*This article was written before the Club Shop and the
Ladies Haven was closed behind the Grandstand*
Anybody messing about at the back of the Grandstand during TT fortnight on a day when the racing was not occupying them, would almost certainly go into the TTSC Shop and browse the great choice of goods on sale there, the money from which goes to support the competitors.
Rose Hanks has long been a feature in the shop and the Tea Tent also known as The Ladies Haven, along with the other loyal group of women who, year after year, give their time and energy to this enterprise.
What many people would not know is Rose’s unique history. In 1968 she became the first woman to stand on the Winner’s Rostrum at the Isle of Man TT.
A quiet, unassuming woman, Rose has a remarkable story to tell. Catching up with her recently, she told me how, since her early teens, she had been involved in a family which was motorcycle mad:
‘My interest in motorcycles came about when I was young, my dad had 3 motorcycles, my brother also. I’ve been around bikes most of my life.’
Rose told me how she was smitten with racing in her early 20s whilst taking the opportunity to ‘have a go’ at being a passenger. She spoke of the support she received from family andfriends at this time and that nobody tried to dissuade her from racing, being pleased to see that she was fulfilling her ambition.
‘The first go I had as a passenger was on a scramble outfit on an airfield; I was hooked. I decided I wanted to passenger. In 1965 a friend, Ken West, had a sidecar outfit, the first ride I had was at a sprint, we finished 2nd.’
Rose was working as a gas welder, making hoods for sports cars. She also had a young daughter to support. Rose had been bitten by the racing bug though, and her racing career started to take off:
‘I rode passenger for Freddie Wallis for a season, but my
main ambition was to ride in the TT. In 1967 I got my big break when Roy
Hanks (now my husband) visited me at home and in general conversation
mentioned that Norman, his eldest brother, was looking for a passenger for
the season and the TT. I jumped at the chance as I knew Norman was one of
the top sidecar drivers of his time along with Chris Vincent, etc’
Later that year, at the1967 TT, we took part in the 500cc
Sidecar Race, unfortunately we had a few problems, finishing 27th.’
Rose calls 1968 ‘my year’. It was at the 1968 TT, the first year of the 750cc Sidecar Class riding a 750cc BSA that she, returning to the TT together with Norman, came second behind Terry Vinicombe and John Flaxman.
1st place - time 1.19.07.4; speed 85.85mph. 2nd place –time 18.104.22.168; speed 83.1mph
Rose speaks eloquently of her feelings at the time. Whilst she did not think of her achievement as striking a blow for Women’s Lib, she confesses that she did realise that something special had happened:
‘(finishing 2nd) … made me the first woman ever to stand on the Winner’s Rostrum. It was like a dream come true. I was on cloud nine and can’t remember much about it except that at the Awards’ Presentation the other sidecar crews presented me with a bouquet. The same year… I was taken to Hillberry to be presented to Prince Phillip, which was a great honour. ‘She recalls the warmth and camaraderie showed to her by fellow male competitors: ‘all those that finished behind were genuinely pleased for us. At the presentation Chris Vincent presented me with a lovely bouquet from the competitors. I also had a trophy for the Women’s International Motorcycle Association of America.’ She also remembers the generous and positive
Press coverage at the time.
Rose was to go on, together with Norman, to achieve a worthy 7th place in the 1969 Sidecar TT behind the mighty BMWs. She was to race with Norman on most mainland short circuits for over 4 years.
1970s: The Hanks Experience
During the 1970s Rose married Roy Hanks and became a part of the Hanks Racing Dynasty. She remembers passengering for Roy:…I passengered for Roy at the TT in 1970, finishing 7th in the first race but blowing an engine in the second. It’s amazing how the techniques of two drivers are so different. I was meeting Roy in the chair on lefthanders as he got over for the corner sooner than Norman used to; but remember, sidecars had front exits and you had to work from back to front very quickly. When you ride with one driver for a while you think alike and tend to know what they are going to do next..’
Rose always planned to return to the racing she loved and had been so successful at. However, after the birth of her second daughter Julie, Norman Hanks had retired and the sidecarscene had changed. Rose never got back into the chair. Rose’s eldest daughter Karen was ‘never into bikes’ but younger daughter, Julie, together with husband Paul Elliott, has, as Rose sees it, ‘taken over where I left off’. In 2002 Julie and Paul rode at the TT and were best newcomers. Julie has also ridden with her father, Roy, at Darley where they won the Championship. Rose’s grandchildren, twin daughters Jamie and Bobbie –Julie’s children – have also grown up surrounded by motorcycles. As Rose tells it: ‘They love racing and helping Roy with petrol and tyres. They have all the actions, they both warm Roy’s bike up at race meetings… they can both ride motor bikes’ Both the girls, she explains, are very competitive in the sporting field: ‘Jamie has 7 belts in karate and also plays football for Aston Villa Girls Academy, whilst Bobbie has medals for gymnastics and swimming.’
Rose talks about the highs and lows of being part of a racing family. The loving supportive environment in place shines through in her words: ‘As sidecar people, you have to have a good driver to get to the top, as a passenger you have to know what they are doing… you learn to know how to think the same as your driver. Lots of sidecar people are families and pair up – brothers, sisters, dads, daughters’. Rose is rightly proud of her husband, Roy and his achievements in a long and successful sidecar racing career: ‘All the family support Roy and always will ‘till he retires. It’s what we do.” This writer remembers well seeing Rose in The Soup Tent/Ladies Haven, retreating to a quiet, secluded corner whilst husband Roy was out on the course, waiting for the finish and his safe return.
Rose believes that one is never too old to pursue a dream. She had the opportunity to prove this in 1998 when, acting as passenger with Roy on his 1997 winning outfit, she accompanied him on a Lap of Honour: ‘Although this was classed as a parade lap and, in today’s terms, not quick, it was as quick as I had lapped in the BSA days and quick enough to have qualified for today’s TT. I don’t think I could have managed 3 laps, not with my knees, then again, this is from my misspent youth – but it was all worth it!’
I was impressed by Rose’s modest and unassuming attitude to what she had achieved. Her contribution to the women’s cause is without a doubt. For Rose, this year will be her 46th year at the TT, whilst for husband Roy it will be 47 years. Her ceaseless energy now benefits the TT Supporters Club which, amongst other things, generates income to help purchase goods for the competitors:
‘it is important that people join the Club…every competitor who is a member of the Club has a package of, for example, overalls, jackets, chain spray, duck tapes, cable ties and so forth. All this is sponsored by Membership fees. We also have a Riders’ Draw at the TT for £1000 which is drawn on Mad Sunday’
As a TT Website on ‘The Ladies in Racing’ puts it: ‘Rose Hanks –What a History! ‘
(Rose Arnold during her racing career)
Roy and Rose with Charlie Williams, on Radio TT
Article written by Elizabeth Marin
An unsung Heroine
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