Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Elusive Mrs Lace

Motor historians are far more interested in old cars than old drivers, after all old racing cars can be worth a pile of cash, while those who drove them, except for a few stars, are largely forgotten.

Still it comes as a surprise at how little is know of quite well-known names from the past. Take for example the pre-war racer Alfred Clucas Lace (1897-1978). Remembered mainly for the crash in which two spectators were killed at Brooklands in 1938. Lace was always known by his initials and historians seem quite unaware of his forenames or anything about him away from the track.

Then there was Lace's "wife" Mrs A. C. Lace - that's her pictured following a Bugatti in her Singer at a 1936 Brooklands meet. Now Mrs Lace can hardly be said to have had a distinguished racing career. She won the Ladies race at the 1938 London Grand Prix meeting at Crystal Palace and had two good finishes in the Monte Carlo rally, 27th with Elsie Wisdom in 1938 and 25th, driving alone from Riga in 1939.

So who exactly was Mrs Lace? With the help of the archives and some informed contributions to the Autosport Forum we learn that her maiden name was Phoebe Elizabeth Mylchreest, a grand-daughter of Joseph Mylchcreest, the "Diamond King," a Manxman who had made his fortune in South Africa. Phoebe was therefore a cousin of Tom Sheard the first Manx born winner of the Junior and Senior TT races, as well being the niece of the contralto Ada Mylchreest, an early favourite on the BBC.

Born in 1914, young Phoebe - she was seemingly called Betty - was barely 17 when she married a Mr McQueen in London in 1931. By 1934 she was competing on the track as Mrs A. C. Lace, although it's doubtful if the couple were ever married. By the late 1930s young Betty was the proprietress of the Hay Hill Club in Mayfair, subsequently having the misfortune to be made bankrupt just before war broke out. Around the same time Mr Lace, who optimistically described himself as a professional racing driver, was also bankrupted and soon left for Finland, where he was among the small group of British volunteers in that country's Winter War with the Soviet Union. Meanwhile in 1940 in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Britain, Betty Lace married the New Zealand fighter ace Brian Carbury. At the time she was using the surname Williams, although why is a matter for speculation. The marriage cannot have lasted long as Carbury remarried in 1948.

Given her profligate usage of surnames it's difficult to know what eventually became of Ms Mylchreest. She was seemingly alive in 1971, and still using the surname Lace which she had adopted in the days when she raced on the Brooklands track.

1 comment:

Brian D Carbury said...

Very interesting. I am the son of Brian J G Carbury and Phoebe Elizabeth Mylchreest,I was brought up by my English Grandparents and met my mother for the only meetings I can remember in 1971. At the time she was living with my maternal Grandmother.