Lady Riders

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The VMCC is rightly pleased that among its 13,000-plus membership it has more than a few lady riders. However, before the girls feel too unique it may be interesting to refer to an old publicity book which I have found among my papers, motor books nowadays being either regarded as enjoyable possessions or as items disposable for a profit.

The large ribbon-bound publication to which I now draw attention (not for the second reason just quoted) is called The Lady Drives. It was produced by The Enfield Cycle Co Ltd, obviously to publicise its machines. It is undated but was presumably issued just after the First World War, and shows lady “drivers”, as it calls them, on various types of motorcycles, sidecar outfits included, made in the “famous Royal Enfield Works”, where, the reader is reminded, such machines were built from 1898. The ladies are depicted in this very nice book in good “looseleaf” photographic reproductions. They are named as Mrs Douglas Prentice (driving a big Enfield vee-twin with Mrs E F Baxter in the side car, a young bloomer-and boot-clad Mrs Pearson of North Kensington with a young Naval Officer in her sidecar, Mrs Riley’s Enfield combination in a rural setting. and Miss Violet Hassall of Malplas on a 2 1/4 hp Royal Enfield two-stroke, which she rode after a few minutes instruction in 1915.

Then there is a picture of Miss Elsie Toone of Exeter on another of these little machines, of which she said “There was no Devonshire hill it is unable to climb.” Miss Brake of Boscome is seen in trilby hat on a very powerful-looking Enfield, outside the family mansion with Dad, I presume, in the sidecar, (she had ridden motorcycles since the age of 15) and another sidecar exponent is Miss Gladys Treby of South Woodford on her 6 hp Royal Enfield, who has an Army Officer in her sidecar. An attractive Mrs Coates from Hendon looks very young in spite of having ridden Royal Enfields since 1913 but has had to make do with a “lower rank”, I think, in her “chair”, her husband I hope. Mrs Haseley from Alvechurch was able to boast of sometimes having three passengers on her Enfield combination during the recently concluded war and the matronly-looking Mrs King living at Selly Oak had eschewed trains for four years since obtaining her inlet-over-exhaust valve vee-twin Enfield in 1912. Miss Grigg rode her solo 1913 3 hp model on Red Cross work so was photographed in uniform outside Beckenham Hospital with a Red Cross flag … After 4000 miles she had the engine down but found that all was well and in 11 months’ riding she had had only one stop, with magneto trouble, but two punctures. Finally, a picnic at Evesham. an Enfield combo at the ready … The book advertises 2 1/4 hp Lightweight, 3 hp twin-cylinder and 6 hp sidecar Royal Enfields, gas-lamps, footboards and bulb-horns are well to the fore. Mrs Prentice’s husband rode in the last pre-war (9) TT race and her brother, the late Lt. E F Baxter, VC, had been a well-known motorcyclist — the sad period touch. Some PR chap must have been very proud of this booklet; do other copies survive? W B