The achievements of record-breaking Morley cyclist Beryl Burton OBE are to be recognised next week as proposals are put forward to award her the city’s highest civic honour - Freedom of the city of Leeds.
Councillors of all parties are set to a support the recommendation which will see Beryl, who lived the majority of her life in Morley and died aged 58 in 1996, formally given a posthumous civic honour at a special meeting of council in September this year.
Also at the meeting will be Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme, who will be speaking about the imminent arrival of the Grand Départ in Leeds, which begins on July 5.
During a glittering career, Beryl’s achievements in cycling are up there with some of the greatest that the sport has ever seen. These include been crowned five-times world champion over 3,000 metres, 13 time national champion and in a truly incredible feat, British best all-rounder champion for 25 successive years.
These accomplishments are capped off by Beryl also holding the men’s world 12-hour time trial record for two years in the 1960s. In 1967, this included pedalling 277.25 miles in 12 hours, and it was only in 1969 that a man was able to beat this record. Till this day, no other woman has been able to beat the time set by her.
Following the special meeting in September, the name of the Holbeck-born former Morley Cycling Club and Knaresborough CC rider, will be added to an illustrious list of people on the Freedom of the City board in Leeds Civic Hall. This includes former South African president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, and former British Prime Ministers, Clement Atlee and Sir Winston Churchill.
While these achievements in her lifetime did not always receive the recognition they truly deserved in Britain, this was not the case in France, where she was treated with great acclaim. This is underlined by a foreword in Beryl’s memoirs by a Frenchman which said: “If Beryl Burton had been French, Joan of Arc would have to take second place.”
Coun Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council said: “To put it simply, Beryl Burton OBE was the best British female cyclist of all time, and undoubtedly one of the greatest, if not the greatest sport person ever to come out of Leeds. As a city we should not only be immensely proud, but also make sure that her vast achievements are never forgotten.
“This is why we have nominated Beryl for the highest civic award, where her name will be inscribed next to the names of those people who have been awarded the ‘Freedom of the city’. This will ensure her legacy lives on for many, many years and act as an inspiration for future cyclists.
“With the arrival of the Tour de France now extremely close, it is a massive privilege that joining us at our meeting to celebrate the accomplishments of Beryl and also to talk to us regarding the Grand Départ in Leeds will be Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.”