Lady Penelope

There is a very fine hairdresser in the Rope Walk mews going under the title of Lady Penelope – but where did the name come from? It can be revealed at last. Penelope Terry was a grass track motorbike rider of some repute.

It all started back in 1991 when Penny, who had been interested in motor cycles since her early teens, became a lap scorer on a grass track circuit. It wasn’t long before she wanted to have a go herself. Penelope chose sidecar racing because she liked the idea of team work.

First ever all woman team in sidecar racing
First ever all woman team in sidecar racing
Lady Penelope on the back
Lady Penelope on the back

Starting off as a driver she instantly got the attention of the press because she was the first woman ever to drive in sidecar racing. Her first partner was Daren Bartolomew. Penny started the day badly, she looped her Kawasaki engined outfit in practice but in the race made a high enough placing to get into the final.

Then Penelope found a lady passenger for her next series of events. The press were impressed “What would you expect a hairdresser and a dental nurse to do on Sunday afternoons?” Jane McLaren was a dental nurse and penny a self employed hairdresser/beautician.

They were good together and soon became a pairing to be feared. By the end of their first season they had picked up a race win and a third place plus enough points to qualify them for a ‘national licence’. The following year they were back with a more powerful engine, riding against much better opposition.

By now they had become known in the motor cycling press as Lady Penelope and Tin-Tin. They were second at their first event and went on to gain many points. Jane told the press that the male riders did not take them seriously at first but soon were making excuses, the classic being “You were holding us up” when in fact the girls were miles ahead.

In October 1993 Jane decided that Penny would be able to go faster with a good experienced male passenger and the all woman combination was ended.

Lady Penelope’s new ‘man on the platform’ was Keith Watts. He was experienced in many forms of bike racing and became an invaluable partner to the girl who was the only lady in the top rank of the sport.

They won in Cheshire, it was the first time a female driver had won in the sport at this level.

The Masters is an event that is made up of the 12 highest graded riders in the country plus twelve others who have to qualify. Nothing demonstrates Penny Terry’s quality better than the fact that she qualified two years running for the Masters and after a fine season in 1995 was selected to ride in the National Championship, unfortunately there was an incident just after the start when another crew ran into her outfit. Penny was rushed to hospital with a broken wrist and damage to her back.

There were reports, in the motor cycle press, on her progress. Being the trooper she is Penny returned and Lady Penelope rode again.

In 1997 Lady Penelope decided to try her luck as passenger to Reg Blackburn, they were a good team and won many awards.

Penny Terry carried on at a high level in the sport until 1999 when another crash led to her hanging up her racing gloves.

Those who walk through the Rope Walk Mews may catch a glimpse of Lady Penelope at work and imagine they can hear the sound of a motor cycle engines.

Rye’s Own Archive September 1912

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