Name: Beryl J Swain
Birth date: January 22, 1936.
Birth Place: Walthamstow England
Date of Death : May 15, 2007 (aged 71)
Place of Death :Epping
BERYL SWAIN - 1936 to 2007
50cc Racing Motorcyclist
"Some women refuse to be a slave of routine,” said Pathé News in 1962, the year Beryl Swain entered the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race. “Mrs. Beryl Swain not only works an office job and holds down a home, but has an unlikely hobby—motorcycle racing and,” says the announcer, with some muted astonishment, “she’s good at it!” But as good as she was, she was only allowed to do it once.
Beryl Swain, with the help of a strong will and 37.73 miles of urban streets, countryside glens and including the A18 Snaefell mountain road in Mona's Isle, become a legend of the Tourist Trophy fraternity. In 1962 at the age of 26 she was the first woman to compete solo by riding in the Isle of Man, Ultra Lightweight, 50cc TT race in an era when riding a motorcycle was not thought to be a terribly ladylike occupation.
In that year Beryl completed two laps of the Mountain Circuit riding her Italian Itom 50cc Racer into 22nd place, ahead of some of her male rivals, in a field of 25 in a race round the notorious 37-mile mountain road course, which has claimed many lives and inflicted fearful injuries over the years. Her average speed for the race was 48.33mph and this was in spite of loosing her top gear on the second lap. With the Itom being a three speed, hand-change engine, this was quite a remarkable performance.
It was the first year in which the 50cc Ultra Lightweight class had been granted world championship status, and the class was to prove immensely popular. Confidently, she declared her intention to move on to more powerful machines the following year, hopefully contesting the Senior 500cc TT.
But this was not, alas, to be the start of an international career for Beryl. It is believed that the male-dominated sporting body, the FIM along with the A.C.U. was afraid of the negative publicity that could be engendered should she, or any other lady be killed and that Isle of Man TT racing was far too dangerous for a solo women, took the regrettable step to revoked the female international licence along with the introduction of a minimum weight limit which, with her being a small 7st 8lbs, she could not meet. This resulting ban on female entrants when Hilary Musson entered the TT Formula 3, coming 15th. Musson continued to race at the TT until 1985. However this ban effectively put paid to Beryl's thoughts of a career at an International level.
Beryl Jean Tolman was born on 22 January 1936 in Walthamstow. Her family home was at 54 Marlowe Road. and Beryl lived here from 1936 until 1962. The house was demolished in the mid 1960s to make way for the Marlowe Road Estate. Beryl was the youngest of four children born to George and Amy Tolman. After attending school in the Wood Street area, Beryl trained to become a shorthand typist and in 1952 she worked as a senior secretary at P&O in the City.
It was around 1952 that she met Eddie Swain, from Bethnal Green, fell in love and they married at St Mary's Church in Walthamstow in 1958. Eddie was a motorcycle racer who ran his own shop and car/ motorcycle repair business, the Connaught Sport garage, in Stoke Newington. From the beginning, Beryl helped Eddie prepare his bikes for races all across England and while he occasionally raced, he preferred to provide a supportive role to other riders. As one can imagine it did not take long for him to convince her to swing a leg over a motorcycle.
Eddie bought Beryl her first motorcycle, a 98cc Moto Guzzi Zigolo which she used as her mode of transport and the love for the motorcycle and speed continued to grow from that point. She virtually took off from there, literally.
A little later Beryl found that the riding style of the Guzzi did not suit her or give her the feel of a race bike and so moved to a Maserati Tipo 50-T2-SS 'Rospo' (also called a Toad). This style of riding with a forward crouch position gave her a chance to get road experience for her racing an d being a '50' allowed her to manage the engines capabilities for road and race. During the week the bike had all of its normal gear mounted, lights, number plate, standard exhaust but on race day all of this was removed and number plates mounted instead. sometimes the plates stayed. There were other 50cc riders who did the same with their bikes. However Beryl's main aim was to own an Italian Itom 50cc Astor.
The Maserati TIPO 50cc Sports Moped
Beryl's first Itom was an Astor Super Sport with a semi tuned engine, 18mm sports carburettor and 18 inch wheels. (Photgraph Kenneth Jones 1961
She found the whole experience exhilarating. She became a member of several motorcycle clubs, starting with the 'The Chiltern 50 Motorcycle Club' which was re-named the Racing 50 Motor Cycle Club (R50MC), and 'The Hackney Wick Speedway Club.' Beryl was seen to be an active member of the groups and not hesitant in voicing her opinion on matters of racing. Soon, she was entering races at Crystal Palace, Snetterton and Brands Hatch, in the small and manoeuvrable 50cc class, though she did try out some 50 0cc speedway bikes. At Brands Hatch, during filming for the BBC "Sportsview" program on Beryl, Margo Pearson and Pat Wise and after a six month break, she was very near the the lap record for the much enjoyed, smaller-engined 50cc motorcycles coming within 3 seconds of the lap time.
Beryl's comment to the press in 1962, “This was my first time on the track for six months and my hands were frozen round the twistgrip, I was told I had managed to get within three seconds of the lap record for 50ccs around the Brands Hatch circuit. I felt really good about that”
Beryl character was very straight forward and said exactly what she thought. The R50MC was trying hard to improve the racing calendar and were always trying to find new venues for the members to race at. The support was not always there from the membership, especially the racing members and Beryl was not happy. She sent this letter to the secretary for inclusion in the July issue of the club magazine .
Editor: As a member of the club at the time, I did not think it was held against her but it produced serious discussion on how we could get over this problem Organisers of race meetings needed a good number of riders to make the class worthwhile and to interest the spectators. If the numbers were not forth coming then the class would have to take track time along side another class that would have a larger engine capacity.
She then purchased a one-piece leather suit from Lewis Leathers, which she teamed with a distinctive helmet. She painted this to match her bike: red with white stars for Brands Hatch and other short circuits and then the purple blue helmet with yellow s tars to match the tank with a yellow background and purple stars for the TT. She reverted to the red and white scheme for 1963.
Apart from both Beryl and Eddie preparing and tuning the little "Wasp" racer, more often than not, in their kitchen, Beryl had two other friends who helped her during her racing lifetime, Bob Summerill, her brother George's best friend, became her first mechanic - he was known for working wonders with the somewhat temperamental Itom. He noted that Beryl, “as a racer she was aggressive, really aggressive and she wouldn't give way to anyone".
Beryl fettling one of her engines on the kitchen table. She helped Eddie a lot in maintaining the bikes.
No space or cover outside to keep the bikes and so the passage by the stairs became home to the Zigolo and the Maserati.
The Itom Competition took over when it arrived as the other two were sold.
In the late 50s and early 60s not all 50cc riders had workshops or places outside their houses where they could work on their bikes as they really started racing by owning a "moped" for travelling to work instead of using a bicycle. When they were aware that they could transform their little bike into a racer and take part in fast, low cost, racing the bug took hold. Like the editor, who had to ask his parents permission to have the 'motor' bike in the home, work and storage was often done in the bedroom or out-house with the bike kept under the stairs. This was the same with Beryl as you can see from the pictures showing the Guzzi and Maserati and when they were sold, the Itom Racer took pride of place.
The Competition model or 'Competizione' was also first imported in this year with it's highly tuned cylinder. it was supplied with an extra high compression cylinder head, megaphone racing exhaust (like “Cowhorn” but with a small reverse cone at the end). Extra jets for carburettor and a chest pad was fitted on tank.
Barbara Bound, another racing lady of the track, made the following comments: "During the late 1950's I also had the pleasure of joining other young women racing on various circuits, those ladies being: Beryl Swain, Pauline Dale, Margo Pearson and Helen Mitchell". "We belonged to the Chiltern 50cc Racing Club and an average speed in those days (on a 50cc ITOM manufactured in Italy) was 42.30mph which, on occasions, meant we were touching 70mph"!
The trophy was presented by Montesa Motorcycles
Small Keep Sake trophy and to the right the winners of the trophy. Beryl Swain 1961
"In 1959 I won the 'Ladies Shield' for the best performance for the year of a female rider. I received the shield and a small keep sake trophy". The trophy was presented by Montesa Motorcycles of Watford, England, owned by Barbara's Dad Jim Bound and was to highlight the effort and dedication the 'Ladies' were putting into the racing scene. The previous years winner of the trophy was Pauline Dale and in 1960- Beryl Swain.
A caption in the 1960s press: Slow, too many breakdowns. Unexciting?' Not after last Saturday’s 250-mile Chiltern Enduro 50 c.c. race over 92 laps of the 2.71-mile Snetterton, Norfolk, circuit! Slow? The winning team, W. D. Ivy and M. Thomas (Itom), averaged 47.82 m.p.h. for over five hours, nearly as fast as many “250s” in the Thruxton 500 Miles, and Ivy made the fastest lap at over 55m.p.h. The first woman finisher was Mrs. Beryl J. Swain (co-rider S. R. Williams) (Itom). In 5 hours she covered 77 laps. The meeting was organised by the Racing 50 M.C.C. - once known as the 'Chiltern Fifties,' and was closed to members of that club.
With membership of the club going UK wide it was decided to change its name to The Racing 50 Motor Cycle Club and under that name entered a team for a race in Ireland at the Curragh on the 17th September 1960. The contingent consisted of 20 riders. International licences were required for this meeting and fortunately Beryl had hers. Final results are not available but those for the heats are pictured. After the meeting the team travelled back for the Sunday race at Brands Hatch.
However, things didn't always go according to plan during 1960. At her first appearance at Crystal Palace, she hit an obstacle on a practice run and was catapulted off her bike, ending up with concussion. Despite the blood streaming from beneath her helmet. she insisted she was well enough to race, but someone sabotaged her chances by removing the chain off her bike.
On Friday 31 March 1961, Beryl entered a 50cc race at Brands Hatch . She was up against a field of 42 starters with a mix of well experienced riders and some who were taking the 50cc route for experience in racing to compete in much larger capacity motorcycle classes. Due to the remarkable interest in this class it was over subscribed and Beryl was entered as a “Reserve”. However due to two non-starters she was able to race. Her race number was 195 and she started towards the rear of the grid.
After a good start she move through the field to take 10th place, a position she held to the finish line. She was the only lady rider in the race and she beat 32 other riders including the likes of Dave Simmonds (11th), Don Juler, Jim Pink, Mike Simmonds and Alan Dawson on the Pope Special to name a few. The winners time for the 3 lap race was 8m 16.8secs with a speed of 57.6 mph.
Brands Hatch - Sunday 20th August 1961. To improve sales of their bikes in the UK, the MOTOM company from Italy came over here in 1961 with six of the Works racers. These 'four stroke' models had a torsion bar valve return system instead of valve springs; also with 4 gears, speeds of 80mph were being talked about.
The entries list from the program of 20th August 1961. Beryl is No. 147.
In this picture Beryl No.147 can be seen at the back of the grid. The other riders in the photograph are 150-Phil Horsham, 108-D H Baluch, 136-P Lucas, 47- R (Bob) Foster.
The last picture shows the full start grid. This picture has been notated, if anyone recognises a ride please let the webmaster know.
Comment by Roy Nicholson for the Motorcycle Sport April 1963 when discussing 50cc racing. "However the results of events in which the Motoms took part did not entirely justify their reputation. if memory serves me right, in only one race did they score a convincing win, and that was at Silverstone where Peter Inchley set a new lap record at 56 m.p.h., an increase of some 4m.p.h. At Crystal Palace they finished second, third and fourth behind a lone Itom, and in the Racing 50 Club's 250-mile Enduro a crash and mechanical troubles put them all out of the running. Their last appearance was at Brands Hatch where David Simmonds brought home the first Motom in fourth place behind a fighting trio of Itoms. Beryl came in 11th and from the back of the grid, this was a good result and showed she was a competitor to be reckoned with. (Photograph: Phil Ainsley / MOTOM)
These are a few of the other races that Beryl competed in during 1961. The meeting on the 19th August was at the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire. The following day, as you have just read, Beryl was competing at Brands Hatch in Kent.
These are some of the races that Beryl competed in during 1961
We are in need of more program information if you have it. Please email the webmaster.
Charlie Mates was also in the August race, number 146 and came 2nd. Charlie, a well known competitor in the 50cc and 125cc classes in the late 1950s and 60s and in his earlier days had ridden at Junior and Senior levels and now, as a member of the R50MCC, would often write short notes for the magazine. One such note was penned for the November 1961 issue of the Magazine.
"Hello Clubmates!. I must say that I enjoy the chats that one has in the paddock and I cherish the friendships that I have made in the Racing 50 Club. When I used to race the bigger stuff back in 1959, there was never that friendship and helping hand that I have found with the tiddlers. Also I must tell you - The other Saturday, a few weeks ago, I was down at Brands trying out some mods. I took the bike out and was going around nice and steady when another fifty shot past me. I followed the rider and was thinking to myself that he could do with a haircut when I realised that the rider was a girl. I don’t know who she was but I was very impressed with the way in which she was handling the bike, and I hope she is a member of the Club. Well that's all from me - see you at the A.G.M,"
(Editor)...That girl was Beryl Swain riding the new CCS Itom, 3 speed, that Eddie was preparing for her to compete in the IoM TT in June 1962. A practice day was ideal for shaking the bike down and deciding if anything needed doing.
The Gosling Stadium, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire
Saturday, 14th April 1962
The Racing 50 MCC staged a first meeting on the Gosling Stadium cycling track at Welwyn Garden City, Herts., in glorious sunny weather but before a medium sized crowd of only a few hundred. For some reason the event had not been advertised in the motorcycle press and did not draw the expected crowed.
This was the first motorcycle race in the UK that used a banked circuit, races on a similar circuit before this would have used Brooklands, the last one being in 1939. Beryl Swain competed in this event and riding well in the heats made the third semi-final. She w as against R. Jasper Smith, P. Lucas, Bill Ivy and Mike Simmonds. (The 50cc runners who formed such an impressive spectacle are P. Lucas, (No. 15), R. J. Smith (No. 19) and our lady competitor Mrs. Beryl Swain (No. 17). All rode Itom two-strokes. The little Italian models filled almost all places in the results list.)
After a close race, the finishing order was Jasper Smith, Mike Simmonds, and just beating Beryl over the line into third place by a small margin, was the 'up and coming' Bill Ivy. All competitors rode the Italian Itom 50cc model racer. Only the first three finishers could go forward and so Beryl was not able to make the final. However, riding on a banked circuit gave her more training and an experience she might not have got anywhere else. The following photographs were taken at the circuit in the Gosling Stadium.
Beryl on the Itom. Gosling Stadium
With Eddie Swain and Charlie Mates. Gosling.
Beryl ahead of the Pack
Beryl and Eddie at the Gosling Stadium
Can Anyone fix my Exhaust Pipe?
A Press interview with Beryl Swain prior to the 1962 Isle of man TT 1962
(A motorcycle paper press cutting).
"I Have been doing all I can to give lady riders as much publicity as possible. Margo Pearson, Pat Wise and myself recently appeared on BBC's Television Programme ‘Sportsview’, which I am told had quite an interesting reception." Margo, Pat and I are the only three women racing at the moment, Margo rides a 125 cc Montesa motorcycle, Pat rides a 350cc Norton and I ride an Italian ITOM 50 cc about which there has been so much publicity this year".
"As regards the TT races I think I am correct in saying that I shall probably be the only woman rider this year. Pat is not able to have an International Licence, and I believe that Margo is a little undecided at the moment. I am the only one who rides these 50 cc machines and the ACU will only permit women riders for the TT providing they have the International Licence".
"If you did happen to see SportsView you may remember that the announcer commented on the fact that I am always placed on the last row at Brands Hatch and as I usually come in with the first ten riders I should be placed on the second row, but I presume that because I am a woman I must be lucky that I am allowed to ride at all".
"People ask me what I enjoy about racing and I usually tell them - speed. These ITOMs are reaching around the 80 mph mark. Two or more weeks ago I went to Brands Hatch with the TV people and after filming I tried a couple of fast laps".
"This was my first try for six months and my hands were frozen round the twistgrip, but I was told I had managed to get within three seconds of the lap record for 50 cc's, being (I believe) 1 min. 17 secs. My time was 1 min. 20 secs, which I think proves I was doing over 70 mph, Brands being a 1¼ mile circuit".
The 50cc Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Race Friday Morning, 8th June 1962.
The Isle of Man, As Peter Pan would have said 'Never, Never Land', if you have never been there you never, never know what you have missed. It's a place of one's dreams and if you have the courage, those dreams can come true. Beryl had the dream to ride in the Isle of Man TT but when the dream began there was not a class that she felt comfortable to be in.
In 1962 the chance came to enter for the Ultra Lightweight 50cc class and she did just that. As you will see she did well for herself and finished the course gaining the admiration of many of her fellow riders. So begins the story:
Run under the same magnificent weather conditions as earlier races in T.T. week the 50cc event provided a long overdue victory for the Japanese Suzuki factory. Ernst Degner covering the two laps (76.46 miles) of the Isle of Man mountain circuit at an average speed of 75.2 mph and putting in the fastest lap of the race, The only one under 30 mins. at 75.52 mph.
During practice week this much publicised woman rider Mrs Beryl Swain, was only out on the first two sessions, for she was unwell for the third and final period held on the Saturday morning. She was therefore unable to do more than three laps, the best of which was 47 mins. 23.6secs. at a speed of 47.77 m.p.h. Over the Sulby Straight we clocked her at 54.22m.p.h. and up the Mountain climb she clocked at at 44.12.
During their discussions before going to the Island, Beryl and Eddie decided to take Eddies 1947 Norton Dominator across with them as it would allow them to tour the course and familiarise Beryl with the topography. That way she would have some knowledge of what she was up against with road conditions and countryside before Practice Week.
This paid dividends as when, during the times of feeling a little better, it helped her during practice week to gain a more knowledge of the course than she got from her short, organised practice periods. During the same week the 'Examiner' TT Special paper, Friday 8th June 1962, put out a listing of the riders and a little about them. This is what they posted about Beryl.
The following photographs are shots taken during the practice week on the Island.
WHO'S WHO IN THE TT RACES (Isle of Man Examiner)
Mrs. B. J. Swain
Mount: 50 c.c.— C.S.I. Itom Age: 26,
Begins - Beryl Swain is a shorthand typist and comes from Walthamstow, London, E.17. She started 50cc racing in 1959, and since then has several times been placed between fourth and eighth at Brand's Hatch, Crystal Palace, Gosling Stadium, Silverstone, Snetterton, etc.
As is generally known, she is the first, and so far the only, woman driver in the ‘T.T‘. races. Beryl tells us that her machine is tuned and prepared by her husband. “He does all the hard work," she says, "I just ride it.” Hobbies: Gardening, knitting and making all her own clothes. ends. - ends
Beryl Swain 1962 - Artist, Tom Discart
The Race Ritual Commences:
All racing motorcycles do, under the FIM ruling, have to go through a check-in and scrutineering. this ensures that the right person is riding the correct machinery and that all forms have been signed and accepted by the check-in staff. the bike and rider then has to go through the scrutineering bay to check that the machine conforms to the laid down rules and that the rider has the correct clothing, helmet and dog tag. No.54 is Beryl Swain pushing in towards the Check-in point and then Scrutineering.
At 11.00am on the hottest morning of the week, almost sultry in fact, Ernst Degner, No2, is flagged away, on his own as No. 1, would have been Tom Phillis. the next pair go off 10secs later and so on until Beryl Swain pushes off 5m 40secs later.
With fair hair billowing out from under her helmet, Mrs, Beryl Swain made a good start on her yellow-painted, star motif Itom - not exactly a potential winner but, as the first woman rider in a TT race, this starter is getting the closest attention from the" dailies". Questions being asked around the Grandstand were, for example: Will she make the full distance? Has she the stamina? Will that little bike hold out?. Every one was looking at the leader board or listening to the commentary.
Over the Tanoy came the voice of the commentator: "It seems that Beryl Swain is not going too well, for she is still shown at Ramsey, where as No.57, P. R. Horsham, who started 20 seconds after her, has passed the Bungalow".
It is 11.44a.m. -- Beryl has arrived and is passing the Bungalow. So, she's still going O.K.
At 11.50, Beryl is shown at Signpost, having gone through Creg-Ny-Ba and down the straight to Brandish Corner.
The light illuminates on the board for No.54 and here she is, coming past the pits, and having overtaken seven “male drivers” in the first lap. Beryl Swain completes her first torturous racing lap in a time of 46m.57.4s. and a speed 48.21mph. This is a lap time faster than any of her practice efforts and better than some of her male rivals in the race.
The leaders and other riders have now passed the chequered flag and no sign of Beryl. Those in the grandstand have been watching the light s pop up each time Beryl passed a check point. They can now hear the scream of a tortured banshee from the 'Cowhorn' exhaust of her Itom as its capable rider is coming out of Governor's Bridge, trying for a little bit more power out of the tiny engine.
It is 12.39. Finally, the light goes up for No. 54, Beryl Swain and she crosses the line after averaging 48.44 mph for the second and last gruelling lap. How the crowd in the Grandstand cheers! The first woman ever to ride in the Isle of Man TT races, completes the course in 1hr33min 41.4 secs, unfortunately outside the Bronze replica time. Beryl came in ahead of a further three finishers, P. Hardcastle Itom 1.33.4 8.0 48.33mph, J. Waller Itom 22.214.171.124 45.92mph and Roy Bacon on BITS (made up from a number if motorcycle parts) 126.96.36.199 41.23mph. One reporter in the Motor Cycle made the remark "But surely some special award will be made" but unfortunately nothing was forthcoming. The picture on the left is of Beryl collecting her T.T. medal.
A small gallery of shots of Beryl riding the course.
I was able to speak with Beryl during a meeting at Brands Hatch later in the year and she told me that without the training she had put into getting ready for this event, considering her problem of being very unwell during the practice week, she did not think that on the morning she would have had the stamina to complete the course. But she did and said that it was more strenuous than she had at first believed but "Oh it was so worth it".
THE 1962 50 c.c. RACE (as reported in the BP publication - 1962 T.T. Races)
The introduction of the 50 c.c. class into international racing and its acceptance in the T.T. races meant one more race in the T.T. calendar. And history in the Isle of Man was made by the appearance for the first time of a lady rider. Previously only three ladies had taken part in‘ the racing and they were all sidecar .passengers.
Degner, who, since he left East Germany, had been working on the Japanese Suzuki, was first away and was soon astonishing the crowd by averaging almost 75 m.p.h. from a standing start. But Anscheidt proved an adept on his twelve-speed gearbox and showed surprising acceleration. At the end of the first lap Degner had a lead of fifteen seconds over Taveri on the Honda. Another Honda with Robb up was less than half a second slower but Anscheidt was down on lap speed, being fourth, twelve seconds behind Robb and being overtaken by him on the road.
The second lap was a repetition "of the first. Degner went still farther ahead and pushed his race average to over the 75 m.p.h. figure. Anscheidt managed to pull back four seconds from Robb; not enough to affect the placing. lchino and Itoh, both on Suzukis, changed places on the second lap, the latter having the best of it at the end. Mrs. Beryl Swain, the lady rider of an Itom, finished a creditable twenty-second out of the twenty-five who completed the course. There were 58 entries for the race and at the beginning of the race these had been whittled down to 33 non-starters or non-attendance.
These photographs are from the booklet above and from its gallery of Motorcycle Stars. It is good to see Beryl as a member of that gallery. The web page will, when I have had time to develop it, have a full display of the BP Booklet.
The 'Racing 50 Motor Cycle Club' Enduro of 1962
On Saturday August 4th 1962 Beryl and Eddie Swain entered the Enduro which was held at the Snetterton circuit in Norfolk. The following is based on part of the report on the Enduro posted in the R50MC magazine and from Jeep's memory:
When they entered this event the Simmonds brothers were not quite sure as to which machine they should enter, the W.C.S., or the Tohatsu, because at that time there was very little in the overall performance, they decided on the Tohatsu. Dave Simmonds left the start line like a rocket with Charlie Mates and Maurice Thomas in tow on their Itoms. Thomas Woolley was also away well along with the Swains.
Not many laps had taken place before a most exciting duel took place between Charlie Mates and Maurice Thomas for second position but almost anyone would have said that this style of riding could only lead to disaster. It did, and soon both machines cried enough letting the very steady Mk VI Itom of Thomas Woolley/Rodger Cramp into Second place.
Brian Brader and Beryl Swain were in hot pursuit of the leaders, both on Itoms and swapped 3rd and 4th places through out most of the race. At half distance it was still the Tohatsu of the Simmonds brothers leading from Cramp/Woolley; alas the Brader/Johnson Itom had the motor seize and that was the end of the race for them, so Beryl Swain was now 3rd. Then the T. Woolley/Roger Cramp Itom began to misfire (the contact breaker pivot was loose in the back-plate) and they made several pit stops eventually falling back to 3rd. This then gave Beryl and Eddie a move up the field and they came through to the finish taking 2nd place in the Enduro. Throughout the race the engine of the Swain Itom never missed a beat and with good pit stops they achieved a consistent and event-free race. Very well Done.
Eddie Swain had prepared the 3 speed Itom for both he and Beryl to ride at this Enduro and it was competitive with other 3 speeders but when the 4 speed bikes came on the scene its power was not as manageable. Eddie was hoping to provide Beryl with a 4 speeder for future races in 1963 and according to paddock rumour, was working on a 6 speeder again for the 1963 season.
This race is the only race catering for 50cc. where pit work is of any significance (or indeed exists at all), some thought may well be given to how time can be saved. and efficient pit work can contribute to a good result. The fuelling requirement of all is a good funnel and a quick pouring 'fuel can', Eddie ably shows this when re-fuelling Beryl's Itom, Depending on stage of tune. the motor will consume as little as 3 gallons. or as much as 8 gallons in the 250 miles.
Beryl and Eddie at the 1962 50cc Enduro. Beryl was also known affectionally in the pits and the 50cc racing group in general, as the 'Walthamstow Flying Housewife' (Mick Walker - The Will to Win)
The late Brian Woolley made the following comment on the Enduro report in the Club magazine: 'Second place was a magnificent achievement and a very well ridden race by ever popular Eddie Swain and his charming wife Beryl, surely if BBC Sportsview want to award a sports Family Favourite Trophy, they need look no further than our own Club to provide the participants (no pun intended)'. Motorcycle engineer Brian Woolley was one of Britain’s foremost two-stroke engine specialists and helped with the development of one of the last Villiers Engines.
Referring back to the R50MC Enduro, Beryl and Eddie were delighted with the result they achieved and immediately started discussing the possibility of entering the 1963 race if arranged by the club. Eddie's desire was to prepare more than one Itom and run a team. Eddie had already started naming the Itom a Connaught Sports Itom (CSI.) and wanted to run a team under his garage name 'CONNAUGHT SPORT GARAGE'. With a 4 or even 6 speed gearbox he believed it would give him the edge. Still more of that later.
THE GUINNESS TROPHY MEETING Snetterton - Oct 7th 1962.
Considering the location and the allocated time slot one wouldn't expect a 3 lap race of 8.13 miles, to be of much interest to the riders and spectators, but in fact it was a hell of an event. it was held, as was the entire meeting, in superb sunny weather conducive to good, fast racing.
Watching the start from a hundred yards in front of the line gave a perfect view of the grid The moment the flag fell, Dave Simmonds fairly rocketed into the lead with Tom Woolley right on has tail as they passed the vantage point with George Ashton close behind - I had time to notice poor Beryl Swain making a terrible start. The Itom wold not fire on the first push and she had to re-do the bump a couple of times and then the engine sprang into life and she was rolling. That left her last off the line of a 38 bike grid and she was away through Riches Corner and on to Sears.
2.20 on the watch and the flying Tohatsu was in sight on Coram Curve, than down past the pits to be followed at a considerable distance by "Jasper" Smith, Itom, then Tom Woolley, on his MkVI ITOM. However as they bowled past the pits, Phil Horsham was already passing Tom, putting him into 4th place. More bike pass and then Beryl, head down and she has already overtaken 9 riders.
Looking towards Coram Curve again and waiting for the leaders and still it was Dave Simmonds - Phil Horsham - Jasper Smith - Tom Woolley - then from now here, Mike Simmonds flew through with the ITOM-Tohatsu special, to pass the MkVI. The Ian Ager Itom, water-cooled, which was in a nice 6th place and ridden by George Ashton, suddenly went silent as the motor seized. A,G, Hutchings finally passed Dudley James - that was how they finished.
During the whole of the race it is worthy to note that Beryl Swain was going like a demon to make up places. she finally managed to come in, after overtaking many (24) other riders, to finish taking 14th place. There were other riders very close in front of her. one of these was Ceri Dundas-Slater, photograph to the right, the other lady rider in the race, who managed to finish 12th. Beryl was 13th, a very notable ride for both ladies and 'Bravo to them both'
Beryl Rides the step-through Honda 50cc Cub.
Beryl was involved in another motorcycle trial of endurance during 1962, the 'Maudes Trophy' an ambitious seven-day test spanning the 27th October until 3rd November and running 24-7 with three machines. This time she was not paired with Eddie but with 17 other riders including the late Little Bill Ivy. The team also included two serving policemen and another lady rider Olga Kevolos, who also raced on the local circuits. Olga (6 November 1923 – 28 October 2009) was an English Motorcycle trials and Enduro rider who was the only woman to win two gold medals at the International Six-Day Trial.
Motor Cycle News staffman Pat Braithwaite was one of the 18 riders guiding these standard lightweights for the seven long days and nights. Writing about the endurance test in the November 14 issue of MCN he said: “The only unfair thing about the test was the weather. When it wasn't raining like the monsoons, it was bitterly cold, and as more often than not gale force winds — on one occasion a force nine - added their blast to the water and the temperature.
The idea for this motorcycle endurance trial had its beginning with a desire by Honda Europe to distinguish itself, by attempting to win the Maudes Trophy Trophy, awarded by the Auto-Cycle Union for an outstanding achievement under the ACU's observation. This was carried out, on Wednesday October 24 at midday at the Goodwood race track located in West Sussex with three Honda 50cc machines taking to the track and circulating for 7 days and 7 nights. Their success took the trophy from BSA who had held it for ten years.
Beryl Swain and Olga Kevolos with the Honda 50cc Cub and two Honda Mechanics
A team of 18 riders were to take turns riding the machines for two hours apiece. This routine was OK for the first day but with 2 on and 4 off, and one needs to sleep at some time, it became tiring for the riders and a personal endurance for them. At each pit stop it was intended to keep the engines running. No less than nine ACU observers were on duty. The models, a C114 sports motorcycle and two step-thru mopeds spent 168 hours circulating the Goodwood circuit and covered a total mileage for the three machines of some 16,000 miles. The weather conditions experienced over the seven days could not have been worse, with torrential rain, biting winds and night-time ice throughout the week. The winds, more often than not at gale force and on one occasion a force nine. the bikes had to be ridden almost to the limit to maintain their schedules. Iced carburettors were common, but coped with and with the end result being the trophy, a very rewarding time was had by all..
Motor Cycle News staffman Pat Braithwaite was one of the 18 riders guiding these standard lightweights for the seven long days and nights. Writing about the endurance test in the November 14th issue of MCN he said: “The only unfair thing about the test was the weather. When it wasn't raining like the monsoons, it was bitterly cold, and as more often than not gale force winds — on one occasion a force nine - added their blast to the water and the temperature.
Up to mid 1962, it had been a relatively short career for Beryl but with some success. Before the TT, at circuits such as Brands Hatch, Crystal Palace and Snetterton, she attracted a lot of media attention. Pathé News gave her career and her role in the racing scene great coverage and the film footage still appears on YouTube.
With her high profile in the media, there was a misconception from some race fans in believing her to be the only female rider in the 50cc class of racing motorcycles for the period 1957 to 1963, but that was not so. Yes she was dominant at that time but there were other ladies before her on the tracks and some who raced alongside her, who also paved the way for 'girls' to race and be accepted by their male peers: These should not be forgotten. Barbara Bound, Pauline Dale, Helen Mitchel, Cerie Dundas-Slater, Jean Latham, Margo Pearson all of these started on or raced the 50cc machine.
The following programs are of some of the races that Beryl raced in after the TT. In the third pair of photos is the 50cc collection point at Brands Hatch on the 23rd September, 1962. She did race at other meetings but I do not have programs or reports on them. If readers have any information please email it to the page.
8th July 1962
8th July 1962
19th August 1962
19th August 1962
23rd September, 1962.
23rd September, 1962.
Continuing the saga of the International Road Racing Licence:
As the reader of this page will be aware from the above story, it was through lobbying by the participants and supporters of the sport that enabled lady riders to be allowed to hold an International Licence for the Isle of Man T.T. If granted this would make the change from them previously only being able to graduate from the Clubman to a National licence and stop there, which precluded them from riding at any race in the UK that had an International tag or one abroad. It gave them the full spectrum.
As a result of this lobbing it was in 1962 that the FIM changed its rules allowing Beryl Swain, to take full advantage of this and become the first female solo rider competing in an Isle of Man T.T.
However before many months had passed the FIM and A.C.U., feeling that Isle of Man TT racing was far too dangerous for solo women, did an about-turn and in 1963, before the season started, they banned women solo riders again from International races. A woman rider would not race at the Isle of Man T.T. again until 1978, when Hilary Musson started her career with Yamaha.
Also they brought in weight limits for riders to ensure, as they believed, that there was a fairer approach to competition. This limit did effect Beryl and Kirstin Sibley covers this later in this page and in her booklet.
This turn around meant that Beryl's application to ride in the 1963 TT was turned down and with no chance of her changing this decision, caused her quite some distress. "Why, when I have proved I am capable, but happen to be a woman, can they do this to me"? However she was a feisty lady and decided to carry on racing in the Racing 50 Club's annual Enduro and any, up to National, club races held on UK tracks,
The following story, concerning these weight limits, is from a interview I had with Ian Ager when we were speaking about articles for the the Racing 50 Enthusiast Club news letter and from an email I received after. Ian Ager, was a rider of note on the 50cc in the 1960s and an active member of the R50RC. Now retired he still keeps an active interest in 50s and his V Twin BSA.
"Towards the end of the race season in 1962 there was a meeting at the Snetterton circuit organised by BMCRC with a class for 50cc's. To share the transport costs (with petrol at 5/-. 25p a gallon) we all agreed to go up in my 15 cwt Ford Thames van, that was Ray 'Jasper' Smith, Bill Ivy, Brian Cockell and yours truly. On goes the Primus stove for a brew up of nice hot tea, and a couple of pieces of charcoal black toast cooked over the open flame of the Primus. It was during this breakfast that Bill told us this little story".
"For those of you who ever had the pleasure of knowing 'Little Bill Ivy' you would know of his ability of being the greatest of practical jokers and storytellers whilst keeping a straight face, leaving you not knowing if you had been taken for a ride or had been told the truth".
"Bill was talking about his trip over to the island for the 50cc T.T. and said when he went with the bike for scrutineering he was asked to jump on the weighing scales to be weighed and then told that he was under the official weight limit for the class and would have to carry some ballast to make up the weight. So off he trots to the local builders merchant and buys some lead sheet that they use for flashing on house roofs. This was then cut to shape and fitted as insoles in his boots, and at the second attempt he passed scrutineering".
"This story I have lived with for the last 40 years not knowing if there was a grain of truth in it, or was it just another one of “Bills” famous stories". "By a chance meeting with Mick Duckworth of Classic Bike fame, I retold the story of little Bill and his lead lined boots. To my amazement he told me the complete story of the weight limits imposed to all the 5 classes in the T.T."
In the late 1950's, Geoff Duke OBE, had been on a visit to Japan as an ambassador for motorcycling, whilst there he had been to some motorcycle races and noticed how small and light in weight the riders were. On his return Geoff relayed his concern to the A.C.U. saying that if they ever came over to Europe to race, then because of their light weight, they would win everything in sight and the 10/11 stone and heavier Europeans would not get a look in.
With that, in association with the F.I.M. the A.C.U. formulated a minimum weight limit for each class. And this was even before the land of the rising sun’s motorcycle industries made there presence felt on the island and in other G.P. Events.
So there, after all that time, I now know that for once 'Little Bill' was not just spinning us a line, but for a one off occasion, he was telling the truth and the only unanswered question is now how much did Bill weigh? In the spring of 1988 the” Classic Racer” magazine gave his weight as barely nine stone but I would think he was a few pounds under that weight.
The 1st Northern Motorcycle Show Blackpool Winter Gardens.
In June 1963, six months after the successful Maudes Trophy attempt, Bill Sinnot of Honda demonstrated the Honda 50's spectacularly low petrol consumption by offering 'T'T‘ rider Beryl Swain a lift to the 1st Northern Motorcycle Show at the Blackpool Winter Gardens.
The tank was first drained of petrol and then re-filled with a measured amount. The Honda 50's purring 4-stroke doesn‘t use a petrol/oil mixture, it takes the most economical grade of straight petrol and consequently avoids frequent de-carbonising.
On a route from the Honda office in Kingston, Surrey, through the Chilterns and Cotswolds, by way of Chester, Liverpool, and Preston to Blackpool. they did this 284 mile run for under ten bob. (50p)
To be exact they did 126 mpg on 2 gallons. 2 pints. This was in spite of heavy rain from Uxbridge to Oxford, strong winds in the Cotswolds and head winds in the Wirral Peninsula. You will have guessed that the Honda moral to all this is: Get a Honda - Honda has the power. the endurance and the economy to match the speed that made the name Honda famous on the race track.
The Racing 50 Motorcycle Club 1963 'Enduro'
The following two paragraphs are from the September 1963 Newsletter of the R50MC.
When the Chequered flag falls in the afternoon on October 12th to mark the end of the 1963 "Enduro" it will indeed be a memorable milestone in the History of the Racing 50 Motorcycle Club. for it will mark the successful running of the fourth "Enduro" with 1000 Racing Miles having been completed and will have established beyond all possible doubt the reliability of our 50 c.c. Racing Machines (Roy Nicholson).
The Club has indeed created a fine record, and one which I feel certain to have laid the foundations of this now Internationally famous class in no uncertain manner, and the first member to cross the line. having competed in all four 250 mile Races which the Club has run, should indeed be a proud man. Let us hope. therefore, that the Club's decision to run the Race late in the season meets with popular approval and will as a result be fully supported. (Brian Woolley)
A closed to club road race promoted by the Racing 50 M.C.C. (affiliate to the A.C.U) under the G.C.R. of the A.C.U. In Addition to awards mentioned in Supplementary Regulations. We gratefully acknowledge a special award donated by ENDURA Engineering Ltd, for the first team to win this race at over 60 m.p.h. This will also be the first Enduro where a prize will be given for a 'Team Finish'
Both Eddie and Beryl had wanted to enter this Enduro and the possibility of a team prize appealed to Eddie with having the motorcycle business. He decided to put together three Itom racers, using Beryl's' two and building a new one, then run them as the C.S.S. Itoms of the Connaught Sports Team. This team comprised of:
37 Eddie Swain / Brian Moore C.S.S Itom C.S.S. Connaught Sport Team Connaught Sport Garage
38 Mrs. Beryl Swain / Charles Dean C.S.S Itom. C.S.S. Connaught Sport Team Connaught Sport Garage
39 Charles Pinchion / Roy Kemp C.S.S Itom C.S.S. Connaught Sport Team Connaught Sport Garage
Click for a full listing of the riders and bikes.
John Pitt, a 50cc racer in the making during 1963, had sent me some information on his experiences in the 50cc world and the bikes he rode. He worked as a young man, on an apprenticeship at Duple Coach-works and while I was chatting to him later said "I met Harris Mann in the drawing office (He ended up chief designer for Austin-Morris (designer of the Triumph TR7)
He also did work for Suzuki, Honda, Norton, & BMW), Harris, knowing my love of bikes and that I rode a 50cc NSU Quick as transport to work, asked me to be co-rider on an Itom in the 1963 Enduro at Snetterton. (See picture). "He introduced me to Howard German while I was working there and at Snetterton, in the paddock, introduced me to Beryl Swain and her husband Eddie". The Swains and I became racing friends and visited Eddie's shop and workshop, with Harris Mann on a number of occasions.
Editor: I am unable to tell you how the teams ran or how Beryl rode as the above is all of the information I currently have on Beryl's involvement in the 1963 Enduro. If any reader has magazine reports, newspaper articles or a notated program I would welcome the information. Good copies or typed statements would be useful as I could then include them in a revision of the page.
The '63 Enduro took place on the Saturday at the Norfolk circuit Snetterton and to prepare 3 machines for this race would have required a reasonable amount of time for Eddie. On top of that he was also riding in the Enduro and Beryl's main bike had to be ready to compete on the next day, Sunday 12th but in Kent, at Brands Hatch.
These meetings at Brands Hatch were perhaps Beryl's' last races in the 50cc class as there is no record of her competing in 50cc racing through 1964.
If any reader has any information or programs that give more detail, please email it through to the Editor.
For whatever the reason, Beryl's interest in the 50cc scene waned at the end of the 1963 season and ,as she did not renew her membership of the Racing 50 Club, contact was lost. Eddie did continue the business: it is not known for how long, and through 1964 the Itoms were sold off. There are records of Harris Mann riding one of the CSS bikes in races that year and also of Roy Kemp riding another but calling the bike a 'Connaught' after Eddie's business. Perhaps they were sold or loaned to these individuals.
It was during 1964 that Beryl and Eddie separated and eventually divorced. Beryl went back to live in the Wood Street area. However she had not finished with motorcycles and in September, through her contacts with the Speedway world, tried the cinders.
T.T. Queen flops at Speedway but ---
BERYL PLEDGES: "I WILL BE BACK"
As this press cutting is difficult to read, even when magnified, I have created a typed copy to enable the reader to enjoy this information.
Walthamstow’s Beryl Swain. The only girl ever to ride in the Isle of Man T.T. flopped to defeat in her first appearance on the speedway track on Friday. Beryl made her speedway début at Hackney Wick in a bid to wrest the ‘Queen of the Cinders’ title and trophy away from Mary Mansfield. But after only two weeks practice, she was nowhere near ready for a big-time race and at the end of a four lap clash she trailed the Hackney girl by half a circuit.
Undaunted Beryl then told me: “It was great, really enjoyable. My first love is the T.T. racing but the speedway is tremendous fun I shall be back for more”. “I’m sure that with practice I could go a lot faster and if they will give me another chance later on, I will get after the trophy. This was the first time in her career that 22 year old, blonde Beryl had raced against another girl. (Editor's note: I think that there was a misunderstanding when interviewing Beryl concerning lady competitors as there were other girls on the race track when Beryl was racing and she competed against some of them).
After winning the toss and picking the inside starting position she was first off the mark and into the lead – but by the first bend the experienced Mary had forged past. Beryl was still riding as if she was on the road instead of a cinder track and she never got another look in. Mary is now is all set to prove her speedway skill in a 'to-be-arranged' meeting with one of Hackney Hawks’ team men. Friday’s race was the highlight of the evening of speedway where the Hawks maintained their challenge for the Provincial League title with an easy win over Middlesbrough.
Beryl Swain, nearest the camera roars off at the start of her race with Mary Mansfield—but it was the only time in the race that she was in front.
Editor, There is no dating information on the press cutting but the ladies race took place prior to a Provincial Speedway League meeting at Hackney Wick, where the Hawks beat the Middlesbrough Bears. The only reference I can find in the Speedway archives is that on 11th September 1964 the stadium hosted an event for the Hackney Hawks versus the Middlesbrough Bears in a Provincial League round where the Hawks won at 55 points to 23.
An event was held to remember and rejoice the life of Beryl Swain – the first woman to race solo in the Isle of Man T.T.
Some of the Beryl public that attended the launch of the memorial display
Unveiled today, 1st June 2019 the most spectacular homage to Beryl Swain of Walthamstow, the first lady solo, TT motorbike racer on Isle of Man in 1962.
A ride-out to 1B Window Gallery exhibition, Beryl Swain: Need for Speed, as part of the E17 Art Trail; a talk at The Mill, E17 about Beryl; to The Duke pub on Wood Street, E17 to view the new mural dedicated to Beryl who lived behind on Marlowe Rd, E17.
Thank you to everyone who made this happen; Rachel HG, Kirstin Sibley, VC London, Joana Niemeyer, Rebecca Booker, Amber Cowan, and everyone behind the scenes, especially Beryl’s brother George and family, St James Big Local and The Mill
"Beryl Swain was a pioneer in the iconic, dangerous, 37.73 miles motorcycle race that has claimed the lives of hundreds of competitors over the years. She would have competed again, and she could have honed her skills, but it was that risk—and the risk of organizers looking bad if a woman was killed—that kept her from racing in it again, right in the midst of her enthusiasm".
The Editor would like to thank the following for their input and consideration concerning the use of photographs.
Manx National Heritage - Kirstin Sibley - Bob Nicholson - Ian Ager - Richard Rosenthal
This page was first created in 1997