Periwinkle Cotgrave was the definition of an all-rounder. She was a national sporting champion, a published poet, a businesswoman and an army officer. She even starred in a film that was shown in cinemas across the country.
When she was born in Ireland in November 1899, her father had already returned to duty in the army in India, and there is little if any evidence that she ever had much to do with him. Her parents were divorced in 1915. Her mother was from an old Anglo-Irish family, and her uncle was John Hardress Lloyd, a distinguished army officer who won a silver medal with Ireland’s polo team at the 1908 Olympics. She was given the names Mona Periwinkle, but almost never used Mona, and generally called herself Peri.
She took up golf as a young woman and in 1921 was described as “a most promising and painstaking young player who ought to have a future. She has a nice smooth swing…on the green she is weakest but there is no reason why that should not speedily be cured and that she may well be a match for almost anyone”. Throughout the 1920s, she became a fixture on the women’s golfing circuit; she and her partner won the Ladies Autumn Foursomes at Ranelagh in Dublin in 1924. She was the captain of the Burnham Beeches Golf Club, and was runner-up in the English Ladies Open Championship in 1926.
Given her background, she probably had no financial worries, but she ran a business from premises in Regent Street in London, where she offered “slimness and health for all” via physical training classes.
Peri Cotgrave’s literary efforts came to the fore in 1931, when she came second in the monthly poetry competition run by the Week-End Review, with a poem about Christmas roses. It was reprinted, with some minor improvements, in her collection of poetry called The Little Centaur in 1936. She was clearly closely involved in the publishing company, which was called Centaur Press, and in 1934, when it published a novel by Somerset Maugham, she was named as one of the two people who had hand-set the text in “Centaur type”.
Her fascination with centaurs appears to be related to an interest in astrology. Her own star sign was Sagittarius – the centaur – and her bookplate included the symbol for that sign – an arrow with a line through it.
Having lived in the Home Counties throughout the 1920s, she moved to Budleigh Salterton in Devon in about 1932, presumably to be near her mother, who by now was living there with her second husband. At this time, Peri’s name stopped appearing in the regular reports of golf tournaments and she presumably retired from competitive sport.
In 1930, she starred in a bizarre film called The Athlete, which had a cinema release, and which mostly consisted of RAF recruits doing drills and exercises. The last part was scenes of Peri Cotgrave “in some effective poses in beautiful settings”.
In the Second World War, she received an emergency commission into the Women’s Territorial Auxiliary Service. Then in later life, Peri moved back to her homeland, and she died in County Cork in 1975, leaving her estate to a friend called Patricia Fanshawe.
The Bioscope, 9 April 1930
Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, throughout the 1920s
Kensington Post, 9 November 1928
Various newspapers reports of golfing tournaments via britishnewspaperarchive.org
Cotgrave, P. (1936) The Little Centaur, Centaur Press
Maugham, W. Somerset (1934) Judgement Seat, Centaur Press
National Archives of Ireland: Birth Certificate 28 November 1899; Will Proved 14 May 1976, Cork.
Kelly’s Directory of Kensington 1930, Street Directory p.23
London Gazette, 7 July 1942, Supplement, p.2976
Hamilton Gallery, Victoria, Australia: 1981.1617
Week-End Review, 5 December 1931