Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Innes Ireland Book in the Pipeline

I mentioned a couple of posts below that there was a whisper that a collection of Innes Ireland's journalism might be in line for publication. Author Ed McDonough has just confirmed in a guestbook posting on my Innes website that he is currently editing just such a book at the request of Innes's widow Jean. What a wonderful idea, I do hope that this comes to fruition.

Monday, October 29, 2007

One of Our Most Charming Favourites of the Stage

Two things we can say with certainty about Eleanor Bufton (1842-1893) was that she was one of the leading actresses of the Victorian period and that she came from Radnorshire.

The Dictionary of National Biography, she was well enough known to be listed in that august work, has it that she was born in Llanbister in 1842, the illegitimate daughter of an illiterate mother, one Mary Bufton. I'm not so sure. The 1881 census lists her husband Arthur Swanborough, actor-manager of the Strand theatre and his mother-in-law, an Esther Bufton who was born in Knill around 1812. Eleanor was away from home in Liverpool and her birthplace looks for all the world like Evenjobb. The 1871 census confirms that mother and daughter were born in Radnorshire. Eleanor had married Arthur Swanborough, his real name was Smith, in 1860 and the pair are listed under that surname in the 1861 census, again mother Esther is living with her daughter. Miss Bufton's age varies quite widely in these records, in 1861 she was 26, by 1871 she had aged a mere three years and was 29, while by 1881 she was 41, when she died in 1893 her age is given as 58, all of which suggests to me that she was born around 1835.

In 1871 Eleanor Bufton hit the headlines when she was involved in a minor railway accident which left her cut about the head and bruised. She successfully sued the Metropolitan Railway Company, her acting ability perhaps proved by the jury's award of £1600 in damages. In 1880 Miss Bufton was again on the front pages when she was the victim of an outrageous attack while walking home from the theatre. The perpetrator was never found, perhaps it was a shareholder of the Railway Company.

There are some photographs of Eleanor and her daughters Vere and Gussie here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Book of the Month

There aren't that many books about women racing drivers, Sammy Davis's Atalanta and John Bullock's Fast Women spring to mind, so this French offering - with 450 photographs and new information promised on characters such as Violette Morris and Lucy O'Reilly Schell - is very welcome.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dorothy Levitt

A couple of weeks back I posted about a 1904 motor sport event that crossed the border into Radnorshire, a time when the car was still a pretty rare sight in Mid Wales, there being just 33 cars registered in the county by January 1905. Anyway it seems that a BBC programme called the One Show recently had a piece about female competitor Dorothy Levitt, it appears that she is something of a mystery and they can't find anything in the public record. Here's a clue, her real name was Elizabeth Levi, daughter of Jacob Levi, a tea dealer and his wife Julia - Jacob later changed his name to John Levitt.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New Edition of Marathon in the Dust

Well this one passed me by. It seems that Mercian Manuals published Innes Ireland's Marathon in the Dust last April, a follow-up to their edition of All Arms and Elbows. I hear a whisper that a collection of Innes's journalism for Road and Track may be in the pipeline.

Anyway here's the publisher's blurb for Marathon:

This is the story of three men in a car; their journey took them from London, England to Sydney, Australia, a distance of some 11,000 miles. But this is no ordinary travelogue, for it was no ordinary journey; the 7,500 miles to Bombay were covered in 7 days and the 3,500 miles across Australia in a further 3 and half days. The three men, Michael Taylor, Andrew Hedges and the author, Innes Ireland, were competitors in the Daily Express London to Sydney Marathon, an event that will go down in the annals of motoring history to rank with the Paris-Madrid and the Peking-Paris races held at the beginning of the century which marked the birth of motoring sport. Written with verve and gusto Marathon in the Dust vividly reflects the adventures of this astonishing journey which include being stoned by political agitators in Pakistan, a breakdown in the Australian desert which left them stranded for a day and a night without food or water, and their personal triumph in winning the Private Entrants award at Bombay. It also reflects the humour, companionship and team spirit that existed between the three men bound by a common adventure. The story moves at a pace in time with the event, but through it all the author manages to impart a remarkable impression of his inner thoughts and conflicts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Takes the Biscuit

Perhaps the earliest motor sport event to take place in Radnorshire occurred on 4th September 1904, when the Automobile Club's 1000 mile small car trial briefly entered the county from Titley, travelling via Walton back to Kington. The week long event centred on Hereford attracted the leading motor manufacturers of the day, with three gold stars being awarded to the Wolseley, Siddeley and Swift Motor Companies.

A noteworthy competitor was the only female entrant, 24 year old Dorothy Levitt, driving for De Dion Bouton. Mechanical problems on the final day did not prevent the De Dion company from being awarded a silver medal. Miss Levitt was accompanied by her rather ill-tempered black Pomeranian dog throughout her fine drive, the topic of much cruel humour on the part of her fellow drivers. Dorothy had the last laugh however, for although as a woman she was NOT invited to any of the evening functions, she did ensure that one such event was interrupted for the presentation of a small gift from Miss Levitt to each of her fellow competitors ....... a bag of dog biscuits.

As well as De Dion Bouton, silver medals were also won by Humber and Allday & Onions. Bronze medals went to Speedwell, Brown Brothers, Star, Jarrott & Letts, Holland Park and Garner & Co.