Recently I finished a Kindle book project, called `Jacks, Knaves and Kings of Speed.'
It doesn't just cover the racing careers, and off-track antics, of colourful male characters like Hunt, Sheene, Hailwood or Achille Varzi. As fascinating as the men who raced motorcycles and cars are, I wanted to cover some of the 20th Century female racers life stories too.
Here's an extract looking back at the exploits of Fay Taylour, a fiery Irishwoman speedway racer, midget car racer and possibly one of the top MI5 spies of her time too.
You can check out the book here by the way, it's refreshingly cheap;
Fay Taylour was a remarkable woman, a brave motorcycle speedway racer, once so famous that crowds of over 20,000 people turned out to watch her in action.
Yet Fay is all but forgotten today and the reason is probably her bizarre flirtation with British Fascism, which saw Fay jailed on the Isle of Man during WW2- just in case she left Britain and became a dispatch rider for the Nazis.
Born in Ireland to middle class parents, and privately educated, Fay realized that Ireland in the early 1920s was heading for Civil War and off she went to find her fortune in mainland Britain. She was a natural on motorcycles and won trials, grasstrack and scrambling (Moto Cross) events.
Fay then thought she’d sneak into Speedway which was rapidly becoming the most popular spectator sport involving motorcycles at that time. Fay was impressively fast and pioneered the `trailing leg’ technique, as she powerslid her way around the cinder ovals of Britain.
She beat all other women speedway riders with ease, and broke track records set by fed-up blokes. Fay was dubbed the `Speedway Queen’ and off she went to Australia and whupped the local heroes there, setting course records on the big half mile dirt tracks.
She had a few crashes too but plenty of wins and seemed to be adept at making a good living from racing, no mean feat for anyone in those days.
But in 1930 women were banned from Speedway for `safety reasons,’ and the ban quickly followed Fay out to Australia. That meant a switch to car racing and she was good at that too, winning the Leinster Cup in 1934, but although she was Grand Prix winner and she didn’t get signed to a factory team.
This brings us to an interesting question; as Fay wasn’t born very rich, how did she fund her racing career and globe-trotting lifestyle?
Nazi Sympathizer or MI5 Spy?
When the Nazis came to power in 1933 Fay began to hang around with the slightly deluded Mitford sisters and Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Fascists – Max Mosley’s father by the way.
It’s rumoured that Fay joined in with jew-hating marches in the 30s, and according the M15 records, whilst interned on the Isle of Man, Fay Taylour carried a photo of Hitler and kept telling everyone that the Germans were really nice people.
Yet for all this Nazi adoration, Fay was released from her prison camp and sent home to Ireland in 1943, long before the war ended. Surely she was a security risk, as a known fascist supporter?
Was she sent home to Ireland as a spy, to see how `neutral’ the Irish government really were? We will never know, but after WW2, and a brief stint in London, (where again, she seems to have joined up with a gang throwing bricks at shops owned by Jews) Fay headed off to Hollywood where she either a. sold sports and luxury cars to movie stars, or b. ran a string of expensive call girls.
The story goes that she met a well connected prostitute in the Isle of Man internment camp, and this woman gave Fay some `useful introductions.’ In turn, Fay realized that some wealthy men of her acquaintance might like to meet women who could be discreet.
Oswald Mosley’s former secretary recalled that Fay drove him home from a window-smashing brawl in the East End, in a Jaguar that was owned by `a well-known `high class call girl.’
|Aboard a Douglas speedway racer in the `20s|
For fun in the USA, she raced midget cars, which was a kind of four wheeled speedway on dusty ovals and run by some famously dubious good ol’ boys. Again she was highly competitive in a real `man’s game.’
After mysteriously making pots of cash, in a few short years, Fay returned to the UK in the early 1950s and went car racing, competing against the likes of fledgling would-be GP champion Stirling Moss.
After touring around Europe – hugely expensive back in the early `50s - she then buggered off to South Africa, giving her address as the Carlton Hotel, Johannesburg and joining the local sports car club.
Fay then turned up back in Britain, where she saw out her final days in a nursing home in the South West of England.
Fay Taylour never married, despite being a good looking woman well into her 40s, endowed with what would now be called ` a very perky rack.’ She gave men little time, except on the track, where she basically liked to whup their sorry, sexist asses.
Fay Taylour was undoubtedly a trailblazing motorcycle racer and fearless car racer. Her murky activities with the fascists might – just might – have been part of her true lifelong work, which was as a female James Bond, spying on Mosley’s crackpots, the Irish government and perhaps even Hollywood movie stars, on behalf of M15.
Taylour’s father was an inspector in the Irish Police, before the 1916 rebellion and civil war of the 20s. It’s not stretching things to imagine that he taught her at a young age to trust no-one, and that information was often the most valuable commodity of all.