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Snapshots of Yesteryear
By Peter Colvin

 

This photograph, taken at Glasgow White City in 1967, is the first of a series of snapshots that I hope will entertain, delight and perhaps even enthral many a speedway fan. It is the intention to include as many hitherto unpublished images from my collection. This picture shows action from Heat 2 of the Scottish Cup match on Friday 8th September. In front, exiting the fourth bend, is Jimmy McMillan with Bert Harkins, Alf Wells and Bernt Persson chasing. Tigers got a 5-1 in this Heat and Jimmy also won his second race in Heat 7 when Tigers grabbed a second 5-1 to put them ahead 26-16. Unfortunately, Jimmy failed to score another point in the match which the Monarchs won 50-46. This was only Jimmy McMillan's second season riding for the Tigers, having made his debut against Poole Pirates on 24th June 1966. He was deputising for Johny Faafeng who was riding for Norway in a test match against Sweden. Jimmy scored 3 points from two rides at reserve and finished the season with an average of 3.54.

 

This is a photograph of the Glasgow side that had just defeated Cradley Heath Heathens 41-37 on the 28th August 1964. The team included Chris Julians, Charlie Monk, Bruce Ovenden and Bill McMillan (pictured in the back row) with Trevor Redmond, Maury Mattingly and Graham Coombes kneeling in front. I have had this snapshot for a considerable number of years and it was not until now that I had researched its history. It has to be late 1964, because that was the only season that promoter Trevor Redmond rode for the Tigers, having come out of retirement in order to bolster the struggling team. Chris Julians had also recently returned from injury. Due to severe engine problems throughout the night of the Cradley match, Maury Mattingly had been a virtual passenger and had already changed out of his leathers. No need to guess why Charlie Monk's leathers were still immaculate by the time the racing had ended!

 

This image is from a British League match at White City against Sheffield on 5th May 1967. It shows the start of Heat 3 with Charlie Monk in red against John Dews in white and Billy Bales in yellow. What makes this a slightly unusual snapshot is the rider in blue. Both Nils Ringstrom and Johny Faafeng were away riding in Sweden and promoter Danny Taylor obtained a rider from the so-called "pool" of unattached riders. He chose to use the 46-year-old veteran rider Gordon McGregor who had recently resigned from the Long Eaton team. Dunfermline born McGregor's speedway career started at White City in 1946. His last season as a Glasgow rider was 1950 after which he went on to race for Motherwell, Leicester, Oxford, Belle Vue and finally Doncaster in 1970 aged 49. For the record, Glasgow grabbed a 5-1 in Heat 3 with McGregor finishing second to Monk again in Heat 5. He failed to score any further points, probably tiring in his remaining two rides.

 

This photograph shows Alf Wells, on the left, chatting to Charlie Monk in the pits at White City in 1967. I was particularly pleased with this snapshot because it shows the normally taciturn Monk smiling and seeming to enjoy the company of a team-mate. Terry Stone, who rode for the Tigers in 1964, told me that Charlie Monk would walk into the changing rooms before a meeting saying something like "g'day boys" and then would often never say another word to his team-mates for the rest of the night. The pits at White City had limited covering against the elements. Charlie Monk made sure that his bike was positioned in one of the few places under cover. Kiwi Alf Wells had joined the Tigers in 1966 and ended the year as a heat-leader behind Charlie with an average of 7.57.

 

This article was first published on 4th November 2010


 

  • Ivan Blacka:

    "When you look at these pictures of the riders and their gear the riders of today don't know how lucky they have it. "

  • J Potter:

    "The picture with Charlie Monk smiling must be worth a fortune!! Charlie was one my fav tiggers, great racer but always so dour, very few monarchs went unbeaten when Charlie came to Meadowbank. Thank you for the photos and memories. "

  • John Houston:

    "Keep it up Peter. The Tigers are a part of our lives and we meet a lot of good people, and your images are part of the history of the team that we love."

  • Ian Hawkins:

    "Excellent photos which bring back happy memories of White City and epic trips through there on a 50CC Honda (pre M8) and regularly getting lost on the way back, but one minor question - was his name not Chris Julian (no S)"

  • Bob Bath:

    "Thanx so much for sharing these photos - brought back a lot of memories - wish we could all go back to those days!"

  • Tony Pearce:

    Thanks for sharing your excellent photos. It's true what you say about Charlie Monk. As a child he was without a doubt the hardest rider to get to sign an autograph. However I did manage this impossible task a couple of times!."

  • Chris Stockwell:

    "Brilliant, I think there must be 100's of snapshots out there taken by Speedway Fans over the years. These photos taken by the ordinary guy and gels of their favourite team or riders show the true love of the sport. These photos may not have been taken professonally but they do convey the atmosphere from the spectator's side of the fence and help conjoure up many memories for the people who took them. Well done Peter, great photo's. I'm off now to search my old photo albums to see if I've got any photo's worth putting on the site. I think I've got one or two."

  • Peter Colvin:

    "Ian Hawkins is correct in pointing out that it should have been Chris Julian and not Chris Julians in the team photo. I made the mistake of using the spelling that appeared in the programme of that meeting. On further examination of the Glasgow programmes of 1964 I noticed that for the first meeting, Chris's name was given as both Julians and then Julian. I hope that other fans will be encouraged to share their snapshots of yesteryear on Speedway Plus."

  • Ross Dow:

    "That got the nostalgia nodes working. It's amazing how a couple of well chosen photos can make you feel as if you are still there. I was a 'pusher' at White City' (back in the day when it was not an arrestable offence). I had to start at the bottom (Y/B helmet) so usually only got to push the opposition second strings. Still I got in for free, got a free programme and got a couple of 'bob' for my troubles. All this and I got to rub shoulders with my heroes and pick up the latest inside stories. Let's have a few more from your collection, Peter."

  • Douglas Robertson:

    "Happy memories of that era. I was Graham Coombes "spannerman" (tank filler!) at White City around this time. Most riders wouldn't let anyone else touch their bikes with a spanner so my job was re-fueling in between races. A mate of mine who helped Chris Julian once put oil in the "petrol" tank. Can you imagine Chris' response? I also worked with Chris Julian until he left for Cradley Heath. Chris was a really friendly, jovial guy. Graham was a bit serious/dour but with hindsight, he, like many OZ/NZ Riders of that era were over here "on a shoestring" budget. Graham was supporting a wife (Shelley) and a young child (Pauline) at the time. It was very, very difficult for some of these guys to be competitive especially if their engine "blew up" and they had to have major work done. I remember Jimmy Tannock had a m.cycle repair shop up the Garscube Road (Glasgow). I know he was a Monarchs man, as was Bert Harkins. I always found it strange at the time that, as local men, that they didn't ride for Glasgow Tigers. They must have had their reasons. Again...thanks for excellent pics. Which immediately took me back to the good old days at White City."

  • Bert Harkins:

    "Regarding Douglas's query as to why I, as a Glaswegian, rode for the Edinburgh Monarchs and not Glasgow Tigers is simple. When I began as a novice in the '60s trying to get rides, there was only one track in Scotland and that was Old Meadowbank. It took me a long, long time to progress but by the time Glasgow White City opened, I was occasionally riding at reserve for Edinburgh. I had been a Tigers' fan as a kid in Glasgow, but no one ever asked me to ride for Glasgow, I was quite happy to ride for the Monarchs at their various homes from Meadowbank to Coatbridge and Powderhall. Also, talking of fuel & oil, there was one night in the Edinburgh pits when Dick Barrie seemed to go berserk (nothing unusual there!), jumping up and down. It seems he had put oil in my fuel tank and methanol in the oil tank! No wonder he became an announcer and not a "Pit Helper"!"

  • Alistair Campbell:

    "Great memories - its funny when I hear some music from the 1967/8's it takes me back to Friday nights at White City - favourite was Charlie. Will never the accident when George Hunter took out the inside starting gate post when racing for the finish against Bo "the bomb" - after George was stretcher off and we thought he was possibly critically injured - the next record they played was "Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die", luckly he was ok."

  • Ian (Tich) McLean:

    "Douglas, you got Coombo's wife and daughter's names mixed up. Pauline was his wife. Happy days them."

  • Douglas Robertson:

    "Ian (Tich), Yes, you are right about Pauline & Shelley Coombes. I'm getting to "that age". Thanks for reply Bert, reasons fully understood. I remember appearing at your home in Mansewood? Glasgow circa. 1963. I was rebuilding/tuning a BSA C15 250 and had run into problems. I lived in Pollokshields and "the grapevine" informed me that one Bert Harkins was the man to speak to about motorcycles. Took the bus up to Mansewood. Lo & behold you werent in! Bet you were glad!! Still managed to get the C15 to do 65mph. Wow! I must have seen you around the old Clydesdale in the 1950s when the Cycle Speedway was on the go. I know that a certain Mr D Barrie was there at the time. All the best Bert & thanks for some gret memories."

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