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MNH receives historic racing material 16 August 2007

Beryl Swain getting ready to race.As part of their research for this summer’s TT Centenary exhibition ‘Staying the Course’, Manx National Heritage curators have uncovered some rather unusual and interesting artefacts. This ongoing research recently resulted in the leathers and other historic items belonging to an important motorcycling figure being donated to MNH.

Beryl Swain, who died in May aged 71, rocked the male-dominated world of motorcycle racing when in 1962 she entered the 50cc race at the Isle of Man TT. Aboard an Italian Itom motorcycle the 26 year-old finished 22nd (ahead of some of her male rivals), and declared her intention to move on to more powerful machines the following year, hopefully contesting the Senior.

This however was not to be, as the sport’s governing body, the FIM, withdrew her racing licence, on the grounds that racing was not suitable for women. In spite of Beryl’s protests, the decision was upheld.

Beryl’s family have now presented her finisher’s medal from the 1962 race, together with her racing leathers and helmet, to MNH.

MNH Curator of Social History Matthew Richardson commented:

We are delighted to have received this material, as it allows us to document another perhaps less well-known piece of TT history. Beryl was quite a star in her day, appearing on television as well as in the press. She was very beautiful, as well as a talented motorcycle racer. Who knows what she might have achieved, had her career not been abruptly cut short.

Manx National Heritage’s TT exhibition, ‘Staying the Course’, runs until 15 September at the Manx Museum. The Manx Museum is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, and admission is free of charge.

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