Actress Maxine Peake has unveiled a blue plaque dedicated to Beryl Burton in a ceremony watched by the cycling legend’s family.
Beryl’s husband Charlie and daughter Denise Burton-Cole saw the star reveal the plaque in Morley town centre on Sunday.
A large crowd turned out to see the unveiling in the entrance to Beryl Burton Gardens, off Queen Street.
The placing of the plaque has been a joint effort by Leeds Civic Society, Morley Town Council, the Outer South Area Committee of Leeds City Council and Morley Town Centre Management Board.
Maxine, who has starred in Dinnerladies, Shameless and Silk, was asked to carry out the unveiling as she has written a play about Beryl’s life which will be staged at the West Yorkshire Playhouse at the end of the month.
It originally started out as a radio play for Radio 4 but the Playhouse approached her to write a stage version for its Tour de France celebrations as part of the Yorkshire Festival.
The actress, on her first visit to Morley, said the process had been strange for her as it had been quite a short journey from the initial idea of writing about Beryl to it being brought to the stage.
“About three years ago my boyfriend bought me Beryl Burton’s autobiography,” she said. “I had never heard of her and I just thought why has someone not done a drama about this woman and why did I not know about her?”
She said it had been a privilege for her to get to know Charlie and Denise while writing the play.
“These two are so much more interesting than anything I could write,” said Maxine. “I feel like I’ve only spent a short time with Beryl but in that time I’ve come to realise I really love her!”
Denise Burton-Cole, who said the family now considered Bolton-born Maxine to be “an honourary Yorkshirewoman” said she and her father had been overwhelmed by the honour.
“It’s fabulous. I have lots of lovely memories of Morley. I would like to thank all the Morley people, the council and everyone involved as I’m sure there’s been a lot of hard work put into this,” she said.
Coun Terry Grayshon, who was one of a group of people who became a driving force in getting the blue plaque, said that although what Beryl Burton had achieved in her lifetime was remarkable things could have been very different had she been competing in the modern era of cycling.
“Had she been around to make use of the facilities and training opportunites of today it would have been overwhelming to see what she could have achieved,” he said.
Beryl opens at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on June 30.