News, photos and
commentary referring to Sunbeam's wider legacy
TOM SHEARD - 'THE MODEST
The early T.T. races
Sunbeam's reputation, in common with that of its
rivals, was gained through sporting success. From the on-set of the
motoring age a particular maker's pedigree rested on a combination of
speed and reliability. For motorcycle manufacturers the Isle of
Man 'Tourist Trophy' (T.T.) races were regarded as the supreme test.
Throughout the 1920s Wolverhampton-made Sunbeams and their local rival AJS
were pre-eminent in road racing.
Success was not , however, simply a question of
a machine's capabilities. The un-made, pot-holed roads with their twists,
bends, climbs and descents tested the physical abilities of the
riders who needed every muscle to maintain control of their machine in
often hazardous conditions over a number of laps of the 37½ mile course.
Add to this the effect of the weather, which was frequently damp and
misty, and the flying debris from the road surface and you get an idea of
the character of the early T.T. competitors. 'I guess this ain't no tea
party!' exclaimed the American rider Jack de Rosier when the 37½ mile
course was first announced in 1911. The hard-earned victories for the
manufacturers were in no small part the result of the effort put in by a
tough breed of racing motorcyclist who pushed themselves to exhaustion.
One such T.T. rider of the period was Tom Sheard
who competed on both Sunbeam and local rival AJS machines. Unusually, he was a Isle
of Man resident, who lived on Victoria Road in Douglas. Tom's story is one
of remarkable success in the early T.T. races.
Thankfully, his story has been committed
to print by his grand-daughter Ruth Sheard who, like her grand-father, is
a resident on the island. Ruth has researched, written and self-published
Tom's story in 'T M Sheard - the Modest Manxman'. The book is 147 pages
long and illustrated with photographs from the period. It tells of Tom's
Between 1913 and 1925 Tom competed in
eleven junior and senior races. His only entry on a Sunbeam was in the
1921 Senior race, when he finished in a respectable ninth place. He was
entered by the local Mylchreest family who were pioneers of the island's
motor vehicle businesses, opening their Athol Street Motor Garage about
this time. That year Sunbeam were unable to repeat their 1920 victory in
the Senior. Alec Bennett came in fourth and George Dance eighth ahead of
Tom in ninth place.
Four of Tom's T.T. entries were
on machines from Sunbeam's local rival AJS. In 1920 with the commencement
of the T.T. races after the Great War Tom, like many of the other riders of the
day, chose the 350 c.c. AJS as his mount for the Junior race. Although he
was forced to retire, he returned the next year in 1921 for the Junior
with his AJS and came in third; one of the team of AJS riders who swept
the board with first, second, third and fourth places that year.
Tom was to exceed this the following year
in 1922 when his AJS came in first in the Junior race . The first Manxman
to win a T.T. race!
He did not restrict himself to
Wolverhampton-made machines. He also rode a Rudge in pre-war T.T.
races, and Douglas and New Hudson machines between 1923-25. It was on a
Douglas that he won the Senior race in 1923, adding to his earlier victory
in the Junior. The Douglas has been on display on the island.
'T M Sheard - the Modest Manxman'
book is available at £10.00 from a number of outlets on the Isle of Man,
plus it can be ordered over the Internet from
Ruth has also set up a website which
gives details of availability. It is:
Sunbeamland - the motor cycle
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