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The Very Last of the Leg Trailers
By Tony Webb

A young man who thrilled the patrons of Rye House, Ipswich, Weymouth and West Ham in the early sixties can truly lay claim to being the very last of the leg trailers. The name of South Ruislip born, Ray Cousins, is one that will remind fans of that period of some action-filled second-halves when-ever Ray took to the track.

Ray commenced his shale career in 1961 as a sixteen-year old under the wing of his father Sam, and his Rye House mentor Mike Broadbank. His first machine was a very heavy Norton, which the youngster handled with great skill.

Rides were hard to come by in the early sixties, competition was fierce at Rye with the Jackson brothers, Tyburn Gallows, Geoff Hughes, Pete Gay and Ian Champion all learning their trade at the time. Ray took off to France where he broadened his experiences on some very basic and rough circuits. Ray resumed training at Rye House, now mounted on a JAP ready for the 1963 season, second-halves followed at Rye, Rayleigh New Cross and West Ham.

The demise of the leg trailers was attributed to the slick tracks, but Ray learnt to perform the art on the present day tracks. Of course the track-side experts forecast that unless he went leg forward he would never make the grade. But he provided entertainment with a capital E in an era that was light on crowd pleasers, his match races with the King of Crash, Phil Bishop, was classic speedway at its best.

With the formation of the Metropolitan league in 1964 he established a berth in the Ipswich team. A booking in the London riders Championship at West Ham was also to his credit.

Ray continued to be a regular at West Ham and Rye House up until the late sixties. Never destined to achieve stardom, he did, however, provide thrilling racing and I am sure will be remembered for that quality alone.

 

This article was first published on 28th May 2009


 

  • Robert John Rogers:

    "Tony, what a lovely item on Ray, one of West Ham lesser-known Riders. I was lucky enough to see him in action against one of the leg-trailing legends, Phil Bishop. Phil was known as the 'India Rubber Man' because it was claimed he had broke every bone in his body at one time while racing. On the 13th September 1966, Phil had given a display of leg-trailing at West Ham during a match interval (where they used to say, 'Anything Could Happen'!). It was such a success with the fans that they demanded more, so as the Hammers had a junior who was also a 'trailer', a special match race was set up. On the 20th September after the match against Exeter (for the Falcons fans, I am afraid you lost 28-50, with the highest scorer being Colin Goody with eight points) a special match race took place called - 'THE BATTLE OF THE GENERATIONS - LEG-TRAILING MATCH RACE'. It was between Phil 'Roaring Twenties' Bishop and Ray 'Sizzling Sixties' Cousins. It was a very close race, but sadly Phil fell on the last bend as he tried to blast round the outside of Ray. The time was 83.6 seconds, well outside the track record, but remembering they were both racing on original 'Dirt-track' Bikes, and both bikes and riders had to be preserved. Phil when on to become Team manager at West Ham, and was sadly to lose his life in 1970 when he and the team were involved in a fatal accident in Belgium. "

  • Jim Henry:

    "Kenny Cameron was second halfing in 1964. I'm sure he had outings at Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sunderland and Newcastle."

  • Chris Stockwell:

    "An interesting article, but I thought Tony George who rode for Rochester/Romford was also a leg trailer? He was advetised in the Long Eaton programme as leg trailing sensation Tony George."

  • Richard Austin:

    "Liverpool..... Last of the Leg Trailers. I beleive the last leg trailer to ride for the Liverpool Chads was George Newton. George rode for Liverpool 1951-1952. George started his speedway career riding for Crystal Palace in 1932. "

  • Ben:

    "I went to Wolverhampton Speedway last night (Wolves v Poole on 20/7/15). Apart from a visit to Coventry in the 70's (don't remember details) it was my first speedway visit since I was a regular at the Brummies aged 12 in 1947. First thing I noticed at Monmore Green was they were all leg trailers .. the only foot-forward riders were the 'Cubs' after the main event .. (Hope the kid who got hit it the second race is OK) Is trailing the in-thing now .. I remember a few at Brummies meetings on various sides, (all the old riders) but the vast majority were foot-forward."

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