A group of volunteers from the Friends of Manx National Heritage and the Isle of Man branch of the Vintage Motorcycle Club have recently come together to assist with preparations for the new TT gallery at the Manx Museum.
The gallery will explore the social history of the Isle of Man TT, highlighting personal stories of endeavour on and off the track, and is due to open in time for TT 2023. The volunteers have reassembled and re-furbished a sidecar outfit which visitors to the new gallery will be able to try out for themselves.
The outfit was acquired from an ex-racer on the Island and was in numerous pieces and several crates. The team, led by Norman Cowin, has resprayed the frame and fitted wheels, radiator and engine as part of making it ready for display.
The machine will feature in the ‘Superfan’ area of the new gallery, which will display ephemera and souvenirs collected by visitors over the many decades of TT history.
Matthew Richardson, Curator of Art and Social History, commented:
“Manx National Heritage are extremely grateful to Norman and his friends for their assistance with this part of the TT gallery project. There is a long tradition on the Island of visitors posing in novelty backdrops including cars and motorcycles. We are continuing that idea by giving our visitors an opportunity to try out the sidecar and snap a photo souvenir of their visit to the Manx Museum.”
Sidecars were introduced to the Isle of Man TT in 1923 over 3 laps of the mountain circuit and were an instant hit with enthusiasts.
Once a popular mode of transport, manufacturers felt that racing them around the Mountain Circuit was not the ideal way to promote their products, but 14 outfits lined up for the start of the three-lap race. These worries were unfounded, with the favourites, solo star Freddie Dixon and his passenger Walter Denny, comfortably winning in their ‘banking’ outfit at an average speed of 53.15mph.
The new permanent exhibition gallery will tell the social history of the Isle of Man TT and will provide the opportunity to experience a tantalising taste of the TT atmosphere all year round through the real-life stories of everyone involved – riders, families, mechanics, marshals and fans.
Work to refurbish the gallery space at the Manx Museum to modern standards is nearing completion. The new gallery will be an engaging showcase for the TT’s incredible story and it’s place in the social history of the Isle of Man.
Image 1 (Left to right): MNH Curator for Social History Matthew Richardson pictured with volunteers Norman Cowin and Rupert Murden
Image 2: Freddie Dixon and passenger Walter Denny, Winners of the first Sidecar TT Race Rounding Ramsey Hairpin (1923).
Lynsey Clague BA (Hons) MCIPR
Communications Manager – Manx National Heritage
T: 01624 648032