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Snapshots of Yesteryear
By Peter Colvin

First featured in the Glasgow Tigers programme in 2012

Berwick became the first club in the history of the British League to have a lady promoter when Mrs. Elizabeth Taylor and her husband Danny introduced speedway to Tweedmouth in 1968. The Bandits were founder members of the British League Division Two and raced their first home League match at Shielfield Park on Saturday 25th May, losing 28-49 to the eventual champions, Belle Vue Colts. The Bandits finished the season in tenth place and the resulting wooden spoon was destined for their trophy cabinet. Unfortunately, nearly all of the other teams that raced against the Bandits are no longer in existence. They include Nelson, Rayleigh, Crayford, Canterbury, Reading and Weymouth.

Berwick are the only team that still race at their original venue. However, this was not always the case. In September 1980, it was announced that the Bandits would be leaving Shielfield Park because of the unreasonable financial demands made by the football club chairman. They raced their remaining three home fixtures at Brough Park, Newcastle.

In 1981, the Bandits began a nomadic existence when they raced all their home matches at neutral tracks Barrow, Workington and Newcastle. On September 6th 1981, Berwick withdrew from the League after the Speedway Control Board upheld a protest from Edinburgh promoter Mike Parker when the Bandits attempted to complete their fixtures at Glasgow's Blantyre track.

I took these snapshots during the first meeting at Berwick's new venue at Berrington Lough on April 24th 1982. The track was part of a purpose-built speedway stadium constructed on virgin farmland near the village of Ancroft. The top photo shows second bend action from heat 6 with Bruce Cribb on the outside of the Monarchs pairing Brett Saunders and Chris Turner with Brian Collins on the inside line. The other photo is from heat 7 with Mike Caroline leading into the third bend in front of George Hunter, Eric Broadbelt and Ivan Blacka.

The Bandits eventually returned to their original home fourteen years later with Mike Hope, Peter Waite and now current owner John Anderson in charge.

 

This snapshot by John Jarvis is St Mirren Park, Love Street, the home of the Paisley Lions for two seasons in the mid-seventies. The only Scottish track in existence at the time was at Coatbridge, the Tiger's home since 1973. It was felt by the Coatbridge promotion that the sport could not sustain two tracks within such a short distance of one another. Permission to run speedway at Paisley was duly granted and Neil Macfarlane's ambition to present the sport at Love Street was realized when the Lions opened in a blaze of publicity on Saturday 5th April 1975. Just over 6,000 curious Paisley Buddies turned out to watch the Lions defeat the mighty Birmingham Brummies, 41-37.

The precise date of this photograph is not known, but I think that it clearly illustrates one aspect of the Paisley circuit - the long straights and narrow width of the 391-metre track. Co-Director Joe Thurley, on seeing the stadium for the first time said, "I didn't mind the track. It was narrow, a bit like Bradford and it wasn't the easiest to ride so gating was important."

Chris Roynon, when asked if he enjoyed his time at Paisley, said, "Certainly - they were good times although the track was a wee bit narrow. I hadn't even seen the place when I signed. When I got up there I couldn't believe it - massively long straights and very narrow bends. I remember saying at the time, 'Oh my god, what have I done!' In reality it proved to be a good track to race on and I liked it."

Alan 'Doc' Bridgett "didn't mind riding the track at all. It was sort of like Berwick; pre-banking, rough and narrow with long straights. Yeah, the surface left a lot to be desired but you just got on with it." Neil Macfarlane and Joe Thurley launched a massive fund raising exercise at the end of the 1976 season but were unable to wipe out operating losses and announced their withdrawal from the 1977 National League just two weeks before the start of the new season. Photograph courtesy of the John Somerville collection.

 

My first speedway meeting was an international match at the White City Stadium between Scotland and England on 2nd June 1965. I knew from reading the papers that speedway existed in Glasgow and that a certain Charlie 'Maximum' Monk was the darling of the Tigers' faithful. My brother, who was motorbike daft and took me to that first match, had photos of some speedway riders on his bedroom wall. I had also seen some of the rare, and extremely poor quality, speedway racing that had appeared on the television. Needless to say, after my first meeting I was well and truly addicted to the

This is the 1965 Glasgow team that I followed for the remainder of that fateful speedway season. Captain Maury Mattingly sits on the bike next to promoter Trevor Redmond with Bluey Scott, Charlie Monk, Nils Paulsen, Bruce Ovenden, Willie Templeton and Graham Coombes making up the Tigers septet. Founder members of the British League in 1965, the Glasgow side from the previous year now included Willie Templeton from Edinburgh, Bluey Scott from Middlesbrough and Nils Paulsen from Norway. Bill McMillan managed to make occasional appearances for the Tigers and rode in just over twenty meetings out of thirty-seven league and cup encounters. Monk, Scott and Coombes did not miss a single match and Charlie lived up to his nickname by posting ten maximums and an average of 10.3 in what was, at the time, the best speedway league in the world. This is not the best team that Glasgow has had, but from my point of view, it is certainly one of the most memorable.

 

This article was first published on 26th May 2013

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