Beryl Burton has been posthumously awarded the Freedom of the City of Leeds in a special civic ceremony this afternoon.
Beryl, who lived most of her life in Morley, won seven world cycling titles and broke a host of records over the course of a glittering career, including smashing the 12 hour time trial record and beating the men’s fastest time in the process.
She joins figures such as Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill and Alan Bennett in being given the honour.
Although she died in 1996, her achievements have gone largely unnoticed until this year when Leeds’ hosting of the Tour de France coincided with a successful stage play about her life and career at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Council leader Keith Wakefield said: “Now that we’ve seen one of the most successful plays ever and our awareness of cycling is at an all time high, I think it’s about time we honour the greatest sportswoman this country has ever produced.
“Had Beryl achieved all of what she did today she would have been on all our TV screens and would have been on every quiz and celebrity show you can think of. She will be an inspiration to athletes for thousands of years.”
Coun Judith Elliott, representing Morley paid her own tribute, saying: “All of her achievements were done with determination, a pure love of cycling and of winning. She is reported to have said “I am winning for Morley.” This award is very welcome to the citizens of Morley on whose behalf I speak.”
Several members of Beryl’s family were present to see the motion unanimously passed at the meeting. Her daughter Denise said: “Beryl Burton was a woman who never gave up and gave her best every time. Her legend continues and her energy and determination will be there to inspire future generations.”