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Jones, Nina Eva Vida (1882–1966)

by K. A. Johnson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Nina Eva Vida Jones (1882-1966), racing motorist, was born on 30 January 1882 at Livingstone House, Harris Street, Ultimo, Sydney, youngest daughter and seventh child of Sydney-born parents William Henry Harris, gentleman, and his wife Susan Mary, née Clarke, and niece of John and (Sir) Matthew Harris. Vida was educated at home with a sister.

At St John's Church of England, Darlinghurst, on 2 April 1910 Vida Harris married John Alexander Stammers Jones (1870-1933), brewer of Lithgow. He was born on 28 November 1870 at Currawang near Lake George, son of William Watkin Jones, Welsh mining surveyor, and his wife Eliza, née Mills. Educated at Cooerwull Academy, Bowenfels, he was a notable cyclist and a daring horseman in his youth. He won many races as an amateur rider and, an early member of the Sydney Hunt Club, gained many prizes in shows with his famous hunter Viking. He was a member of the Australian Jockey Club, Royal Automobile Club of Australia, Sydney Bicycle and New South Wales Light Car clubs.

They visited England, returning late in 1910 to live at Lithgow near the Zig Zag Brewery. Next year they built Nia Heymo (Esperanto for 'our home') at Darling Point, thereafter alternating between their two homes where they entertained liberally. A daughter and son were born at Lithgow in 1912 and 1913.

Mrs Jones started driving at Lithgow where her husband had two Darracq cars with which they practised climbs on their freak hill (with a gradient of one in two). In 1923 she toured northern New South Wales and Queensland and in Brisbane entered a reliability trial to Sydney. She took part in many events and trials organized by the R.A.C.A. In 1925 the Maroubra Speedway opened: in 1925-26 Mrs Jones drove her new 20/70 horsepower Crossley in events from scratch, winning the 'Weekender Trophy', averaging 78 miles (125 km) per hour in the heavy touring car. In a 24-hour event in 1927 she was one of the few women ever to win a gold medal.

The Zig Zag Brewery was sold in 1928 and the Jones family visited France and Italy looking at sports cars. At Milan they bought a 6-cylinder 1750cc supercharged Alfa Romeo. Mrs Jones drove it successfully, gaining the fastest time in 1929 at Sydney Bicycle and Motor Club's hill climb at Prospect and in the R.A.C.A. Kurrajong hill climb. At the Light Car Club's acceleration test on Bondi Promenade in June 1930 she gained the fastest time of 18.4 seconds for the quarter mile, beating sixty-seven male rivals. As soon as they were old enough her children also took part in motor sporting events.

After her husband died of cancer at Darling Point on 5 May 1933, Mrs Jones gave up competition driving. A colourful personality, she had become one of the legends of Australian motor sport. She died at her Darling Point home on 2 March 1966 and was buried in the Presbyterian section of Rookwood cemetery. Her estate was valued for probate at $149,875. She was survived by her daughter Vidie, who had married William Branthwaite Clarke, great-grandson of Rev. W. B. Clarke. Her son Jack had been killed in an aircraft accident at Mascot in 1939.

Select Bibliography

  • Motor Life, 22 Feb 1930
  • Wheels, Feb 1954
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 16 Aug 1927, 9 July 1929, 5 May 1933
  • private information.

Citation details

K. A. Johnson, 'Jones, Nina Eva Vida (1882–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jones-nina-eva-vida-6879/text11923, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 24 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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