Californian author visits home of distinguished Bradford on Avon aviator

This Is Wiltshire: Author Nancy Wilson with her book outside Priory Steps Author Nancy Wilson with her book outside Priory Steps

A Californian writer flew to Bradford on Avon to launch her first ever book about one of the town’s greatest former residents.

Former nurse Nancy Wilson, 72, visited Priory Steps, the former home of Mary Bruce – the first woman to win the Monte Carlo Rally and to fly solo around the world.

Mrs Wilson’s book, Queen of Speed: The Racy Life of Mary Petre Bruce, is a biography of the daredevil racer, who held more than 18 world records on land, sea and air. The work was a labour of love, 22 years in the making.

Mrs Wilson spoke about the racer and her time in Bradford on Avon at her former home, which is now a guest house run by fellow experts, Carey and Diana Chapman.

Mrs Wilson said: “One day I picked up a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle, saw Mary’s obituary and couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard more about this woman.”

Following the death of Mrs Bruce at the age of 94 in May 1990, Mrs Wilson’s search for more information led to her eventually cross paths with the Chapmans at Priory Steps.

Mrs Wilson said: “I was told Carey Chapman had some of her stuff and I booked a one-night stay to look at some of it – I’ve been back a dozen times since then.

“I’m really, really delighted to be here and talking to local people about the book.”

Mr Chapman said: “I’ve really enjoyed helping Nancy in any way that I can. “People say that everyone has one book in them and I think this is the one I had in me, so for someone else to come and write it for me is just fantastic.”

Mrs Wilson timed her visit to coincide with last weekend’s Heritage Open Days event.

For more information about the book visit www.queen-of-speed.com.

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