From Ireland raced
solo bikes and midgets throughout the speedway world.
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Not only the first woman to ride speedway in New Zealand but also the first ever overseas visitor to a speedway here when she rode at Kilbirnie, the first speedway in New Zealand, in 1929.
By Harry Chambers (the late), With help from Gordon Mclsaac.....this is from the Auckland Vintage Speedway club newsletter.
Once upon a time, in that great Country of Ireland, there was a pretty little girl who loved playing with trolleys and when she reached the age of 12 years she always asked her parents to enter her in Trolley Derby's and competed against the boys with some success. She would also say that she wanted to be a racing driver when she grew up!
At the introductory meeting of Western Springs in 1929 whisperings were heard of a pretty Irish lady who arrived in Australia from England and who raced motor bikes there, sometimes disguised as a man because women were banned from racing on some tracks -in those early years. In those early times, females were not supposed to be entering such sporting competitions as motor sport, as it was thought most ungracious and inelegant, but folk would flock to see those ladies who did brave this men's domain. The rumors were she was beating some of their top male riders and she was already keen to get behind the wheel of a racecar. This pretty lady was called Fay Taylour. Shown at right in Australia in 1928. (See photo of this bike below)
She arrived back in Australia in 1952 and then again in 1954, after many amazing achievements around the world. Back in England she had competed at Wembley Stadium and at Hill Climbs and did some road racing in cars, all with some degrees of success. In fact she had actually broken Sir Malcolm Campbell's record, on the steep banking of Brooklands, at a speed of 124 MPH as well as setting a new flying lap bike record for one lap at Wembley Stadium of 37 M.P.H. This lady was now making a name for herself and was getting better known world-wide. She had even been to South Africa and entered their Grand Prix and drove a Freddy Dixon Riley there.
In 1934 she won the Trophy Road Race back in Ireland. She also raced in India, traveling about, paying her fares and hotel bills from prize money. This was the life she chose, yet was always fussy with her powder and lipstick never wanting to lose her femininity. She was hardly ever seen around the tracks without her powder blue overalls and was said to always have a lipstick in the pockets. She was very particular that these powder blue overalls were made to measure and tailored to fit.
She came to NZ. In 1953 racing under Jack Cormack's promotion driving the sleek cream and very quick #3 Rugby, which Des Herrick was driving at the time. She mainly drove in match races here and once beat Snow Morris 2 out of 3 with Snow driving the very fast V/8 #33. Snow came back into the pits muttering to all and Sundry that the V/8 was off song that night!! Fay also competed in several features but the one most fans will recall is when Fay was trying for a Western Springs lap record driving the #3 Rugby and it caught fire. At first Fay didn't see the danger, so was waved down to stop. When she realized the fire was getting a bit serious she put on a good act for the public by jumping out, and running across the grass center, waving her arms and yelling. We all knew it was her sense of humour coming to the fore.
Fay first came to N.Z. in 1929--30 racing a Douglas Twin Dirt Tracker, beating Alf Matson who was the Ace at the time. It was often said she was better on the bikes than in the cars in those early years. While here for that season of 1929 Fay was driving a road car and got a speeding ticket but left the Country before paying. When she returned in 1953 the Traffic Officers of the day presented her with the unpaid account for that very same ticket. While here Jack Cormack arranged to hire an Armstrong Siddley, from Premier Motors for Fay's private use, which was elite luxurious motoring those days. They had it painted along the sides with a large brightly printed advert saying her name and captioned "The Worlds' Fastest Woman Driver, See me at Western Springs". Fay was known to be quite superstitious and always stepped into the car from the left side every time. She often said "If I had to choose between a man and race car I'd choose a race car every time. A man will pall after a time but a race car is always a challenge"!!
She retired in the 70's and suffered a stroke in the early 80's and died in a hospital in Dorset England in 1983. She was known to write prose and I have taken an extract from something she wrote...... "I had a car, and that is all I'll ever have but it's part of you and that is much"
working on his midget with
Fay Taylour in background at Waiwakaiho 1952/53
She drove Roly Crowther's V8-60 for 2 meetings here.
The following is another comment on Fay from a New Zealand "Speedway Times" from March 1952
fancy that when Fred Mockford introduced Miss Fay Taylour to his New Cross fans
one night in 1947 the name was lost on the majority. Fay belongs to that
far-off distant past of Speedway racing, and only those who have followed the
game since tile beginning will remember her.
Fay's reappearance, even if only out on the green, is just another case of yearn for what used to be. The smell of hot oil, the roar of a racing engine; if you've had it in your blood you can never bet rid of it. So with Fay.
For you must know that Fay, the girl with the laughing Irish eyes and auburn hair, used to be a Speedway rider, and she was no mean performer. Back in 1928 the Speedways were still groping. There was nothing to prevent a woman from riding on the track, and the Speedways, seizing on anything for publicity, took full advantage of tile loophole and engaged women riders.
Among others were Sunny Somerset and Eva Asquith, but Fay was queen of them all. But it didn't last long. Fay was engaged to ride at a Crystal Palace meeting. She fell off. She appeared the next Saturday and fell off again, Promoter Fred Mockford was worried. The next week he told her: "Don't you dare full off again to-day. I've got a very strict ACU steward.”
lf I remember rightly Fay beat the great "Sprouts" Elder in one heat of a three-heat match race at Southampton but, as I said just now, the girls did not last long. The A.C.U. laid it down that women riders would not be allowed. Fay reckons that there again it was a publicity stunt. "Women to ride on the Speedways" looked a crowd-pulling act. "Women barred from the Speedways" kept the sport on the front page of the newspapers.
But before the ban went up Fay had one final fling. Believe it or not, she was the very first English person to go out and ride in Australia and New Zealand. She went. there in January, 1929, and actually defeated the great Sig Schlam in a match race. "That," says Fay, "was my most thrilling moment."
Fay was indignant when, on returning to England, she found she was barred. So indignant that she forgot she was still in her pajamas when I went to interview her on the subject early one morning. "People don't mind a woman driving and maintaining a car," she complained then, "so why should they object to a woman riding it motor-cycle ? "
I did not dare tell her the answer at the time, but I think I can now. In those days there were so few women riders that they invariably had to race against men and the men did not like it. In their chivalry the men wanted the girls to win, but, on the other hand, no man could allow his reputation to be damaged by being beaten by a woman.
After the novelty had worn off the crowd did not want to pay to see women riders. The quality of riding wasn't worth it; if Speedway racing was going anywhere it had to throw off the circus stuff, and women riders had no place in the League, anyway.
So the women disappeared from the tracks and mechanically minded Fay took to driving racing ears. On holiday in London from her native Eire she could not resist the lure of the bikes and when the officials were not looking she was to be found in the pits, her hands itching to get on those handlebars and not caring if she had an oil smudge on her nose. Thanks for the memory Fay. Photo at right is Fay at Crystal Palace in 1929. Photo from Diamonds MCC web site.
There is more about Fay on the Kilbirnie page--
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photo from Australian Veteran Speedway Riders Site shows Fay's 1928
Douglas speedway bike.
here is a photo of Fay sitting in
an ex Satan Brewer V8-60 in Australia in 1952. It is a Richter built car. This
photo courtesy of Brian Darby from his great "Just Midgets" site which you will
find from our links page.