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Roberta Cowell


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#1 fivestar

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 08:47

Whilst doing some recent research on FF4515/EOY8 an Alta @ seater sports car owned pre and post warby R. Cowell, I was surprised to learn that she had passed away on 11th October 2011 at West Middlesex Hospital.
I say surprised since I do not recall seeing any Notice of Death nor obituary in any of the Motoring Journals.
This seems a shame unless I have just not read it.
May her soul RIP.

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#2 Tim Murray

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 09:53

Her death certainly seems to have gone unrecorded. I can find no mention of it either in this forum or on any of the pages about her thrown up by Google, and her Wiki page was last updated yesterday.

I think she was remarkably courageous to go through the ordeal (including the public opprobrium) of a sex change at a time when such a thing was very rare, and some of the surgery involved apparently hadn't ever been performed before.

RIP

#3 CiroMenotti

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 19:20

Mike,

Thanks for posting this, albeit a sad piece of news.
I am sure you are right that her passing has gone completely unnoticed by all elements of the press, both motoring and national.
I do know that DCPR had been aware of her rough whereabouts about ten years ago, but I believe he too had lost touch.

ADAM

#4 Doug Nye

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 21:06

I had also lost track of Ms Cowell. Jenks got his introduction to motor racing from Bob Cowell, acting as his mechanic/go-for at Brooklands pre-war. The wartime Spitfire pilot's one-time wife remained friendly with DSJ for many years, and was a well-qualified engineer in her own right. She survived terrible injuries in a road accident and eventually died in old age, I believe in a tragic house fire at home on the Isle of Wight. In the lottery of life we are all dealt a different hand...seldom as widely different from 'the norm' as those dealt to the Cowells.

DCN

#5 CiroMenotti

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 19:48

Just to confirm, her death certificate confirms that Roberta Elizabeth Marshall Cowell died in West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth on 11th October 2011, from natural causes, aged 93.
Her last place of residence was in sheltered accommodation in Hampton, Middlesex.

No mention of a house fire, or the Isle of Wight.

#6 Doug Nye

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 20:31

Just to confirm, her death certificate confirms that Roberta Elizabeth Marshall Cowell died in West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth on 11th October 2011, from natural causes, aged 93.
Her last place of residence was in sheltered accommodation in Hampton, Middlesex.
No mention of a house fire, or the Isle of Wight.


No, my post meant that Bob/Roberta's former wife is the one who died on the Isle of Wight following a fire, not Bob/Roberta him/her self...

Thanks for the confirmation otherwise.

DCN



#7 fivestar

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 23:16

I discovered R. Cowell had passed away when I visited the sheltered accommodation she lived in in Hemming Close, Hampton and spoke to an elderly gentlemen who informed me Betty as she was know in the community has already passed away.
He remembered her mainly because she lived on the third floor and it took her in her last years well over 10 minutes to get down the stairs to her car which incidentally is still parked outside, although now owned by another resident.
rgds - Michael

#8 fivestar

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 00:18

As a matter of interest has any obituary appeared in any recent motoring magazines following this "discovery"?

 

MGH



#9 Dutchy

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 11:27

There is a small item in this month's Classic and Sportscar. There is also a short piece in the current VSCC Bulletin



#10 Michael Oliver

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Posted 06 October 2013 - 11:00

There is a letter from Yves Kaltenbach entitled 'Memories of Roberta Cowell' in the current (October 2013) edition of The Automobile. From the contents of the letter, it seems that there was an obituary in a previous edition, with a photo, although I don't know which month as I haven't bought this magazine before. It seems that Roberta, aged 54 at the time, did some test sessions behind the wheel of Tony Kitchener's Kitchmac F5000, although she never raced it.



#11 ian senior

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 13:31

Yes she did race the Kitchmac at least once. She competed in a Libre race at Rufforth in late August/early September 1972. Sadly, she spent  a fair bit of time spinning (lots of room to spin at Rufforth) and ran near the back of the field. The novelty of a transgender racing driver merited a small article and picture in the Yorkshire Evening Post (or Evening Press, can't remember which one) on the following day. Roberta sported an open face helmet painted red with black spots, which I thought was quite neat.  Sad to hear of her passing. A courageous lady, in more ways than one.



#12 Vitesse2

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 13:37

For those who haven't read it, there's a free PDF version of Roberta's autobiography available:

 

http://ebookbrowsee....y-pdf-d32893873



#13 bradbury west

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 19:15

Good to see you back, Ian.
Roger Lund

#14 fivestar

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Posted 14 October 2013 - 06:12

I note that Wikipedia still does not show Roberta Cowell's death.
i tried to update their info but could not.
If someone knows how to update their database it would be appreciated.
thanks - Michael

#15 Allan Lupton

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Posted 14 October 2013 - 08:12

I note that Wikipedia still does not show Roberta Cowell's death.
i tried to update their info but could not.
If someone knows how to update their database it would be appreciated.
thanks - Michael

Done it, not without trouble with the stupid format used.

#16 fivestar

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Posted 15 October 2013 - 06:36

Thanks Alan, but just now looking at Wekipedia it still only shows Born and no Death. Maybe you are having the same problem as me.
Michael

#17 Allan Lupton

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Posted 15 October 2013 - 07:50

Thanks Alan, but just now looking at Wekipedia it still only shows Born and no Death. Maybe you are having the same problem as me.
Michael

If you look at the History you'll see my edits and that someone called Redrose64 removed them as "unsourced" - which they were because I had no data. In post no. 5 "CiroMenotti" was quoting the death certificate but I couldn't include a link to a source of that.

#18 fivestar

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 05:12

Thanks Alan. Tried to contact CiroMenotti but he is no longer active.

Edited by fivestar, 16 October 2013 - 05:13.


#19 Sharman

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 14:55

For those who haven't read it, there's a free PDF version of Roberta's autobiography available:

 

http://ebookbrowsee....y-pdf-d32893873

Tried that Vitesse, getting a warning that this site is an active transmitter of viruses.



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#20 Vitesse2

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 15:20

Works fine for me - perhaps your firewall or AV is giving a false positive? However, I've just uploaded a copy to my Dropbox:

 

https://dl.dropboxus...owell Story.pdf



#21 Vitesse2

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Posted 27 October 2013 - 08:03

Obituary from today's Independent: 'It's easier to change a body than to change a mind': The extraordinary life and lonely death of Roberta Cowell

#22 Tim Murray

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Posted 27 October 2013 - 08:56

Confirmation at last. I thought it a very nice article about a remarkable person. Thanks Richard.



#23 zoff2005

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Posted 28 October 2013 - 14:36

I have just finished reading her Autobiography, written in 1954 - it is quite fascinating. Incidentally is the photograph (taken at Brooklands in 1939) on page 83 of DSJ?

Marcus



#24 Tim Murray

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Posted 28 October 2013 - 15:20

I certainly took it to be him.

#25 Vitesse2

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Posted 28 October 2013 - 17:48

I've posted this letter before - published in an early wartime edition of Motor Sport:

 

Sir,

Having just received your October issue, I should first like to say thank you for "carrying on". I see that you would like to hear from readers, so having been a regular reader for five years, here you are. It probably will not interest anyone but will fill up the odd corner.

Whilst at school in 1934 at the age of fourteen, a classmate of mine told me a number of interesting insights about a sport, of which I had heard but knew little, namely motor racing, or as I now know it, "The Sport". My enthusiasm soon grew and I began to buy motoring papers. The following year I had given to me Barre Lyndon's book "Grand Prix", this really fired my enthusiasm, and I was soon reading every book and paper on motor-racing I could lay my hands on. At that time the nearest venue was Brooklands, but unfortunately the cost to attend a meeting was more than I ever possessed and I had no friends with cars, who were interested enough to transport me there, so my motor-racing had to come from reports in the journals.

In 1936 I saw a racing car "in the flesh" or should I say "in the metal" for the first time, that was an ERA at the Schoolboys' Exhibition. Later in the year, whilst staying at Brighton, I found that the Lewes Speed Trials were quite near, so off I went to find the venue. It was there that I first saw racing-cars in action, what a thrill! There was a "works" sv Austin, Hadley up, MG's, Alta's, Bugatti's, the Vauxhall Villiers and that marvellous piece of machinery, Fuzzi. After that meeting I thought something must be done.

Nineteen hundred and thirty-seven, what luck! The Crystal Palace circuit was opening almost on my doorstep, no need to worry about transport. At that opening meeting I think I must have been one of the first to go through the turnstiles and I am sure the last to come out. Since then I haven't missed a RRC fixture. During that year and 1938 I found a means of attending some other meetings, that was the bicycle, for as I had now gone to a Technical College my funds would not allow a powered means of transport. Nineteen hundred and thirty-seven saw me attending at Lewes, Brighton, and one or two practises at Brooklands. Race day still being a little beyond my pocket. At last! August Bank Holiday 1938 I was able to attend a Brooklands meeting, and since then the track has been like home to me. The next question was Donington, 130 odd miles away! The Donington GP was my objective and fortunately, due to the Germans coming over, I was able to persuade some friends with a car, that it really was worth while going, on which point we all heartily agreed afterwards, even though Hitler nearly messed things up.

At the beginning of this year opportunity knocked loudly at my door and I wasted no time in opening it. The opportunity was given to me by Motor Sport in the February issue, when they published a letter from a reader, asking for someone to help with his racing car at meetings and such like. I offered my assistance and was accepted and I can honestly say I have had an interesting and enjoyable time, consisting of doing a spot of work at a racing car works, working on a pukka racing car, and attending a meeting in one of the fastest road cars in Great Britain, plus an hundred and one interesting and enjoyable jobs, here I should like to thank both Motor Sport and the reader in question. Through the same source I have been able to attend Shelsley and Prescott and numerous other speed trials such as Poole and Wetherby, all of which had been out of my reach, and of course Brooklands meetings, not behind the fence, but right out in front, all things of which I had dreamed of way back in 1934, and if this ------ war had'nt started I could have looked forward to another Prescott, Shelsley and Donington, and especially the runs to and from, which are always certain to be enjoyable, so the sooner we get back to normal, I for one will shout for joy.

I should just like to add another "thank you" for carrying on and if your staff can find enough interest in 200 miles a month to write "General Notes", everything in the garden will be lovely.

Hoping I haven't bored you too much.

I am, Yours etc

Denis S Jenkinson
London SE23

[As we have so often preached, it pays to cultivate youthful enthusiasm - Ed]

 

'The reader in question': RM Cowell.



#26 Paul Parker

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Posted 02 November 2013 - 14:54

I had also lost track of Ms Cowell. Jenks got his introduction to motor racing from Bob Cowell, acting as his mechanic/go-for at Brooklands pre-war. The wartime Spitfire pilot's one-time wife remained friendly with DSJ for many years, and was a well-qualified engineer in her own right. She survived terrible injuries in a road accident and eventually died in old age, I believe in a tragic house fire at home on the Isle of Wight. In the lottery of life we are all dealt a different hand...seldom as widely different from 'the norm' as those dealt to the Cowells.

DCN

 

I found myself facing Roberta Cowell across my desk when I was selling VW/Audis for Normand Continental in Kings Road, Hammersmith in 1986.

 

The reality was that she looked like an ageing man in drag with clumsy makeup, a rather sad and gruesome sight.

 

This is not to be disapproving, rather it was tragically shocking and I sensed that she knew this.