Norah, Lady Docker

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Norah Docker, Lady Docker (née Turner; 1906–1983) was an English socialite. A dance hostess at a club in her youth, she married three times, on each occasion to an executive of a business that sold luxury goods. Her third marriage, to Sir Bernard Docker, the chairman of Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) and its subsidiary, Daimler, was notable for the couple's extravagant lifestyle. This was often funded by tax writeoffs and company expenditure that could not be legitimately defended, which led to Sir Bernard's removal from BSA's board of directors. She was also banned from the French Riviera by Prince Rainier after an incident in which she tore up a Monegasque flag.

Early life[edit]

She was born in Derby in 1906 as Norah Royce Turner to Sydney Turner and his wife, Amy. The Turners moved to Birmingham, where her father bought into a car dealership. Her father committed suicide when she was 16, after which she had to earn her own living.[1]

As a young woman, she became a dance hostess at London's Café de Paris.[2][3] Her male friends included the 9th Duke of Marlborough and, for many years, Clement Callingham, head of Henekeys wine and spirit merchants.[4] She had an affair with Callingham, which resulted in an abortion, her being named in a divorce action by Callingham's wife, and then her marriage to the divorced Callingham.[2]


She was married three times. The first, to Clement Callingham from 1938 until his death in 1945, resulted in one son, Lance. The second, in 1946, to Sir William Collins, the president of Fortnum & Mason, lasted until his death in 1948. The third, in 1949, was to Sir Bernard Docker, chairman of Birmingham Small Arms Company and Daimler, and a director of the Midland Bank, Anglo-Argentine Tramways Company and Thomas Cook and Son.[1]

Public life[edit]

Lady Docker loved publicity and was often in public view.[2] In the summer of 1954, after a visit to a coal mine, Lady Docker invited several of the miners to a champagne party on the Dockers' yacht, Shemara, at which she danced the hornpipe.[2][5][6]

Lady Docker won a marbles championship in 1955 at Castleford's "Reight Neet Aht", a charity event for the Cancer Relief Fund, while wearing a sequin dress and diamonds.[7] The match was rigged,[6] the other players having been instructed to let her win.[7] The next year, while in Melbourne, Australia, to watch the 1956 Summer Olympics, she challenged the suburb of Collingwood to a marbles match.[8]

Docker Daimlers[edit]

Sir Bernard Docker commissioned a series of Daimlers built to Lady Docker's specifications for the show circuit.[4]

Blue Clover, her second show car
Golden Zebra
for the Paris Show 1955
1951 – The Gold Car (a.k.a. Golden Daimler)

The Gold Car was a touring limousine on the Thirty-Six Straight-Eight chassis.[9] The car was covered with 7,000 tiny gold stars, and all plating that would normally have been chrome was gold.[10] This car was taken to Paris, the United States and Australia

1952 – Blue Clover

Also on the Thirty-Six Straight-Eight chassis, Blue Clover was a two-door sportsman's coupé

1953 – Silver Flash

The Silver Flash was an aluminium-bodied coupé based on the 3-litre Regency chassis. Its accessories included solid silver hairbrushes and red fitted luggage made from crocodile skin.[11]

1954 – Star Dust

based on the DF400 chassis

1955 – Golden Zebra

The Golden Zebra was a two-door coupé based on the DK400 chassis.[12] Like the Gold Car, the Golden Zebra had all its metal trim pieces plated gold instead of chrome, beyond that, it had an ivory dashboard and zebra-skin upholstery.[12][13][14] Explaining the zebra skin upholstery, Lady Docker said: "Because mink is too hot to sit on.".[12][14]

Alongside the show cars kept for her personal use, Lady Docker also owned other Daimler cars, including an unmodified Conquest drophead coupé.[15]

Separation from BSA[edit]

At the end of May 1956, Bernard Docker was removed from the board of Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA), where he had been chairman.[16] Lady Docker resigned from the board of directors of Hooper at the same time.[17] The company, which owned the Docker Daimlers, had Lady Docker return them.[16]

The issues leading to the removal of the Dockers stemmed from the extravagant expenses they presented to the company, including the show cars made available for Lady Docker's personal use, a £5,000 gold and mink ensemble that Lady Docker wore at the 1956 Paris Motor Show that she tried to write off as a business expense as she "was only acting as a model" at the show,[17] and Glandyfi Castle, bought with £12,500 of BSA's money and refurbished for £25,000, again with company money.[18]

Shortly after BSA disassociated itself from the Dockers, Lady Docker bought a Bentley Continental[13] from Daimler's rival, Rolls-Royce.

Feud with Monaco[edit]

Up until 1958, the Dockers often went to Monaco, where, in September 1952, they were banned from the Monte Carlo Casino after Lady Docker slapped a waiter in the face.[19]

The Dockers were invited to the christening of Prince Albert in April 1958. They brought Lady Docker's son, Lance Callingham, with them, but he was not allowed to attend.[20] Later, at the Hôtel de Paris,[20] Lady Docker, still furious about the incident,[21] tore up a paper Monegasque flag[20][21] that had been at her table.[20] In response, the government of Monaco had her expelled[20][21] and the Princely Family of Monaco returned the Dockers' christening gifts to them.[21] Through a 1951 treaty with France,[22] the ban on Lady Docker was extended throughout the French Riviera.[21][22][23]

News of a reconciliation between Lady Docker and the Princely Family of Monaco was reported by the North American Newspaper Alliance in February 1959.[23][24] However, in September 1960, Lady Docker announced that she would invest in a company to build a waterfront casino in Cannes to rival the Monte Carlo Casino.[22]


Without their main source of income, the Dockers began to run out of money. In 1965, Bernard Docker put his yacht Shemara on the market for £600,000; it was eventually sold for £290,000.[25]

In 1966, the Dockers sold their estate in Hampshire and moved to Jersey in the Channel Islands, becoming tax exiles.[4] Lady Docker later said of the people of Jersey: "They are the most frightfully boring, dreadful people that have ever been born."[18][26]


Lady Docker died on 11 December 1983 in the Great Western Royal Hotel in London.[27] She is buried in the churchyard of St. James-the-Less in Stubbings, near Maidenhead.

Common usage[edit]

The term 'Lady Docker' is also used in a derogatory way in the north of England, specifically Lancashire, to describe a woman who has pretensions to be of high station but who in reality is anything but.

For example, 'Who does she think she is – Lady Docker?' or 'Here comes Lady Docker'. It is interchangeable with 'Lady Muck' or the male equivalent, 'Lord Muck'.


  1. ^ a b Rippon, Nicola (20 April 2006). Derbyshire's Own. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7509-4259-1.
  2. ^ a b c d Clemens, Martin (12 December 1993). "Rear Window: Flash, brash, and fawned over by Fleet Street – When scandal wasn't royal". The Independent. London, UK: Independent Print. ISSN 0951-9467. OCLC 185201487. Retrieved 8 May 2012. Their lives were a series of publicity stunts: most famously, in the summer of 1954, they threw a party on the Shemara for 45 Leeds coalminers.
  3. ^ Douglas-Scott-Montagu, Edward John Barrington & Burgess-Wise, David (1995). "Chapter Eight: War and Peace". Daimler Century: The full history of Britain's oldest car maker. Foreword by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. Sparkford, Nr Yeovil, Somerset, UK: Patrick Stephens. p. 255. ISBN 1-85260-494-8. ... but she did succeed in getting a job as a dance hostess at the fashionable Café de Paris ...
  4. ^ a b c Davenport-Hines, R. P. T. (2004). "11. Birmingham Small Arms 1918–44". Dudley Docker: The Life and Times of a Trade Warrior. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 231–233. ISBN 978-0-521-89400-5. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
  5. ^ Dockers Entertain Miners (Newsreel). British Pathe. 1954. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  6. ^ a b "A High Lady's High Jinks". LIFE. Time. 38 (15): 111–114. 11 April 1955. ISSN 0024-3019. Retrieved 7 May 2012. Rigged marble match for cancer fund charity was fixed to let Lady Docker win, but she played an excellent game in defeating 10 factory girls.
  7. ^ a b Luce, Henry R., ed. (14 March 1955). "Soundtrack – The golden marble". Sports Illustrated. Time. 2 (11): 12–13. ISSN 0038-822X. Retrieved 7 May 2012. Her opponents had, it is true, been carefully coached against winning—Castleford had already prepared a golden marble on a golden stand as first prize and fully intended to present it to her.
  8. ^ "Marbles Challenge from Lady Docker". The Age. Melbourne, Australia: Fairfax Media: 11. 14 August 1956. ISSN 0312-6307. OCLC 224060909. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  9. ^ Smith, Brian E. (1980). The Daimler Tradition. Isleworth, UK: Transport Bookman. p. 250. ISBN 0-85184-014-0.
  10. ^ "Daimler: extravagant design and magnificent bodywork". The Independent. London, UK: Independent Print. 10 February 2004. ISSN 0951-9467. OCLC 185201487. Retrieved 25 May 2012. Nora's first design, of 1951, was known as The Gold Car, a limousine embellished with 7,000 gold stars; from bonnet to tailpipe all that should have been chrome was gold, and the interior was trimmed in golden camphor wood and gold brocade.
  11. ^ Lewin, Tony; Borroff, Ryan (2003). "03.04 The Ten Best Forgotten". How To: Design Cars Like a Pro: A Comprehensive Guide to Car Design from the Top Professionals. St. Paul, MN USA: Motorbooks International. p. 181. ISBN 0-7603-1641-4. Retrieved 23 June 2013. Based on the Daimler Regency model, it sported slightly more restrained solid silver hairbrushes and propelling pencils built into the interior, plus fitted red crocodile skin luggage.
  12. ^ a b c "632 The ex-London Motor Show 1955 Daimler DK400 'Golden Zebra' Coupé Coachwork by Hooper & Co Registration no. TYL 575 Chassis no. 92705 Engine no. 48771". Auctions at Bonhams. 4 December 2006. Retrieved 26 May 2012. In 1966 Golden Zebra, which cost £12,000 to build (many times the value of the average semi-detached house at the time) was offered for sale by Daimler distributors Henlys of Chester with 25,000 miles on the clock for only £1,400.
  13. ^ a b "Lady Docker's Golden Chariot". Mechanix Illustrated. Fawcett Publications. 52 (8): 49–51. August 1956. ISSN 0025-6587. Retrieved 14 May 2012. Undaunted, Lady Nora (sic) ordered a Bentley Continental, also a plush job.
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ "114 Formerly the property of Lady Docker,1957 Daimler Conquest 'New Drop-Head Coupé' Chassis no. 90541 Engine no. 73088". (Auction catalogue). Bonhams. 15 September 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2013. The 'New Drop-Head Coupé' offered here was originally owned by the flamboyant Lady Norah Docker, wife of Daimler chairman, Sir Bernard Docker, who was also head of its parent company, the BSA Group.
  16. ^ a b "Fight Pledged: British Mogul Fired As Head Of Key Firm – Ouster Also Means Wife Must Forgo Her Gold-Trimmed Auto". Toledo Blade. Toledo, OH USA. Reuters. 1 June 1956. p. 31. OCLC 12962717. Retrieved 14 May 2012. The board of the Birmingham Small Arms Co.—key firm in a $70,000,000 industrial empire—announced that Sir Bernard 'has ceased to be a director.' The board gave no reasons for this, merely naming John Young Sangster as the new chairman.
  17. ^ a b Stepler, Jack (1 June 1956). "Wife's Spending Blamed – Sir Bernard Docker Bounced From Post". The Calgary Herald. Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Herald's London Bureau. pp. 1–2. ISSN 1197-2823. OCLC 29533985. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  18. ^ a b Delingpole, James (12 May 2007). "Castle for keeps". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK: Telegraph Media Group. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 7 May 2012. Sir Bernard bought it through the company for £12,500 and spent more than double that on doing it up at BSA's expense. When news of this got out, the shareholders revolted.
  19. ^ "Millionaire's wife slaps Monte Carlo waiter". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane, Australia. 12 September 1952. p. 1. ISSN 1322-5235. Retrieved 9 July 2012. Lady Docker told the Daily Mail to-day: 'It is quite true that I socked one of the little men at the Casino. I socked hime good and hard, too.'
  20. ^ a b c d e "Monaco Peeved at Lady Docker – Charges Insult To Royal Family, Flag". Reading Eagle. Reading, PA USA. Associated Press. 22 April 1958. p. 19. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  21. ^ a b c d e "Monaco Government Expel Lady Docker". The Herald. Glasgow, UK: George Outram and Co. Reuters and Associated Press. 23 April 1958. p. 11. Retrieved 7 May 2012. Lady Docker has admitted tearing up a paper Monacan flag. She said she was 'furious' because her son Lance, aged 19, had not been invited to attend celebrations of the christening of Prince Rainier's son, Prince Albert.
  22. ^ a b c Goddard, Anthea (4 September 1960). "A gambling war looms on the Riviera". The Sun-Herald. Sydney, Australia. p. 53. Retrieved 9 May 2012. This has irritated her, and ever since Prince Rainier slapped down the ban, she has sought some way to defeat it.
  23. ^ a b Anderson, Omer (4 February 1959). "Prince Rainier, Lady Docker, May End the Paper Flag Feud". Milwaukee Journal. Milwaukee WI USA. North American Newspaper Alliance. Green Sheet page. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  24. ^ "Reconciliation on the Riviera – Prince Rainier and Lady Docker Patch Things Up". The Miami News. Miami, FL USA. North American Newspaper Alliance. 7 February 1959. p. 3A. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  25. ^ Howorth, Michael (September 2011). Linnington, Andrew, ed. "Vintage vessel set to be saved in rebuild project". Nautilus International Telegraph. St. Albans, Hertfordshire UK: Century One Publishing. 44 (09): 8. ISSN 0040-2575. In 1965 Shemara was put up for sale for £600,000. After a great deal of legal wrangling, the superyachtpassed to the ownership of reclusive property tycoon Harry Hyams of Oldham Estates for £290,000
  26. ^ "Castle's owners lived life to excess; HISTORIC HOMES". Birmingham Post. Birmingham, UK: Birmingham Post & Mail. ISSN 0963-7915. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  27. ^ "Obituaries: Flamboyant socialite Lady Norah Docker". The Gazette. Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Associated Press. 12 December 1983. p. C-7. ISSN 0384-1294. OCLC 456824368. Retrieved 13 May 2012. A spokesman at London's Great Western Hotel said Lady Docker, widow of industrialist Sir Bernard Docker, was found dead Saturday by members of the hotel's housekeeping staff. He said she 'passed away peacefully in her sleep.'

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