Day Trip to Berwick
Former Grand Prix star Jan Staechmann has established himself in recent years as the go-to-guy for old speedway videos. His Classic Speedway Videos concern offers hundreds of meetings from the last few decades on DVD and is always worth checking out.
One of the more obscure DVDs available is also one of the most remarkable.
On the face of it, a meeting between Berwick Bandits and Halifax Junior Dukes in the National Junior Knock Out Cup shouldn't hold much interest over 30 years on, but this DVD is pure gold.
Originally recorded by Keith Parkinson for the "KP Video Company" (not sure what inspired the name), it follows the Junior Dukes riders and supporters on their bus trip to Berwick on 5th August 1984.
The action starts early on a Sunday morning in a car park in Halifax. The supporters mill about as the riders and mechanics try to load the bus with team's bikes, toolboxes and kitbags. No space is left unused, with the odd Weslake ending up in the gangway of the bus.
Eventually the bus is fully-loaded and hits the road, with team-manager Terry Hardaker acting as MC on the bus and keeping everyone entertained with banter and singing. There are refreshments on offer, with tins of beer available at 45p a tin and corned beef sandwiches also available to purchase.
Everything is set fair for a great day out, then disaster strikes when the bus hits the motorway and conks out.
Rita the driver gets the bus to the hard-shoulder where the problem can be diagnosed by the numerous mechanically minded people on board. After a check of the dipstick it's confirmed that the problem is the oil - "it's just pouring straight through".
The police are soon in attendance to find out what's going on and to offer assistance. The word goes out that a replacement bus is on its way, with the supporters making good use of the unexpected break by going en masse for a pee in the bushes. Spirits are kept up by a good old fashioned war cry on the bus.
Eventually the new bus arrives and it's a simple case of swapping over......
This is probably the only footage in existence of a speedway team moving a whole set of bikes and sundry equipment from one bus to another on the hard-shoulder of the motorway. For added jeopardy the whole thing takes place dangerously close to an off-slip with cars flying past just feet away.
When the transfer is complete the party can get back to the important business of chain-smoking all the way to Berwick.
The miles pass by as the bus heads to the borders, taking in the Tyne Tunnel en-route, as they edge closer to their destination. The drama isn't over as Rita gets lost in the country roads that led to the remote Berrington Lough home that the Bandits operated from in those days. A perfectly executed reversing maneuverer on the narrowest of roads is required to get them back on track.
Word of the difficulties encountered by the visitors has filtered through to Berrington Lough and the start of the meeting is pushed back to 4pm to ensure there is some opposition for the Bandits.
The meeting itself is almost anti-climatic following the trials of travel.
Keith films from the centre-green, spinning round as necessary to catch as much of the action as he can. The editing can be described as "choppy" at best, with some races seeming to lack the odd lap at times. The re-run of heat 13 is also missing entirely, perhaps Keith forgot to press record? A production definitely of its time and reflective of the low-budgets available.
The racing is the kind of harum-scarum stuff that always appeals to the die-hards. The on track talent includes the likes of Scott Lamb, David Clay, Jim Graham, Geoff Powell, Gordon Whitaker, Peter Clegg and Tony Rizzo.
The visiting fans seem to be enjoying the day out - with a couple of the ladies enthusiastically executing the dance moves to Agadoo and bopping along to other hits of the era such as "I Feel Like Buddy Holly" by Alvin Stardust.
There are numerous spectacular pile-ups on the first bend and frequent confusion over who will actually appear as the number of fit riders and functioning machines decreases over the course of the afternoon.
The Junior Dukes run out as 44-33 victors and progress to the next round and head back to Halifax, sadly Keith has run out of tape or battery as the return leg of the journey is undocumented.
Never fear, later in the season they ventured north once again to Barrow and the video of that is one is also available, but that's a story for the next time.....
This article was first published on 8th July 2018
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