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Fay Taylour (5 April 1904 – 2 August 1983), known as Flying Fay, was an Irish motorcyclist in the late 1920s and a champion speedway rider. She switched to racing cars in 1931. She was interned as a fascist during the Second World War but after the war continued racing in the UK and America until she retired in the late 1950s.
Taylour was born in Birr, County Offaly. Her family was well off by the standards of the time: her father was a district inspector in the RIC and they lived at Oxmanton Mall in the centre of Birr. She was educated at Miss Fletcher's boarding school in Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin, and in 1919 went to Alexandra College, then in Earlsfort Terrace, where the Conrad Hotel now stands. She had learned to drive a car at the age of 12 and while she was at Alexandra College, "graduated" to motorcycles.
After leaving college, Taylour went to England and started to race motorcycles. During the 1920s, she took up motorcycle trials and grasstrack racing and became a major attraction. Then she changed track, going for speedway racing, which was more spectacular and paid better. She was already travelling the world, becoming a familiar speedway competitor and a big attraction for the crowds in both England and Australia.
She switched to racing cars in 1931. Competing in a women's handicap race at Brooklands in the autumn, driving a Talbot 105 and lapping at 107.80 mph. In a similar race at Brooklands in the autumn of the following year, she came second, lapping at 113.97 mph. After this particular race, in excitement she made several more very fast laps of the track, not stopping until a flagman stepped out in front of her 2.6 litre Monza Alfa Romeo. For this she was fined and disqualified.
In 1934, she came home to Ireland and won the Leinster Trophy road race, in a front wheel drive Adler Trumpf. She was the only woman competitor in the race, as she had been when she drove a works Aston Martin in the Italian Mille Miglia. She also took part in 1934 in the Craigantlet hill climb in County Down. Her racing clothes were a jumper and a tweed skirt, according to a newspaper report of the event. Taylour said, that the day she met a man who was more difficult to handle than a racing car, she would probably give up racing. She remained unmarried.
She raced in Ireland, England, Italy and Sweden. She made frequent appearances in Australia and New Zealand and, on her way out there, often stopped off in India to race there.She also raced in the United States. Her last major race before the Second World War was with a Riley in the 1938 South African Grand Prix, where she received a hero's welcome for her spirited driving, even though she was unplaced.
In the late 1930s, she became a follower of Oswald Mosley, the British fascist leader and joined the British Union of Fascists. Like Mosley, his wife, Diana Mitford and many other members of the party she was interned in Britain between 1940 and 1943 under Defence Regulation 18B, as a danger to the state. She became the only leading woman driver from pre-war days to resume racing after the war, when she returned to racing on circuits around the world, although her appearances became fewer. Usually, however, she was the only woman to take part. Her fascist affiliations were omitted from her post-war publicity.
In 1949, she moved to Hollywood, where she sold British cars. In the US, she discovered the popular sport of midget car racing on dirt tracks. During the 1950s, she was still racing with a 500 cc Cooper at major British circuits like Brands Hatch and Silverstone. By this time she was competing against a new generation of young drivers including Stirling Moss and Peter Collins.
- Martin Pugh, "Hurrah for the Blackshirts" Fascists and Fascism in Britain Between the Wars, Pimlico, 2006, p. 142
Stephen M. Cullen, Fanatical Fay Taylour; Her Sporting & Political Life at Speed, 1904-1983(2015, Warwick)
Stephen M. Cullen, 'Taylour, Helen Frances [Fay] (1904-1983)' (2013, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)
Stephen M. Cullen, 'Fay Taylour: a dangerous woman in sport and politics' (2012) Women's History Review, 21 (2), 211-232