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Cycling legend Beryl Burton to be (re) honoured in her home town of Morley

BB scared many a male cyclist in her illustrious career

A long-lost plaque honouring Morley's most famous resident is due to be reinstated in the Town Hall next Saturday.

The late Beryl Burton OBE was one of the greatest cyclists ever and certainly a British icon known even to non-cyclists in her 1960s and 70s heyday. A plaque commemorating her many cycling achievements was placed on Morley's High St after her death in 1996 but it disappeared mysteriously only a few years later and had not been seen since.

Morley Town Councillor Terry Grayshon launched his own personal search campaign and finally found it with a local man who had come across the plaque and kept it as a curiosity unaware of the significance. It will now be given pride of place in the foyer of Morley Town Hall in an unveiling ceremony on Saturday, September 10 at 11am. Officiating will be Town Mayor Councillor Judith Elliott and guest of honour Beryl Burton’s husband Charlie Burton.

Councillor Grayshon told the Yorkshire Evening Post yesterday, “Beryl Burton was a remarkable lady and did so much to promote the town of Morley, through her incredible feats of cycling. She held more records than you can shake a stick at and some of those records still remain unbroken.

“Morley Town Council wanted to replace the plaque which had previously hung on the Band Stand in Windsor Court. One night many years ago it disappeared and now no one seemed to be able to recall what it looked like. But a gentleman had found it lying on the floor all those years ago and kept it for safe keeping”

The Mayor of Morley Councillor Judith Elliott said: “I am so very pleased that we are able to recognise the truly outstanding contribution which Beryl made to her sport and to the town of Morley as a member of the Morley Cycling Club. It is fitting that the plaque is being placed in the main foyer of Morley Town Hall, in order that all who visit this wonderful building will be reminded of Beryl and her outstanding achievements”

There will also be a copy of the plaque placed in the nearby Beryl Burton Garden, which was created in Morley after her death.

Beryl Burton was born in 1937 in Leeds and lived in nearby Morley her whole life. She grew up in a culture where cycling was transport, pastime and social activity and indeed she met her future husband Charlie through the Morley Cycling Club and married in 1955. Only two years later she won her first cycling medal, a silver in the National 100-Mile Championship. At 20 years old, mind.

She went on to win the women’s world road race championship in 1960 and 1967 and on the track specialised in the individual pursuit, winning world champs medals of some colour almost every year in three decades but she was world champion five times in 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1966.

On the domestic time-trialling scene, Beryl Burton won the Road Time Trials Council’s British Best All-Rounder Competition for 25 consecutive years from 1959 to 1988 and in total won 72 national individual time trial titles. That's four at 10 miles (a low number because the '10' was only introduced in 1978), 26 at 25 miles, 24 at 50 miles and 18 at 100 miles. Her last national solo time trial medals were achieved in 1986 at 25 and 50 miles although she was part of the Knaresborough CC fastest team in the 50 mile event in 1989.

In what would have been called at the time 'mass-start' road racing Burton won 12 national road race championships and a further 12 championships on the track for pursuing.

As for the Olympics, many cyclists have subsequently speculated on how well she would have done but women were not invited to compete until the Los Angeles games of 1984 when she was already 48.

Beryl Burton was famously possessed of a droll Yorkshire wit and the legend goes that when she caught Mike McNamara, himself no slouch on the way to a men's national record in the 1967 Otley CC 12-hour, Burton offered him a Liquorice Allsort as she passed which he duly popped in his mouth with a "Ta love." He went on to do 0.73 miles shorter than the distance she set at 277.25 miles. It was unsurpassed by the men for another two years but still stands as the official competition record for 12 hours for a woman.

Her death in 1996 on a training ride, at an early age of 58 for someone so apparently fit, has been attributed to a childhood bout of rheumatic fever which kept her in hospital for 15 months.

The autobiography 'Personal Best' written with Colin Kirby and first published in 1986 is available on Amazon here or W H Smiths here.

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