Memorials at the Isle of Man TT Races

Guy Martin. ©Fran Caley

Raced over the 37¾ mile ‘Mountain Circuit’, where speeds reach in excess of 200mph, where the lap record stands at 17m 12.3s and where participants pass within inches of stone walls, lamp posts and other street furniture; the Isle of Man TT (or Tourist Trophy) Races remain one of the oldest and most prestigious events in the motorcycle racing calendar. The danger associated with racing at such high speeds over what are essentially public roads has seen as many column inches within the press devoted to reporting accident and injury to any other aspect of the event, or its results. To date over  136 competitors have been killed in the events 105 year history (with a total of 239 killed if those killed at the Manx Grand Prix (MGP) are included). It is no wonder, therefore, that there have seen repeated calls for the event to be scrapped. Yet, while death and danger are pervasive realities at the TT Races; fans, residents and competitors vehemently defend the event as one of the last bastions of personal freedom, indeed the event has been hailed as ‘the greatest motor sport event in the world’.

Following fatality the bereaved often feel compelled to mark the location of death, feeling a close connection with the place where the deceased was last alive. The scene of the accident may be marked by memorials that can last from a few hours to a matter of weeks, whilst sometimes these ‘temporary’ monuments may be replaced by more permanent monuments that become the focus for successive visits. Initially these memorials are transient, comprising those objects close at hand (including programmes, beer or cigarettes laid by fans and locals), but are soon replaced by more ‘traditional’ tributes (cards, flowers or wreaths) laid by those closer to the deceased.Sometimes the bereaved feel compelled to construct more permanent memorials to the deceased; these vary considerably in form from simple plaques and benches, to more elaborate monuments, statues and gardens.

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