My Favourite Rider
Dorothy Geenwood relives some more memories…

Over the years, I have met many TT and MGP riders. Most I have admired some more than others and one or two I have fancied!!

However, my favourite rider has always been Jack Brett. Maybe it was because I’d known him longer than any of the others. He wasn’t the greatest TT rider or the most handsome, but he had great personality and was a superb rider in the 1950s.

Jack was born on the family smallholding just outside Leeds on the 17th June 1917, and from an early age he had a great interest in bikes. Leaving school he got a job at a tailors, remaining there until the outbreak of war in 1939 when he joined the army. He served in the Royal Artillery until after Dunkirk, May – June 1940. He then transferred to the RASC, ending the war in Germany as a Warrant Officer. Back in civvy street he obtained a situation as manager of Barratt Motorcycles of Leeds. 1946 saw the start of his racing career when he entered the MGP following in the footsteps of his brother, Charlie who was six years older than him and had raced on the IoM pre-war from 1935 – 1951. His best results being 5th on an Excelsior in the 1936 Lightweight MGP and 15th in the 1938 Lightweight TT, also on an Excelsior.

Jack Brett entered all three races in the first post-war MGP with good results. In the Lightweight, he finished 6th on an Excelsior, the race being won by LW Parsons – Rudge, second Ben Drinkwater and third RS Simpson both on an Excelsior. The Junior was won by Ken Bills, second Peter Aitcheson and third, Denis Parkinson all on Nortons, with Jack Brett again finishing in sixth position. The six lap Senior MGP was held under very wet conditions. It was won by Ireland’s Ernie Lyons – Triumph, second Ken Bills, Norton and third, Manxman, Harold Rowell, also aboard a Norton. Jack Brett, Velocette, finished in a commendable 7th position. It was a ‘triumph’ for Edward Turner and the Meridan factory as Ken Biils was expected to be the winner. Sadly, Peter Aitcheson who’d finished second in the Junior, crashed at the 33rd sustaining fatal injuries

Jack Brett’s TT challenge commenced the following year, 1947. From then on he raced until 1960, mostly riding Nortons – apart from one year with AJS in 1952. Though he retired in both the Junior and Senior TTs of that year, he won the Swiss GP in Berne on a 500cc AJS Porcupine. Jack didn’t achieve his ambition of winning a TT on the Isle of Man though he had several podium places which in itself were accomplishments.

His best year on the Island was 1953 when he was second in the Senor and fourth in the Junior. Senior results were 1st, Ray Amm – Norton, 2nd Jack Brett and Reg Armstrong in third position on a Gilera. With his fourth place in the Junior, Norton collected the Manufacturers’ Team Award along with Amm, the winner, and Ken Kavanagh in second; Fergus
Anderson on his Guzzi came home in third position. Jack was third on three occasions in the Isle of Man TT Races – in the 1951 Junior he followed home Geoff Duke and Johnny Lockett, all on Nortons and so winning the Manufacturers’ Award. Same again in the Senior of 1954 behind Amm and Geoff Duke [Gilera] and, yet again was part of the award winning Manufacturers’ Team along with the winner and eighth finisher RD Keeler. Two years later saw his final step up to the third tier of the rostrum in following home the two Johns – Surtees [MV] and Hartle [Norton]. Along with the latter and Alan Trow, seventh, he was again part of the successful manufacturers’ team.

His racing days continued until 1960. He was then 42 years old and decided somewhat reluctantly to “hang up his leathers”, though he never relinquished his enthusiasm and passion for the Isle of Man TT.

If I remember correctly, Jack, on his retirement from the sport, was employed by the sports firm, Slazenger. From then on he had a comparatively quiet life, enjoying golf in particular. Shortly after Christmas 1982, on 29th December, he sadly had a fatal heart attack whilst playing golf. He was 66 years old. I first met Jack Brett when he came to the Isle of
Man for the first post-war MGP in 1946. He stayed at ’Acacia’, a large boarding house in Fairfield Terrace, Douglas, along with his brother, Charlie and a few friends. We frequently met and became good friends. I always looked forward to meeting him at various events on and off the Island. He was a typical Yorkshire man, forthright, great company and always cheerful. Jack was a man I liked and admired and, without doubt my all time favourite TT rider.

Dorothy Greenwood