Saturday, 24 September 2011

Paddie (Eirane) Naismith

Eirane Naismith, always known as Paddie, began her circuit racing career inauspiciously as part of Barbara Cartland's set-up race for "Society Ladies" in 1931. Billed as an erstwhile chauffeur to the Prime Minister, she either won or came third in the “Brooklands Society Ladies’ Handicap”, depending on which account one reads.

This was her first race on a circuit, although she had driven in some trials organised by the Women's Automobile and Sports Association. She was one of the drivers in its first London to Exeter Trial and although she took her sport seriously, apparently had a cocktail bar in the back of a car and a folding bed for her sister, along for the ride, to sleep on. Her car was a Ballot which she owned jointly with her sisters Jill and Sheila. Paddie entered the Ballot into the 1930 event too, as well as a series of Councours d'Elegance.

She drove an 8hp Avon Standard in the 1931 Ulster Rally and won her class. This time, her brother was her co-driver, although she drove the entire 500 miles herself.

Despite the dubious beginning to her on-track career, she actually became a decent racer. The following year, having lived down the Cartland débacle successfully, she won a bona fide Ladies' Handicap at Brooklands. There were ten entrants, including Fay Taylour and Elsie Wisdom, who had won the 1000 Mile race earlier in the year. She was driving a Salmson and nailed a close finish, crossing the line 20m before Fay Taylour.

In 1934, she was third in two challenging Long Handicap races: the BARC First Long Handicap in July, and the First Kingston Junior Long Handicap in October. Her car was a supercharged Salmson, which belonged to her lover, Sir Derwent Hall-Caine. This was her last Brooklands appearance, following a fine and a race exclusion for running over the lines at the track edge.

In the intervening period, she drove in the 1932 RAC Rally, in a Standard. She almost did not finish after crashing into a telegraph pole on an icy aroad section, with her sisters in the car. Never to be deterred, she drove over a hundred miles in a damaged car before organising overnight repairs and rejoining the rally.

The following year, she entered the event again in the same car, finishing 93rd in Class 3.
In between her racing exploits, she found time to gain her pilot’s license and aviation increasingly took up her time. The high point of her career as an aviatrix was her flight to Australia in 1934, as part of the Centenary Air Race. As well as piloting her own aeroplanes, she also flew as a stewardess professionally.

Incidentally, the story of her being a chauffeur to the Prime Minister appears to be true. She drove Ramsey McDonald on many occasions, as well as other dignitaries.

Paddie was primarily an actress by trade, as were Jill and Sheila. Paddie appeared in both small and leading parts in a British feature films and in various popular stage productions from around 1928. She is most famous for being the image first transmitted as a colour television picture in 1940. John Logie Baird thought that her distinctive red hair would show up well on screen.

Her acting skills meant she was in demand a a promotional hostess or spokesperson. She spoke at the Standard Car Club's 1933 meeting at Southsea, where she extolled the virtue of rallying. Earlier, she had been the face of Nu Swift fire extinguishers and toured the country demonstrating their product by putting out burning cars.

She moved to America with her husband Wing Commander John Towers Mynors in 1942, where she intended to train as a ferry captain, although by 1945 the Mynors were back in London where their daughter Mary was born. Sadly, Mary died shortly afterwards.

Paddie herself died in 1963, probably aged 60 although she often claimed to be younger than she was during her life.

(Picture from

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Eileen Ellison

Eileen Ellison began racing in around 1930, perhaps slightly earlier. She was born in 1910, and was one of the younger members of the Brooklands ladies’ motor racing set. Her quiet, watchful demeanour and blond hair led some to believe that she was a German or an Austrian, who did not speak much English, according to Sammy Davis.

Her early involvement was as a car entrant, with Thomas Cholmondeley Tapper as driver in her Bugatti, and other cars. Eileen was wealthy and well-connected, and had access to any number of high-quality racing cars.

Her first major achievement was winning the Duchess of York's race for lady drivers in 1932. Her car was a a Bugatti T37. The opposition was stiff, and included Kay Petre (who was second) and Elsie Wisdom, both race-winners. The same year, she was third in the August Senior Mountain Handicap, driving with Cholmondeley Tapper.

The following year, she entered the Cobham Junior Short Handicap in the Bugatti, and finished second to Esson-Scott. In 1934, she was part of the all-female Singer works team for the Brooklands relay race, with Kay Petre and Sheila Tolhurst. They were fifth overall, after sandbagging when they discovered that the Ladies’ Prize could not be awarded to a top-three finishing team. As the Ladies’ Prize meant a Le Mans entry, they slowed down. For various reasons, Eileen never got to Le Mans, nor did Sheila Tolhurst.

Starting in 1935, she attempted several major races abroad, beginning in France. The Albi Grand Prix was one of her first, and she was seventh overall in the T37A after two heats, running as high as fourth in one race. Later, she was meant to drive in the Coppa Acerbo in Italy, but could not make the start for some reason.

Her best solo result was third, in the Voiturette class of the 1935 Lorraine Grand Prix. She was twelfth in the main standings, driving a Bugatti T40. Her Voiturette Bugatti was the T37. Both times, Cholmondeley Tapper finished one ahead of her.

In 1936, she travelled even further afield to race. She entered the South African Grand Prix in the T37, but could not finish, due to engine trouble. An entry into the Hungarian Grand Prix did not lead to a race appearance. Closer to home, at Limerick in Ireland, she shared a Maserati with Cholmondeley Tapper, and was second.

She is also said to have excelled at hillclimbs, by none other than Sammy Davis, in his book “Atalanta”. These are described as being “long continental climbs”, but results have proved tricky to track down. She is known to have raced a Maserati at Shelsley Walsh in 1936. The Continental events included the long Grossglockner climb, which she tackled in a Bugatti, and was once fourth in class. At the famous Klausen circuit, she is said by Davis to have been third in one event.

As well as Grands Prix and hillclimbs, Eileen also tackled the odd rally. She first entered the RAC Rally in a Bugatti in 1932, starting in London. She is also said to have driven in the same event in a Lagonda at some point.

After 1936, Eileen’s racing career seems to peter out, following one of her busiest years.

She lost her first husband, a fighter pilot, during the Second World War. She later remarried and settled in South Africa, scene of some of her earlier racing activities. She moved between here and Jersey until her relatively early death from liver cancer, in 1967. Her death is often attributed to jaundice, due to prejudices surrounding cancer in the past.

The relative merits of Eileen’s career are still debated today, with some observers regarding her as a talented driver, while others consider her a plucky amateur at best. She appears to have been one of those characters on whom everyone has an opinion, both during life, and after death.

(Picture from

Friday, 9 September 2011

Germaine Rouault

Germaine and Odette Siko with a Salmson

Germaine Rouault raced in sportscar and Grand Prix races from the 1930s to the 1950s, as well as competing in rallies, as a driver and co-driver.

She was born in 1905, in France. Other biographical details are not forthcoming, and she was not often photographed, either.

Her racing activities included two attempts at Le Mans, in 1938 and 1950, which both ended in retirement. In 1938, she drove an Amilcar Pegase with Fernande Roux. They lasted 101 laps. In 1950, her team-mate was Régine Gordine, and her car an 1100cc Gordini-engined Simca.

Her earliest motorsport experience appears to have come in a Salmson, in 1933. She drove with Julio Quinlin in the Monte Carlo Rally. They also drove together in the same event in 1934. Some time early in her career, she appears to have competed with Odette Siko, probably in a rally, in a Salmson. The date of this is very unclear, but it is likely to be 1934.

Her career received a lift in 1935, when she raced Delahayes alongside Lucy O'Reilly Schell. Her first event was the Paris-St. Raphaël Rally in a Delahaye, probably a 135CS, with Lucy, who was then heavily involved with the Delahaye marque. They were second overall. The same year, she entered her first Grand Prix, the Marne GP, at Reims, in the Delahaye 135CS. She was fourth in the three-litre class, one behind Lucy.

In 1936, she drove the 135CS, which appears to have been her own car, in the Marseilles three-hour race. She was ninth out of fifteen finishers, although 28 drivers started. The quality of the opposition was high, and included Laury Schell, René Dreyfus and Albert Divo. It is likely that she entered the Paris-St. Raphaël, too, almost certainly in the same car. The following year, she won the event, probably still using the Delahaye.

The Paris-St. Raphaël was not her only activity in 1937: driving her own 135Cs once more, she entered the Marseilles 3-hour race and revisited the Marne GP. She was seventh in Marseilles, but did not finish at Reims due to an accident. Again, both races were against strong opposition.

In 1938, we see her next well-documented experience in a major mixed-entry rally. She won the Coupe des Dames of the Monte Carlo Rally, driving a Matford with a Madame d’Herlique. In addition to her first Le Mans experience, sportscars were definitely on the menu. Driving the Delahaye with Anne-Cécile Rose-Itier, she scored what was probably the best result of her career: third in the Paris 12 Hours.

At this point, the worsening situation in Europe meant that there was little circuit racing, although the winter rallies carried on to start with. Back in the Matford, Germaine entered the 1939 Monte Carlo Rally with Jane Bagarry as navigator. Driving solo in the Delahaye, she also entered the Critérium Paris-Nice road race, but did not finish. She entered the Paris-St. Raphaël once more in the Delahaye, and won the Saint-Eutrope hillclimb stage.

The next time we come across Germaine is in 1948. She returned to the Paris 12 Hours, this time driving an 1100cc Simca with Emmanuel Baboin. Unfortunately, she was only 27th this time. In 1949, back in a now-elderly Delahaye, she and Yvonne Simon drove in the Spa 24 Hours. They were eleventh, and won their class.

In 1950, Germaine’s name begins to appear on rally entry lists once more. Driving a Simca Eight with Régine Gordine, she won the Coupe des Dames on the Monte Carlo Rally, finishing sixteenth overall. The same pairing would tackle Le Mans later in the year.

The following year, it seems that she took a break from competition, but she returned in 1952. Making the trip over to Morocco, she raced in the 12 Hours of Casablanca with Gilberte Thirion. Their car was Gilberte’s Porsche 356. Sadly, the gearbox went and they did not finish. Germaine also renewed her partnership with Régine Gordine for the Tour de France. They were nineteenth overall in a Renault 4CV.

At this point, Germaine’s competition career really starts to wind down. She is described in some sources as a rally co-driver, and she may have co-driven in some rallies in France in the 1950s. The results of these are proving elusive, as is data about Germaine herself. She certainly made a comeback for the Monte in 1956, driving a Simca with Louisette Texier and Annie Soisbault.

It is known that very early in her career, she was one of the founding members of the French independent drivers’ association, alongside Anne Itier and Jacques Delorme.

(Picture found at