SHE was by all accounts a remarkable young woman who, competing in an overwhelmingly male world, put Bedale on the speedway map 70 years ago.

The hair-raising career of dirt and grass track motorcyclist Eva Askquith, who died in 1985 just a day short of her 80th birthday, has this week been celebrated in a special four-day exhibition by Bedale Museum.

The butcher's daughter from Bedale who completed the gruelling Scott Trial in Swaledale and skidded around the cinders at Wembley also travelled the world to win a clutch of cups and medals against competition from top male riders.

The South Africans called her The Yorkshire Rose and on posters in Spain, where she once took a picador as pillion passenger around the ring pursued by a bull, she was known simply as Miss Eva.

She was the first female dirt track rider in South Africa, and when told by a local reporter that most women there confined themselves to pillion riding she replied simply: "You cannot get much fun out of that."

The Eva Askquith archive in the museum contains a signed photograph of Tommy Trinder, dedicated to her by the comedian who was appearing in Edinburgh in 1930, with a message hoping that her career would "skid" along successfully.

The museum, which has been unable to mount the exhibition until now because of other commitments, has received the material on Miss Askquith over the past two years from her nieces and from a woman in Lancaster who knew her. They believed it should be stored in a central place where a permanent record could be kept.

Museum manager Harvey Blogg said: "We believe Eva started riding in about 1927 and she obviously had a fairly meteoric rise because by 1929 she was winning races in Denmark and South Africa.

"We are not quite sure how long she lasted but hope that people visiting the exhibition will give us more information.

"She was remarkable not just for the fact that she was a speedway rider, but that a woman could do it at that time. It was very much a man's world and there were only a handful of women speedway riders. One of the other women was her rival in races but the two were great friends privately.

"I imagine Eva would raise a few eyebrows among the old dears in Bedale at that time who would think she should not be doing that sort of thing. She came from virtually nowhere to prominence in a very short time.

"She thought nothing of sticking her bike in the guard's van of a train at Bedale, changing at Northallerton if necessary and going into Scotland, the West Country or Wales - anywhere where there was a speedway meeting she could enter. Nothing daunted her by the sound of things.

"Locally, she entered the Scott Trial on a machine which was not really suitable for her and finished the course. She entered the Scottish six-day trial and won a competitor's medal, which you only get if you finish, and she came second in a trial from York to Edinburgh and back which had to be done in 24 hours.

"You would have to go back a long way to find a man or woman who has put such dedication into a sport and has gone so far in such a short time. Eva was out of this world."

Miss Askquith never got a chance to ride what was supposed to be her first motorcycle, a small two-stroke which she and a girl friend bought for £3 out of their savings. The friend was riding it round a field when it caught fire and was destroyed. She bought the first of her own machines in 1926.

Ironically, although she never had an accident in her sport, Miss Askquith ended up in hospital after she was knocked down while helping her father, Charlie Askquith, to deliver meat in his van.

Mr Blogg said: "They had stopped in the van when someone ran into the back of them. She got out to check the damage to the vehicles and was returning to her van and opening the door when she was hit by a vehicle coming in the other direction. It took four years to get her put right. She never rode on the track again and went into gardening."

Miss Askquith's motorcycling skills proved useful as a member of the wartime Auxiliary Fire Service, but even after her career on two wheels ended her competitive spirit remained strong in the comparatively quiet surroundings of Bedale Gardening Society, to which she gave a cup in her name in 1968. It is awarded annually to the winner of monthly points competitions.

She was a keen exhibitor of flowers and vegetables, won numerous medals awarded by the Dahlia Society and the National Vegetable Society and entered many local horticultural shows. At Bedale from 1974-81, the last year she entered, she had an average of 40 entries at each show.

Miss Askquith was just as skilful with horses as with motorcycles in her younger days, winning cups for riding in local shows and at point-to-point events.

The Eva Askquith exhibition in the ground floor lounge at Bedale Hall continues today (10am-4pm) and tomorrow (10am-3pm), admission free. A booklet on her sporting life and competitive spirit has been prepared as a fundraiser for the museum