Out of the past, December 1983

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An unusual and intriguing correspondence took root in the Daily Telegraph recently. It was started by a Miss E. A. Locke who wrote to say she had held a driving licence for 55 years. This evoked quite a response from other venerable motoring ladies. A Mrs Roche put in a claim on behalf of her grandmother, who has been motoring since June 1911 and still, the letter explained, drives most days at the age of 89, resulting in her mother’s remark that the present car is likely to give up before she does. Another lady, Mrs Morgan of Bournemouth, wrote to say she had just bought a new car at the age of 83, having first taken the wheel in 1926 and Margaret Macnab of Sandhurst in Kent remembered passing the then-RAC test in 1923, which involved a three months’ course which she took in Edinburgh, taking down an engine, reassembling it, and making it work, in addition to a written test. More active elderly ladies joined in, one having held a licence since 1927 and taken the IAM accolade in 1964, while not to be outdone Mrs F. C. Arnold of Watford recalled her fiancé teaching her to ride his motorcycle in 1920, after which she graduated to a Trojan and then to a bull-nose Morris-Cowley; she handled a mobile canteen during the war and still drives more than one make of car.

All this led to your editor wondering what makes of cars these old ladies used and in one instance he was able to find out, by calling on 85-year-old Mrs M. R. Bond, who had competed at Shelsley Walsh before the war. She cannot remember the make of car on which she learned to drive in Lancashire lanes before getting her licence in June 1915 but soon afterwards she bought a 7.5 hp Citroen, which gave good service. In 1921 she married Harold Goodwin who had a motor business in Birmingham, specialising in Rileys. So thereafter Mrs Goodwin drove cars of that make, from the early side-valvers to the later models, but all of Coventry extraction. She drove these in many of the trials of the time, with her sister navigating, and was persuaded to enter for Shelsley Walsh, having been shown how to get up the hill fast by young Ronald Piltcher. “I never won anything but it was great fun,” I was told. She also much enjoyed visits to Brooklands.

The photograph shows Mrs Goodwin, nee Bond, going up Shelsley in a stripped Riley 9 Gamecock. These tuned Rileys were conveyed to the venue on trailers. The lady still drives her Mini every two or three days. — W.B.

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