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Douglas Motorcycles

Flying Fay Taylour, International Speedway Star


In the early days of speedway Fay Taylour of Ireland became a champion speedway rider. Born in 1904, she was travelling the world by her early 20s, racing on the incredibly popular speedway tracks in England, Australia and New Zealand.

A rider of considerable talent, she wowed crowds around the world until women were banned from speedway in England in 1930. Fay then became a racing car driver and excelled.

Outside motorcycle circles Ms Taylour is well remembered for her lengthy association with the Isle of Man.

Fay Taylour's Douglas Speedway Bike

On permanent display at Birdwood Mill Automotive Museum, South Australia

Exhibit description

    Fay Taylour
    Irish motorcycle racer Fay Taylour successfully raced this motorcycle in Australia in 1929. Taylour was an unusual woman for her times, choosing a career as a motor racer and never marrying. She learned to drive a car when she was 12 and began riding motorcycles when she was at school. She purchased her first motorcycle with a prize she won at school for domestic science.

    This motorcycle has a unique frame design feature called the 'swan neck' which lowered the centre of gravity, yet allowed quite large 28" wheels to be fitted. It was described as 'looking fast even when it was standing still', and was possibly the first machine built specifically for dirt track racing.

The serial numbers on the machine are: Engine EL 118, Frame TF 1044, Gearbox PG549.

This machine arrived in Perth in early January, 1929, and that same month Faye beat WA rider Sig Schlamm at Claremont Speedway.

She then went to the Eastern states and repeated her remarkable performance there.

Bear in mind that the sport of Speedway had originated in Australia not many years earlier, and Australians were then, and remained for decades, the best riders in the world. So to have a mere slip of a woman come across the seas and trounce them was unsettling.

This Report from Adelaide, which at the time had a population estimated to be in the vicinity of 45,000 (39,458 in 1921), claims that there were 16,000 people at the track - more than one in three of the city's population - showing the enormous popularity of the sport in the 1920s.
National Motor Museum, Birdwood Mill, Australia

Fay Taylour and friend at Brooklands, 1928

Many men and two women took part in the six days' Standard Stock Motor-cycle Reliability Trial organised by the Auto Cycle Union in England. The trial began at Birmingham on 19th March and,covered some rough country. The final stage of the trial took place on tho Brooklands Track, Surrey, on 24th March, covering brake tests on the test hill and high speed tests on the track. The photograph shows Miss Fay Taylour (left) and Mrs. L. McLean, the two lady competitors, wearing the orthodox crash helmets, before the high speed test , at Brooklands.
(Evening Post, 19 May 1928). Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

    FAY TAYLOUR MAKES FAST TIME AT SPEEDWAY ROYALE

    Wins A Grade Handicap By 100 Yards

    (BY SPEED KING) MORE than 16,000 people saw Fay Taylour, the English woman motor cyclist, show her skill at the Speedway Royale on Saturday night, when she won the four laps' A Grade Handicap in the fastest time for the season. It was her first appearance in Adelaide, and she rode from the limit mark.

    In her heat, semi-final, and final she never allowed her pursuers to get within a reasonable winning' distance. In each instance the 'pick up' was smart, and she really won her races in the opening furlong, so Fix this textspeedily did she dash around .the southern bend.

    The Register News-Pictorial (Adelaide, SA : 1929 - 1931) Mon 2 Dec 1929
    http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/53433176

Fay Taylour Beats New Zealand's Champion

Fay Taylour on her Douglas motorcycle at Kilbirnie Speedway in 1929. Kilburnie is near New Zealand's capital, Wellington, and the first speedway race was held there in March of 1929.

Fay was not eligible to ride in the NZ championship which was won a few weeks later by Dave Managh, but a match race was arranged on Easter Monday between Dave and Fay. She won the race, setting the fastest time for the season in the process. (5)


Photo credits: Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/4-032445-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22818572

Fay Taylour and Fascism

In the late 1930s she became involved in the fascist movement, joining Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. As a result, when war came she was interned and spent the years between 1940 and 1943 first in Holloway prison (1st June 1940 - autumn 1942) and then on the Isle of Man.

MI5 described her as "...one of the worst pro-Nazis in Port Erin... she is in the habit of hoarding pictures of Hitler and had in her possession a hymn in which his name was substituted for God's." ² Despite objections, in the latter half of 1943 she was released on condition she return to Ireland, where, predictably, she continued her activism in support of Hitler. (3)

Taylour was not the only motorcyclist who fell prey to the evils of fascism. Italy, already under the iron heel of Mussolini, had Nuvolari, photographed giving a Nazi salute in Germany. In modern times the far right has seen gains in Hungary, Russia and, of all places, the United States where the election of Donald Trump has been greeted by the KKK with jubilation and leading members of the alt-right have been invited into the inner sanctum of the White House.

Post-War

In the early post-war years she moved to Los Angeles, sold Jaguars and MGs, and took up midget car racing. However, authorities there took a dim view of her politics and she was banned from the country. (4) She competed in the UK and Australia in 1952, but her results were far from exciting. Although her association with the far-right was not advertised in promotional material, her fascist views were well-known to her fellow competitors. It seems unlikely that she was welcomed back with open arms.

She returned to Australia in 1952, driving speedway cars...

    Fay Taylour at Speedway

    The appearance of woman driver Fay Taylour in a match race of three heats against Kev Young will be the highlight of the speedway programme at Maribyrnong tonight. Frank Vincent, Keith Ratten and Alan Trounson, three of the leading Australian side-car drivers, will clash in the side car scratch and handicap races.
    The Age (Melbourne) Sat 20 Dec 1952. (trove.nla.gov.au)

Another 1952 article, in the Sydney Morning Herald, speaks of Fay being beaten in a speedcar event by Edna Wells of Sydney.

Sources:
natlib.govt.nz, trove.nla.gov.au, 500race.org et al.

Notes


1. There is an apologist site on Mosely which credits Ms Taylour with a number of achievements this writer has been unable to verify. The same site claims Spike Milligan as a supporter, when quite the opposite was true.
2. nationalarchives.gov.uk
3 and 4. War Diaries of a Little Englander:
5.historicspeedway.co.nz

Resources
Considerable information on Fay Taylour may be found at douglasmotorcycles.net

Fay Taylour: Queen of Speedway by Brian Belton. Panther Publishing Ltd ISBN: 9780954791247
Fanatical Fay Taylour: Her sporting & political life at speed, 1904-1983. Dr Stephen M. Cullen.(PDF)
Fay on Four Wheels Richard Armstrong, 2016





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