This photograph was taken in 1952 and was featured in both the original corresponding article in The Motor Cycle, which consisted of a report of the 1952 TT, and in a later article in 1956 that featured some rumination on the organisational ethos behind the event itself. It shows N W Stewart (Norton) from Southern Rhodesia hurtling past the Guthrie Memorial. The coast of Ireland can be seen very faintly in the background, as well as a modest array of onlookers who observe the action from the safety of a stone wall.
The 1952 TT was one of the more thrilling race meetings on the Island, with a stunning last-lap victory in the Senior event. H R Armstrong (Norton) beat R L Graham (MV Agusta) by mere seconds – and with a broken primary chain to boot! Norton-mounted Geoff Duke unfortunately retired after four laps, though he did win the Junior event at an average speed of 90.29mph.
The Senior TT began as many had anticipated; Geoff Duke led the field displaying his usual superlative riding skill, though he was persistently dogged by R L Graham on his Italian four-cylinder machine. A shock came early on when Jack Brett (AJS) took a spill near Sulby and was forced to retire with cuts and bruises, but after that the race was relatively clear of accidents. As the third lap reached its climax, Geoff Duke pulled into the pits and resignedly removed his helmet. It appeared that his usually bulletproof Norton had developed a fault and could go no further.
Armstrong and Graham fought some truly spectacular battles, and by the sixth lap Armstrong had inched ahead of Graham, but he was given no respite as the MV Agusta-mounted rider jostled to retake pole position. The race culminated with Armstrong managing to scrape together a small lead, crossing the line less than 30 seconds ahead of Graham.
As the later article in The Motor Cycle indicated, a great many motorcycling aficionados were writing in with their suggestions for amendments to the hallowed TT. Some were calling for the relatively recently introduced Clypse circuit to be abolished (which it eventually was in 1959) and all events run over the famous Snaefell Mountain course. Others called for massed starts for the Junior and Senior races as well as the Lightweight and Sidecar races. Some people even proffered the suggestion that the length of the Junior and Senior events be elongated to as many as 10 laps. There was even evidence of a smaller enclave of readers who thought that the 125cc race – and in some cases the 250cc race – should be eliminated altogether.
It seems that many of the aforementioned suggestions were deemed impracticable at the time, and consequently disregarded. This was due largely to the fact that FIM regulations stipulated that classic meetings (that is to say, meetings that count towards the world championships) must cater for all classes. Naturally this meant that races had to be staggered over several days and on several different courses, lest a dangerously uncontrollable motorcycle melee ensue.
Even with the proposed alterations to the TT halted for at least a few years, the 1950s were still a period of great change for the Isle of Man TT. In previous years British machines and British riders had gone largely unopposed, but as the 1950s wore on this once incontrovertible dominance shifted from Britain to Italy.
Geoff Duke switched his allegiance from Norton to Gilera and John Surtees started riding for MV Agusta – British riders perhaps, but they had the likes of Carlo Ubbiali and Tarquinio Provini to contend with, and the two Italians rarely put a wheel wrong.
This image can be purchased from the Mortons Archive