June 8, 1962 Beryl Swain is the first woman to ride solo in Isle of Man TT

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Women's Sport Monthly -

Rac­ing pioneer who de­fied author­ity

It may have taken 60 years to com­plete the jour­ney, but the road to Ana Car­rasco be­com­ing the first fe­male mo­tor­bike world cham­pion in 2018 be­gan in Waltham­stow with Beryl Swain. A 15ft mu­ral (right) – high on a gable end look­ing down on Wood Street, north-east Lon­don – de­picts Beryl in her rac­ing leathers, gog­gles perched on the peak of her gleam­ing red hel­met, blonde hair cas­cad­ing to her shoul­ders.

It is painted from a pho­to­graph taken in 1962 when news­reels treated Beryl as a cu­rios­ity rather than a se­ri­ous sportswoma­n, us­ing her fame to cam­paign for greater op­por­tu­ni­ties to com­pete. Pathe footage por­trayed her as “the rac­ing housewife”, a gim­mick de­signed to pro­mote her as an ad­junct to her hus­band Ed­die’s garage. In fact, she held a se­nior sec­re­tar­ial role in the City and funded her­self in the sport.

She started rid­ing af­ter meet­ing Ed­die in 1952 and took up se­ri­ous rac­ing af­ter they were mar­ried in 1958. She joined the Rac­ing 50 Mo­tor­cy­cling Club and pros­pered in the 50cc class, of­ten as the only woman, win­ning tro­phies at Snet­ter­ton, Cad­well Park, Gosling Sta­dium, Brands Hatch and Sil­ver­stone. In her first year of com­pe­ti­tion, she over­came a heavy crash at Crys­tal Palace, even try­ing to carry on de­spite blood leak­ing from her hel­met.

When, in 1962, the Isle of Man TT in­tro­duced a new 50cc ul­tra­lightweigh­t class, Beryl’s ap­pli­ca­tion pro­voked prej­u­dice and pub­lic­ity. She was ac­cepted, but the In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor­cy­cling Fed­er­a­tion brought in – for that class only – a min­i­mum weight re­quire­ment of 9st 6lb, claim­ing it feared pub­lic re­vul­sion if a woman was killed and that it was be­ing chival­rous, not prej­u­di­cial. Un­daunted, Beryl (right) switched to a high-carb and oil-heavy diet and, af­ter fea­tur­ing in sev­eral ar­ti­cles in the press, all with a con­de­scend­ing tone – “When it comes down to the hard graft she is a com­plete, help­less SHE,” wrote the Sun­day Mir­ror, point­ing out that Ed­die did the me­chan­i­cal work – she was al­lowed to carry lead weights as bal­last to make the limit.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.