The Lady Bailey Challenge Cup Woman’s Amateur Athletic Association 880 yards Championship

By Dr Jane Ainsworth

History of the trophy: New Challenges

Since its donation in 1923, the Lady Bailey Challenge Cup has lived a life almost as eventful as its donor’s. The dedication quoted here shows that it was initially awarded to the winner of the 880 yards competition, later the 800 metres, and the champions of this event are inscribed on the trophy for the years 1923-1970. On the tragically early death of Lilian Board in 1970, a new trophy in her name was presented for the 800m, the money for which was raised by public subscription. From 1971 until the mid-1990s, the Lady Bailey Challenge Cup was awarded to the winner of the 3000m, an event which had first appeared on the women’s programme in 1968. Since 2010, when the trophies were again awarded, it has been awarded to the champion of the 3000m steeplechase.

Photo credit: David Rowan

The winners who received and were inscribed on this trophy are listed below, and include Olympic medallists Wendy Sly and Yvonne Murray, both 3000m. Eilish McColgan has also twice been the winner of this trophy in more recent years.

The Donor – Lady Mary Bailey, DBE
The first female president of the Women’s Amateur Athletics Association from 1938-1948, Lady Mary Bailey was born Mary Westenra in Rossmore, Ireland; the daughter of the fifth Baron Rossmore. At 16 she displayed her first tendency towards motorised flight, escaping the joys of home education on a motorcycle. After marrying Sir Abraham (‘Abe’) Bailey a South African diamond tycoon, politician, financier, and cricketer in 1911, she volunteered as an aircraft technician during World War I, serving in Britain and France. After the War she retired to bring up her children and be a Society hostess.

By 1926 Mary’s children were in boarding school and she started taking flying lessons. She was granted a pilot’s licence in early 1927 and in July that year set a world altitude record for her category of aircraft. The following year she became the first woman to fly solo from Croydon to Cape Town and back and won the Harmon Trophy as the world’s leading female aviator. She was created Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in recognition of her achievements in 1930 and in 1931 joined the Kharga Oasis project in Egypt with noted archaeologists Gertrude Caton-Thompson and Elinor Wright Gardiner where she was likely the first person to take aerial photographs for archaeological purposes. When the Second World War broke out she volunteered for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Lady Bailey held the presidency of the Women’s AAA from 1938-48, the first women to do so, relinquishing office after the 1948 Olympic Games.

Previous Winners*

880 Yds/ 800m 3000m
1923 E.F. Trickey1958 J.W. Jordan(1968 C. Firth*)
1924 E.F. Trickey1959 J. Jordan(1969 A. O’Brien*)
1925 E.F. Trickey1960 J. Jordan(1970 A. O’Brien*)
1926 E.F. Trickey1961 J. Jordan1971 J. Smith
1927 E.F. Trickey1962 J. Jordan1972 A. Yeoman
1928 I.P. Barber1963 P. Perkins1973 I. Knutsson
1929 V. Streater1964 A. Smith1974 J. Smith
1930 G. Lunn1965 A. Smith1975 M. Purcell
1931 G. Lunn1966 A. Smith1976 M. Purcell
1932 G. Lunn1967 A. Smith1977 C. Gould
1933 R. Christmas1968 V. Nikolic(1978 C. Benning*)
1934 G. Lunn1969 P. Lowe1979 D. Nagle
1935 N. Halstead1970 S. Carey1980 R. Joyce
1936 O. Hall 1981 C. Twomey
1937 G. Lunn 1982 D. Peel
1938 N. Halstead 1983 D. Peel
1939 O. Hall 1984 D. Peel
1945 (P. Richards)* 1985 Z. Budd
1946 P. Richards 1986 C.M. Benning
1947 N. Batson 1987 W. Sly
1948 N. Batson 1988 Y. Murray
1949 H. Spears 1989 A. Wyeth
1950 M.K.  Hume 1990 Y. Murray
1951 N. Batson 1991 Y. Murray
1952 M.J. Taylor 1992 L. York
1953 I.A. Oliver 1993 Y. Murray
1954 D.S. Leather  
1955 D.S. Leather  
1956 P. Perkins  
1957 D. Leather  

3000m Steeplechase

2010 T. Brown2013 E. McColgan2016 C. Green
2011 E. Raven2014 E. McColgan2017 I. Lake
2012 C. Boosey2015 E. MacReady2018 K. Ingle
  2019 V. Cronin