Motorcycle racing is still an overwhelmingly male dominated sport, unfortunately. And although women motorcycle owners and riders are the fastest growing segment on the street, we’re not taken seriously there either. And this is 2007, so think about how women motorcyclists must have treated in the early 1920’s.
While you’re thinking, consider this: American women were only given the right to vote in 1920. In that era, a woman on a motorcycle — or on a bicycle or in a car — was a rare sight indeed. But a woman motorcycle racer? And a successful one at that? Pretty amazing then and almost unheard of now!
There are probably only a handful of people outside the Speedway community who are familiar with the name Fay Taylour. So why would anyone buy a book on such an obscure person? Indeed, how does a publisher even market a book about a subject that is unfamiliar to so many?
It took some chutzpah to write and publish this book, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Let’s face it — any motorcycle is a good motorcycle, so any book about motorcycling is a good book also. And we’ve always maintained that a deeper understanding of our sport and how we’ve got here only makes the experience that much more enjoyable.
I’m pretty sure that Fay Taylour – Queen of Speedway can be added to the webBikeWorld list of “rare, out of print or hard-to-find motorcycle books” (see below), even though the book was just published in 2006. In fact, I had to go back to the front of the book about four times before I believed it myself; after all, it’s pretty unusual for a modern author to write about an obscure historical figure and publish a book that, honestly, won’t be on next weeks’ New York Times Best Seller List.
So what drives an author to do such a thing? Passion is the only answer, and it shows in Brian Belton’s wonderful book. Fortunately, Fay Taylour was also a prolific writer in addition to her phenomenal motorcycle racing skills, and many of her papers, notes and letters were kept by friends and were used as the basis for this book.
This book could have been a simple chronological recounting of Fay Taylour’s life and racing victories and maybe the few copies that were sold would have been collecting dust on a researcher’s shelves. But author Belton has been able to use the huge amount of background information to spin a hugely interesting tale of this incredible woman. This has given the book a real dynamic, which makes it read much more like an historical novel than a simple record of basic facts and figures.
Fay Taylour was born in Ireland in 1904 and she apparently was a bit of a rebel even at a young age. The story of how she first discovered motorcycling is wonderful and timeless. She must have been the daughter of very liberal parents, because women just didn’t go around doing the kinds of things that Taylour did in the World War I era, that’s for sure.
It wasn’t long after her first motorcycle that Taylour became addicted to speed, and a series of more powerful bikes quickly followed. She was fortunate to have a local motorcycle shop owner take an interest in her riding, and he convinced her to try her skills at a local “scramble”; what we might call a hill climb today.
Fay Taylour was nothing if not extremely focused, and she devoted her considerable energies on practicing and racing. I won’t recount the entire story here, but she quickly became one of the best and most famous motorcycle racers of the time, all the more amazing for a woman.
In fact, she became so good that she may have been part of the reason for the ban on women in Speedway racing that was announced in 1930. Taylour was stunned, and believe it or not, the ban was still in effect when she died in 1983, a time when the manager of the Speedway Control Board was on record for saying “We don’t think girls should take part, and neither do the promoters. It is a dangerous sport and though fatalities are rare, I don’t think any of us would forgive ourselves if a girl rider was killed.” I guess this wasn’t a problem for the male riders…
Although Speedway was and is much more popular in the UK and parts of Europe, it’s not necessary to have an understanding of the sport to like this book. Fay Taylour – Queen of Speedway provides a very interesting look at an historical figure from our shared past who has paved the way for all of us and it illustrates a life lesson in perseverance and individuality that is a good lesson for everyone, male or female, young and old, motorcyclist or not.