Sidecar Mary puts a spin on 100th birthday celebrations

The Oxford Times: Landlord  of The Bear Hotel  Liaan van Zyl takes  Mary Tame for a jaunt on a 1955 Triumph Bonneville Panther motorbike and sidecar   Picture: OX65076 Richard Cave Buy this photo Landlord of The Bear Hotel Liaan van Zyl takes Mary Tame for a jaunt on a 1955 Triumph Bonneville Panther motorbike and sidecar Picture: OX65076 Richard Cave

WHEN Mary Tame was asked what she would like for her 100th birthday, the former headmistress knew how to kickstart the celebrations, with a ride in a motorcycle sidecar.

Mrs Tame, from Dorchester, was taken on a lap of honour of her village yesterday by Liaan van Zyl, a fellow motorcycle fan and the manager of The George Hotel, where Mrs Tame is a regular customer.

Mrs Tame said: “I used to ride pillion on various motorcycles when I was young, depending on what my current boyfriend owned at the time.

“It was seen as quite normal in those days because at the start of World War Two motorcycles were exempt from fuel rationing.”

Mrs Tame also had her own motorised Raleigh bicycle for a while, but admitted it had been many years since she last rode a motorcycle.

She said: “The last time was just after the war in 1946/7, I think. When Liaan offered me the opportunity to have a go after all these years, I took it.”

Mr van Zyl, 43, who is originally from South Africa, said: “Mary comes in often for lunch and I had the pleasure of getting to know her.

“She may be 100 but she is a very interesting with a great personality. She is also a very active and outgoing lady, and one day she saw me riding my Harley Davidson motorcycle and mentioned she also used to ride a motorcycle.

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“We chatted about it and then she said she would love to have a ride on a motorbike again.

“So when I found out she was celebrating such a special birthday I asked her if she wanted me to arrange it and she was very keen.

“Of course it would be pretty difficult for Mary to get on my motorcycle, so we discussed hiring one with a sidecar and I managed to get an old Bonneville so she could have a nice leisurely ride around the village, cheered on by some of the villagers and her friends.”

Mrs Tame was born on a farm near Newport, South Wales on February 12, 1914, during the reign of George V.

She moved to Dorchester at age 23 to teach geography at the Central Senior School, which served the villages of Warborough, Shillingford, Drayton St Leonard, Clifton Hampden and the Baldons.

She was married to Tom Tame, now deceased, and the couple had no children. At the end of the Second World War they moved from Dorchester to Marsh Baldon, where Mrs Tame was appointed headmistress of the primary school and stayed for 30 years.

She said: “When I was a young girl, there were very few opportunities for women to work other than on the farm, teaching or nursing, but I loved all my years as a teacher.

“Marsh Baldon School had between 50 and 60 pupils and I lived with my husband in the school house next to the school. We moved back to Dorchester just before I retired.”

In later years Mrs Tame taught keep fit and basket weaving.

She has also been a volunteer in her community, has written local history books, and in 2010 received an MBE for services to heritage and her local community.

After her motorcycle ride, Mrs Tame revealed she would also be celebrating her birthday with a concert, organised by friends in her honour, at Dorchester Abbey today, followed by a tea.

She added: “On my actual birthday – February 12 – I also enjoyed a meal with my family. It has been a busy week.”

Asked how she felt about reaching 100, she said: “It’s just another birthday, although I can’t do all the things I used to do, which is frustrating.”

And her secret for a long life?

She added: “You just keep breathing.”

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