at London’s Crystal Palace.
She hid her red curly hair under helmet and slipped out to practice with the novice riders. Her skill and style impressed promoter Fred Mockford who was convinced the ‘new rider’ was no novice. He called her into his office and told her to take off her crash helmet. Her red hair showed him it was Fay Taylour on the come-back trail. Mockford tried to sign her for the Palace team but the ACU refused to accept her contract.
Fay once explained her success as a speedway rider: “I learned to broadside a bike correctly - the other women riders didn’t have the strength or speed to do things like the men riders.”
Fay’s first visit to Australia was as a speedway rider in 1930 where she beat the top Aussie star Sig Schlam at Claremont and she also won races at Brisbane. These feats were all highlighted over 20 years later when when she was brought back to Australia in 1952-53 by Empire Speedways Ltd.
In 1934, midget car racing was introduced to Britain at Crystal Palace and Fay Taylour was soon back in action on the track in Sydenham, south London, proving to be as good on four wheels as she was on two.
In the years up to the outbreak of World War Two in September 1939, Fay appeared in guest midget car races at Lea Bridge, Dagenham and Coventry against top drivers like Les White, Spike Rhiando and Walter Mackereth - and the results were fairly even. But, again, there was a ban by the midget car promoters on women taking part in full-scale meetings and, capable as she was, Taylour had to go overseas to prove her ability in the formula.
In February, 1939, she turned up in South Africa. On her debut at the Malvern Stadium she defeated top South African driver Dennis Woodhead in a five-lap match race. The following week, she beat the leading South African woman driver Betty Trew in two match races. Another leading South African to be defeated by Taylour was Gus Collares, although ‘Sparrow’ Lawrence ended her winning run in a match race. Joe Sarkis was another South African who defeated her.
Away from the midgets, Fay drove in a light car meeting at Curries Fountain near Durban and although unplaced in her races was just outside the one-lap record in a special attempt.
The outbreak of World War Two in September 1939 ended her racing for six years. Fay was interned by the British Government on the Isle of Man after the war's start in September until 1943 for her right-wing sympathies. A condition of her release was that she went to live in the neutral Irish Republic.
Fay also fell foul of the law in England in 1938. She said of the incident in an interviews: “I did go to prison in England. The police saw me drive between two cars. I wouldn’t pay the fine (I am Irish!) and was sentenced to a week in jail. It was during a heat wave and I thought it would be a holiday but the doctor passed me fit for hard labour, but I was out of jail in 24 hours because a speedway magazine paid my fine.”
When the American midget car team arrived in London in 1948, Fay tried to get a match race against their top driver Frank ‘Satan’ Brewer but her bid was rejected by the promoters. Two years later, she appeared in demonstration races against Spike Rhiando at Walthamstow who were looking for alternative attractions for the second-half of their speedway meetings. Sadly, the cars failed to catch the imagination of the speedway public.
The years between the end of the war in 1945 up to 1952, saw Taylour compete in various forms of car racing in Ireland, France, Italy and Germany. But she was hooked on midget car racing. In 1952, she went to the USA planning to compete in the Indianapolis 500, but in the end spent two months racing sprint and midget cars. One of her appearances was at Des Miones, Iowa, where she she beat a local driver in a match race and also qualified mid-order in a 12 car final but failed to win.
Her next move was to New Zealand for the 1952-53 season and she competed at Western Springs, Auckland, driving Paul Swedberg’s car which was later housed in Gordon McIsaac’s speedway museum in Auckland. Taylour had several race wins before moving on to Australia for her tour with Empire Speedways Ltd.
Fay had previously been in New Zealand more than 20 years earlier as a speedway rider, beating all the top NZ stars except the champion Alf Mattson.
In Australia, Taylour went into action at the Sydney Showground and won a series of match races against the top Australian woman driver Edna Wells. At Brisbane, Taylour was defeated in match races by Frank Brewer, but beat him in a heat and also broke Australian champion Ray Revell’s one-lap record.
Taylour returned to South Africa in 1954 and competed at Hoy Park, Durban. Sadly. she did not end her career on a winning note. After 25 years of racing and a brief flirtation with British stock car racing, Fay Taylour retired in early 1955.
She never married, but in 1939 told a South African newspaper: “If I met the right man and he wanted to marry me, he would mean more to me than any car or motorcycle. I would give up and settle down.”
Another time, Taylour said when asked about being single: “ To that I reply with a quick answer and that is a rolling stone gathers no husbands. Those who wanted to escort me were never the men I preferred. I have never ceased to be thankful that I didn’t saddle a nice man with me because I would always have been a loner.”
There, was however, a deep feminine trait to Fay’s life. Whenever she got into a racing car, she always carried a pink nightie and make-up box with her. She claimed they were good luck omens and refused to race unless they were with her.
She said it was because after one race car crash she woke in hospital to find she was wearing a regulation hospital gown. “After that, I made sure I carried my own nightwear and make-up with me in case I crashed and was taken to hospital.”
Fay Taylour died after a long illness at her home in Dorset in the mid-1980s.
(c) John Hyam 2009