FRIENDS of the late Beryl Burton enjoyed a blast from the past as they met up to share their memories of the Leeds-born cycling star.
More than a dozen veteran cyclists from Morley Wheelers, Road Club and Cycling Club visited West Yorkshire Playhouse yesterday to see a play about the record-breaking cyclist, who died from heart failure in 1996 at the age of just 58.
The group then enjoyed a private buffet where members shared their memories and memorabilia from up to 60 years ago.
Vernon Wood, 82, was a member of Morley Wheelers from 1947 to 1954 and organised the event yesterday.
He said: “When I was at the club, Beryl and her husband Charlie were just starting as members but she hadn’t started racing yet.
“I had no idea then that she would be so successful. She was just a young thing.
“She was a normal Yorkshire lass who took a quiet back seat to start with – she let her legs do the talking for her!”
Former Morley cycling club members came from as far as Australia for the reunion, and brought films, photographs, newspaper cuttings, cycling equipment and other treasured items with them.
Vernon added: “She never really got any recognition at the time because women’s cycling wasn’t a glamourous affair for the media.”
Beryl’s husband Charlie and their ex-racing cyclist daughter Denise were also invited to the play – called ‘Beryl’ – but were sadly unable to attend due to illness.
‘Beryl’ tells the story of the cyclist’s record-smashing career in the 1960s to the 1980s.
The hugely popular play by Maxine Peake has been performed to full houses since it opened on June 30 and, as a result, it has now been extended for a further week – until Friday, July 25.
West Yorkshire Playhouse’s artistic director, James Brining, said: “We’re thrilled to announce an extended run of Maxine’s play ‘Beryl’.
“Every night we see our audiences on their feet applauding not only our actors but also the astonishing achievements of an ordinary Yorkshire woman. A wife, a mother and an extraordinary cyclist.
“Demand for tickets has been so high we took the decision to extend for a further week.
“It’s a great end to Yorkshire’s celebration of world class cycling and fantastic that a new play is having such an impact.”
Tickets to see ‘Beryl’ at the West Yorkshire Playhouse cost from £12.
For more information or to book tickets, call 0113 2137700 or visit the website at www.wyp.org.uk.
Record breaker Beryl
Beryl Burton was five times world pursuit champion, 13 times national champion and twice road-racing world champion.
She also out-cycled the opposite sex by holding the men’s world 12hour time trial record for two years in the 1960s.
Beryl has been given a posthumous civic honour and has a blue plaque at Morley’s Beryl Burton Gardens, off Queen Street.