When journalist Graham Snowdon submitted his own cycling story to us recently, he was also kind enough to share some newspaper clippings of interest. One article, written by his father Dick Snowdon and taken from the October 1957 issue of Coureur/Sporting Cyclist, featured a name we had not yet come across. Heritage Doncaster’s Assistant Museum’s Officer Nicola has done some research for us to find out more about this impressive athlete.
Iris Miles (nee Hoult) was born in Doncaster in 1933. She developed an interest in cycling from a very early age and as a teenager started club riding with Conisbrough Ivanhoe. As her interest in track racing developed, she went on to become a member of Dearne Wheelers. She enjoyed early success as a track cyclist, winning the National Ladies’ 880 yards handicap at the age of eighteen. In 1954, by now a member of Scala Wheelers, she finished seventh in the women’s national 25-mile time-trial championship, completing the race as the best rider from Yorkshire. In the same year Iris set a new record for the North Midlands, winning the Central District Ladies 25-mile in one hour four minutes and 35 seconds.
Iris continued to go from strength to strength in 1954. In August she set a new record in the Eckington Wheelers 15 mile race, finishing in a time of 39 minutes and 20 seconds. Also in August she entered her first National 100-mile championship, and finished a very respectable third. Iris rounded off a successful year with a third place finish in the British Best All-Rounder Road Cycling Championship. In September 1954 she married fellow cyclist Kenneth Miles.
Iris continued to improve her speed and stamina, and in 1956 she won both the 50 and 100-mile National Championship, setting a competition record in the 50-mile of two hours, 10 minutes and 39 seconds. As a result of this success, she was the Women’s British Best All-Rounder of 1956. Iris went onto repeat this year’s success in 1957, setting a competition record for the 25 and 50-mile time trial, and again winning the Women’s British Best All-Rounder. This culminated with a trip to the Albert Hall in London for the award ceremony.
Iris was indeed a remarkable cyclist, pulling off some amazing feats, winning over 100 road and track races of various distances between 1952 and 1957. However, like many female athletes before and since, her appearance rather than her talent was of much greater importance to many people than that of her male counterparts. A journalist writing in the ‘Daily Herald’ newspaper in 1958 was very relieved to report to his readers that as well as being a top athlete, Iris was also “fair and slim and feminine. Almost glamorous”.
In 1958 Iris gave birth to her first child. She gave up racing in order to bring up her family, but in later years she became a member of Doncaster Wheelers and found club cycling very enjoyable.
Iris’s last brush with cycling occurred rather unexpectedly in 2008 at the age of seventy-five when the medal presented to her by the Road Time Trials Council in 1957 for her British Best All-Rounder award turned up out of the blue in Devon. Iris had lost her medal soon after the presentation at the Royal Albert Hall, but a lady found it in her brother’s belongings after his death, and returned it to Doncaster Wheelers. It was presented to Iris at the club’s annual prize winning event at the Earl of Doncaster Hotel. Iris died in 2014 at the age of eighty.
We would love to be able to collect some more images of Iris to accompany this article. Does anyone have a photograph in their collection or their own memories of Iris they would like to share? Please get in touch if you can help!