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Beryl Swain, TT (Tourist Trophy) rider, at Grandstand with Itom machine number 54

Date(s): 1962

Scope & Content: Beryl Swain is a legend of the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT). In 1962 at the age of 26 she became the first solo woman to compete, riding in the 50cc race. Beryl completed two laps of the Mountain Circuit aboard an Italian Itom motorcycle to finish 22nd, ahead of some of her male rivals. Confident, she declared her intention to move on to more powerful machines the following year, hopefully contesting the Senior.

Beryl’s racing career however was to be cruelly cut short. The sport’s governing body, FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme), withdrew her racing licence on the grounds the sport was not suitable for women. In spite of Beryl’s protests, the decision was upheld. Beryl also approached the organisers of the Manx Grand Prix (MGP), proposing a 250cc race for women, but this was rejected. Women were not permitted to race at the MGP until 1989. Beryl hung up her leathers after 1962 and did not race again.

Prior to the 1962 TT the FIM had announced that riders would have to weigh a minimum of 9 stone 6 pounds. Beryl weighed less than 8 stone. Beryl was determined to race and she put on most of the necessary weight and was allowed to wear a diver’s belt to bring her up to the required weight.

It would be another sixteen years before in 1978 Hilary Musson became the next woman to compete at the TT in a solo race.

Beryl Swain, née Beryl J. Tolman, was born in Walthamstow on 22 January 1936. She died on 15 May 2007.

Language: eng

Item name: photograph

Collection: Photographic Archive

Level: ITEM

ID number: PG/8325/10

Subject tags : #TT&MOTORSPORT


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