Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Forgotten Radnorian

"What about motor racing pioneer Rosemary Jones from Newbridge on Wye," the blog comment asked.  "She raced in the Monte Carlo in a Mini in the early 60s?"

The truth is I'd never heard of this Rosemary Jones and a check of some of the old entry lists for the Monte didn't help either.  But then people I spoke to agreed, "Rosemary Jones? Oh she was a daughter for Tom Jones from the garage in Newbridge.  Took part in the Monte Carlo rally. you know"

Well, I didn't know but then someone mentioned the fact that Rosemary was a dog-breeder and a possibility dawned, did she actually race as Elizabeth Jones (AKA Liz Jones) and did she drive a Mini-Cooper with the registration number LIZ 1?

Now this Liz Jones wasn't a run-of-the-mill club driver, along with her rivals Christabel Carlisle and Anita Taylor, she was one of the fastest saloon car racers in the country in the early Sixties, and I don't mean one of the fastest female racers either.

The you tube clip below is well worth watching for some elegant drifting from Jim Clark, but around the 40 second mark we get to see Liz burning up the track:

Mainly a track racer Liz certainly did enter the Monte Carlo rally.  In the 1964 event she took the rather unusual option of starting from behind the Iron Curtain in the Belorussian city of Minsk.

Elizabeth was one of the top half-dozen or so graduates from the Cooper Driving School entitled to an occasional outing in the school's FJ car during the 1960 season, she also competed in an Austin Healey 3000.  From 1962 through to 1964 Ms Jones - actually by this time she was Mrs Degerdon - drove Mini-Coopers, first for the Downton Engineering and then the Alexander Engineering teams.  Anyone who is interested can check out her record in the British Saloon Car Championship for those years here.  Ms Jones also competed in the RAC Rally; the 1963 Tour de France and the 1964 24 hour race at Spa.  A career highlight must have come in the 1963 Brands Hatch 6 Hour race where she finished 2nd in class, Her co-pilot was one Timo Mäkinen but Liz was actually the lead driver in that race.

So it seems that Rosemary Jones - Forgotten Radnorian - was also the Liz Jones who had quite a motor-racing career before dropping out of the sport in the mid-Sixties.  In later life as Mrs Degerdon she became a well-known but, if the forums are anything to go by, very controversial breeder of dogs - with talk of deportation from the United States amidst charges of animal cruelty.

Elizabeth Rosemary Degerdon, born 1930, died in 2010, she is buried in Newbridge churchyard.  Wyesiders who think they are related might wish to check out this site.

UPDATE:  For those who are interested in genealogical matters Ms Jones's father Thomas Irfon Jones was a son for Daniel Jones of Penrhiwmoch, Llanafan and his wife Flora Thomas - she was born in the gold mining town of Ballarat, Australia and in the 1891 census was working as a schoolteacher in Abergwesyn. Ms Jones's mother was Annie Alice Jones, daughter of George W. Jones, a Newbridge butcher and wool dealer and his wife Elizabeth Lloyd.


Anonymous said...

So they were one and the same. Excellent piece of research Old Radnor.

Alandwales said...

What a great piece on Rosemary Jones.I commend your research skills .
Because after posting the comment re "what about..." I tried to find reference to her and the Monte Carlo and failed and began to think I had at last lost it.Thankyou.

radnorian said...

Thanks, and thanks for the original comment without which I'd never have known about this interesting character.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting to read about Liz Jones's backgound. I knew she was from this area originally but she rather went off the radar after her return from the USA.

I own the Mini Cooper that she raced extensively from 1962 until 1964 and also drove on the 1963 Monte Carlo Rally so if you ever find those rally plates please let me know.

Ivo Visser said...

For a good friend of mine I`m writing a book about the history of an works Austin Healey 54 FAC. Elizabeth Jones owned this car during the years 1966 and 1967.
I still try to find photographs from her and the car during her ownership and some history when and were she raced it?
Is there any familie left who I can get in contact with?
Any help is very welcome,

Best regards,
Ivo Visser
Archivist & Historian Healey Museum

radnorian said...

I don't believe that Liz Jones had children.

Until recently her name appeared on the government's list of unclaimed estates - folk who died without making a will and with no easily traceable relatives - although she must certainly have cousins.

anonymoose said...

I am so grateful (and saddened) to come across your site and post. I worked with Liz while she was living here in the USA. I was working with her during the ordeal with her dogs and I can assure everyone that those dogs meant more to her than her own life. She was most certainly persecuted by an overzealous government employee. I was there and witnessed it with my own eyes. Her dogs were ultimately returned to her as I helped retrieve them. Unfortunately, the persecution persisted and Liz had no choice but to leave this country. I enjoyed listening to her talk about her "racing" which was not often as her true passion was her dogs. She was a wonderful person and I am so grateful that I had the privilege of knowing and working with her. I am sad to find out of her passing through this post, but am glad that I no longer have to wonder where she is and how she's doing.