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Last Updated:  Saturday, 8 March, 2003, 18:56 GMT
Suffragette mystery solved
Elspeth King
Elspeth King believes she has solved the mystery
A 90-year-old mystery was solved when a Scottish historian named the woman who set fire to the stand at Ayr Racecourse at the height of the Suffragette campaign.

The stand was burnt out in 1913, in one of a spate of fire bomb attacks attributed to the Scottish Suffragettes fighting for the vote for women.

No one was ever questioned about the attack and no arrests were made.

The identity of the woman responsible has always been guarded by friends and family.

Dead of night

The attack on the racecourse stand came two months before the most high profile act of the Suffragette campaign when Emily Davison threw herself in front of the King's horse at the Epsom Derby.

She died three days later.

The firebomb attack on Ayr Racecourse happened in the dead of night so there were no injuries.

However, 2,000 of damage was caused - more than 300,000 in today's money.

Kate Taylor
Catherine Taylor is suspected of the firebomb attack

It was one of a spate of acts by women across Scotland demanding the right to vote.

Elspeth King from the Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling said: "They smashed a case in the Wallace Monument; they smashed a case in the Royal Museum of Scotland; they damaged the King's portrait on show in the National Gallery in Edinburgh. They really did do serious damage."

Retribution was swift and harsh.

Women who were caught were imprisoned.

Years later families feared they would be prosecuted and asked for compensation for the damage, so the suffragette responsible for the Ayr attack has never been named.

'Our heroine'

On Saturday, as part of the celebrations for international women's day, Ms King named the woman as Catherine Taylor.

She was a cinema cashier from the Gorbals in Glasgow.

She died in 1930 but her surviving relatives have always been convinced she did it.

Ms King said: "It is wonderful that Kate Taylor can't be got at now.

"For years and years women worried about if there would be a comeback, if the government would turn on them, if the insurance companies would come back and their families always kept it secret.

"But she is our heroine."

Women gained the first stage in their fight for suffrage after the Ayr attack when the Reform Bill was passed in January 1918.

It allowed women above the age of 30 to vote in national elections.


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