Marjorie was born in 1900, in Wallasey, Merseyside, and in her teenage years she began to share her father’s enthusiasm for motorcycling. He even provided her first road bike – a single speed Premier she was obliged to rebuild from its scrap condition. She soon graduated to an ex-WD Model H Triumph with which she entered her first off-road event, a grass hill climb organised by her local Liverpool club. With a bit of lateral thinking, she knotted her mother’s washing-line around the rear tyre, improving grip sufficiently for her to become a joint winner of the event.
Sponsorship from a local manufacturer did not work out, so dealer Vic Horsman came to her rescue with the loan of a Raleigh with which she gained a gold medal in a tough reliability trial. Raleigh was so impressed that Marjorie was offered a full works machine for the 1923 Scottish Six Days Trial. The weather was at its worst to make this a particularly gruelling event, but Marjorie delivered, securing a gold medal in the results. Raleigh was delighted, and the company even gave her a commemorative carriage clock.
In 1924, Raleigh provided a side valve 348cc Model 5 for her to ride around the coast of Britain. Factory competition manager Hugh Gibson took a sidecar outfit around the same route in the opposite direction. It was a hugely successful publicity stunt, drawing huge crowds to see the riders call in at the Raleigh agents on the way.
Next year, in those pre-PC days of 1925, the ACU banned women from road racing, fearful of the publicity that might result from an accident. However, the ban did not apply to off-road competition and this is where Marjorie excelled. The list of her successes would be the envy of any rider as her endeavours were not confined to local club trials, she competed at the highest level. She rode in the ISDT several times as well as the Scott Trial, arguably the toughest of any one-day event.
In 1926, Marjorie teamed with Edyth Foley (Triumph) and Louie McLean (Douglas) to contest the ISDT as a three-woman Vase team. Their inclusion in the Derbyshire-based event raised little interest, but the following year’s trial was held in the Lake District. Against international teams, they won the Vase competition. They were invited to take a trip around Europe of several thousand miles. They visited several countries and they stayed as guests of various continental motorcycle clubs. That same year, Marjorie married Jack Watson-Bourne, formerly a successful TT rider and, like Marjorie, now supported by Raleigh to ride in trials.
'By 1939, she was riding for Triumph and was entered on a 250cc Tiger 70 for the ill-fated ISDT of 1939. Before completing full distance the British Army team was ordered home and they took Marjorie with them, making a break for neutral Switzerland before returning to their home country'
When Raleigh revised business plans in 1930, it withdrew its support for trials. Marjorie went to BSA and continued her successful career. By 1939, she was riding for Triumph and was entered on a 250cc Tiger 70 for the ill-fated ISDT of 1939. Before completing full distance the British Army team was ordered home and they took Marjorie with them, making a break for neutral Switzerland before returning to their home country.
She was a dispatch rider for the Home Guard in the war. Unfortunately, her husband did not survive the conflict. When peace returned, Marjorie became a sales representative for BSA. According to some accounts, Marjorie far preferred being out on a bike than being in a showroom talking about them. Apparently, she also took an interest in car trials, but maintained her enthusiasm for bikes, with appearances at various events. She was reunited with her 1939 ISDT Triumph in 1972, when she took it for a spin in the Isle of Man.
Her last ride was in 1980, when she rode a Gilera in the Isle of Man. This was only on private property as she had no crash helmet. In 1987, at 87 years old, Marjorie passed away peacefully.
Thanks to Mortons Archive, the VMCC and Sheila Whittingham of WIMA for help with this article.