Ray Davidson has responded to a recent visitor appeal to see some action pictures taken at the old Berwick circuit.
These were taken at Steve McDermott's testimonial in 1989 and when Arena Essex visited in (we think) 1986.
"When I went on a school visit to Paris in the early post war years I saw an advert for "Grand Reunion du Dirt Track" with Fernand Meynier, Champion du Monde. Not very accurate! Unfortunately I wasn't able to go to the meeting. Incidentally, my mother was at school in Bury, Lancs, with H R "Ginger" Lees. She said he was a horrible boy who she didn't like one bit! "
"Does anybody out there recall a rainswept Wembley Stadium in the late 1940's or fifties when Wimbledon beat Wembley Lions 42 to 41 to inflict a rare defeat on the mighty Lions? Mike Erskine and Norman Parker team rode to Dons and I believe Mike got 11 points probably his finest performance ever. Please let me know if you recall this evening....got soaking wet in the downpour...no cover at Wembley in those days....what a dump it was "
"I supported the Dukes from opening day in 1965.The Shay stadium was an absolute rat-hole and remained so whilst speedway was there and for years after...but the actual track and the atmosphere were just brill. The rider Allan mentions going over the fence and only breaking a thumb was Maury Robinson, I was there, I thought he'd be dead!That came only a few weeks after Aussie Bert Kingston had fractured his skull on the same bend, I think Maury may have been replacing him in the side.Best memory for me was vs Coventry 1965, a 12th heat 5-1 by Eric Boocock and Eric Boothroyd to put us 2 up after being behind all match, maybe against Nigel B or at least Ron Mountford, then going on to win 40-38. Bliss! I still go to the Shay to watch Halifax Rugby League who now share with the soccer club. It is a tidy ground now, but could never ever take that super-duper banked track again! Odsal could, only 6 miles up the road, but that's another story."
"Interesting to see your correspondents comments on Splits post retirement activities.
Split at his best would be one of the riders I would most like to have seen ride, but didn't. I only just missed his final days with Ipswich (my first visit to speedway was about a week after Ipswich folded in 1962).
I can still recall Split making it big in the press when arrested for smuggling. I think he was driving a Triumph. I was quite amused, they were reported as finding several guns in the car, and he was with his fiancee of around 20 or more years (so they said).
What a character! Last I heard Split was alive and well in Spain (not I believe the costa del crime).
Terry Wogan seems to have been a big fan of Split incidently.
One of speedways loveable rogues."
Charles McKay visited the famous Californian track earlier this year and got us these additional snaps. He reports that he found the racing to be a little disappointing on that particular night.
Here's a couple of old pals chatting about old times. It is of course Bobby Schwartz and Bruce Penhall. The picture is courtesy of Ivan Blacka and was taken a couple of years ago at Industry Hills Speedway.
"Great little article Tracy. The comment about Daniel McKinlay being cheated out of the 2001 NZ Title, I assume you mean the little ankle tap on Graham Hartshorne at Ruapuna. Had a perfect view of that one and it was a real 50/50. Yes there was contact, but enough to make a rider fall....??"
"Well well Steve what an impressive Garage of speedway Memorabilia you have ....a very nice collection .....how long has it taken you to collect all these valuable speedway goodies. I would love to look round your museum.....I expect you're still collecting"
"It's good to see pictures of Old Meadowbank and a glimpse of Clockmill Road also. Saturday night was Monarchs' race night and the nearby St Margarets shed would be full to overflowing with steam locomotives over the weekend. The smoke and sulphur added to the methanol exhaust fumes from the bikes were a heady mix! The most thrilling meeting I recall was against Rayleigh Rockets in 1961. Top riders for Rayleigh were Reg Reeves and Stan Stevens, the match went to the last heat and I think Monarchs snatched a draw. Best ever visiting rider, Eric Boothroyd in my opinion. Bit of trivia...although demolition commenced in 1967, there is still a red brick retaining wall between the back straight and the rail line visible to this day f rom the main road at Meadowbank and also from Marionville. Although a ramshackle stadium, Old Meadowbank probably had the smoothest track in the country, so that there was little 'home' advantage to Monarchs. Ian Hoskins was a real showman and Don Cumming also was an entertaining announcer. Happy days..."
"I think the sooner speedway cuts the costs to the riders the better - would that cut the cost to get into see it? The amount of money it costs to prepare the bikes are unreal, why not have engines from the factory tamper proof? No super cam shafts, valves etc. That would help the young up and coming riders. If you have the cash you will win the stash, look at the Poles, Swedes and Danes who have bikes and vans on most corners of the globe, our boys in England can't compete with that kind of money. Look back to the 1970s and early 80s the lap times at Newcastle were 71seconds, a fast lap was 66 secs. Everyone got the wow factor, why coz the bikes were not as fast and didn't blow up as often which meant it was not as expensive. Now a lap time at Newcastle is a wow 63 or under 62secs - then bang goes ya motors. Too many greedy folk I think."
"Like Adrian, I have always been in awe of the professionalism and easy style of Leigh Adams. Over many years ha came across as Mr Nice Guy and I fully believe that he was just that. He was so in control on the track that he made the sport look safe. He had everything that a multi world champ ion needs except the nasty / do or die streak. If he had been more ruthless, he would probably have at least one world title to his name. How ironic that such a safe, professional rider should suffer such horrific injuries. Unfortunately, life is not guaranteed to be fair. On the plus side, one thing that Leigh demonstrated over his long career was determination - he would never lay down to a challenge and had an abundance of self belief. That trait is likely to be much to his advantage with the challenge he now faces. I sincerely hope that he will regain enough mobility to enjoy his family life without hinderance. On the subject of Ken McKinlay, I only really saw him in the later sixties and, then as an away rider to be respected. I do recall that, like Leigh, he had perfected all of the skills necessary to be a top line professional. He and his machine were always immaculately turned out, he was a consistently good gater, fast and knew how to defend when in front and mount an attack. Again, like Leigh, he did not attempt rash manoeuvres which were likely to cause un-necessary risk to himself and others. Also a true gentleman, by reputation."
"Great to see the report and pictures of the Paisley Lions reunion, because even though I wasn't a Paisley supporter, a lot of the riders rode for my team (Bradford) in the 70's. Sid and Mick, Al Bridgett, Mike Fullerton, Mike Fishwick all donned the Dukes race jacket (or whatever we were called at the time). Sid was involved in one of the worst crashes I ever saw at Odsal. He was having one of his best nights in his first 2 rides, when he missed the gate in his 3rd, and tried to take the opposing rider from the back on the 4th bend.The bikes got locked together and went straight on, at high speed, into the fence.Everyone feared the worst and it was something of a relief when we found out it was "only" a broken thigh. Had a real chuckle at the "tape measure" incident, I wish I'd been there! "
"Excellent article on one of my all-time favourite riders of my early teenage years. I seem to remember, one Friday at the Wick, that it was Barry Briggs who chased 'Cass' into the pits and hit him with his steel shoe, after they collided at Waterden Rd. This would appear to back up Tony's reference to a clash with Mike Gardner, although this must have been at Cradley, as I don't remember it happening at Hackney. It would be nice to put the story to bed, and for someone to be able to write definitively about whether Garry is still alive or not. Hopefully he is, a great entertainer in the greatest sport on earth."
"Remember those days well, I used to help with the track with my father when Bob Humphreys had it ( Bob would remember me as tanker drivers boy ) then after Bob closed, we had the Mike Barker era . Well the names he would call me esp when I was riding my bike! Oh to take that old Sherpa van of his round the track again. Fun days with the Barkers as for some of the riders I recall - John Perry, Trever Edwards, Fraser Southerland plus Mick's boys. Those were my fun days. I can only admire Terry for trying to keep MK going."
"Nice to see the piece on John. I never went to one of his meetings, but I did take Speedway Star each week (for more than 30 years) and followed what he and a couple of others were doing with the Metropolitan League. I had never been to Ipswich (except for a stock car event) at the time that John revived the venue which had closed mid-season in 1962.
The merging of the National and Provincial leagues in 1965 was, arguably (together with the formation of the Provincial League itself), one of the two most important domestic speedway events of the past 60 years. It did, however, remove the lower league, and left precious little opportunity for the youngsters to get a grounding of proper racing. John was a great supporter of the sport, and deserves more recognition. It was a shame that he didn't take a team into Division 2 in 1968. I have great respect for Johns efforts, well done John."
"Excellent picture of two great riders. Ivor was my first 'hero' of the Heathens, great to watch, and as you say very difficult to pass once he got in front. Many happy memories of him riding for Cradley."
"Interesting article - I've asked myself the same question quite a few times in the last 5 years. Yes, there are lots of competing entertainment these days, and I'm not sure that price is the main issue, but I agree with one point, and that is too many people (and this is probably increasing every year) just don't know what speedway is. Where are the new fans coming from - mostly from existing families and friends that already go I would imagine.
This may be controversial, but I don't think it's good value for money, compared with another sport that speedway often shares stadia with. How much actual track action is there at speedway compared with stock car racing - a much, much smaller percentage at speedway. I don't think speedway is going anywhere fast in the UK - things have moved on and the baton has been passed to Poland et al."
"I used to do the first aid at the practice track, often the only one in the middle in all weathers, good times!Ccan anyone remember the ex rider's name that use to run the days practice meetings? I never was any good with names, I knew all the regular "Practicers" but can't tell you any of their names."
Bob Humphreys used to be the instructor at Elfield.
Peter selects his favourite seven of all time. Peter is an Aussie and that's reflected in the selection he has made.
Jim Blanchard is trying to identify some riders in photographs he took at a Mildenhall training session in 1980. He knows that Craig Featherby is the rider in pictures 8, 9, 10 and 18. See the pictures on his website.
Bryan Horsnell is looking for some programmes from Ipswich's 1959 season - Can You Help?
Brian Bailey would like a copy of the 1994 NLRC programme - Can You Help?
"Hi Tony. What a great read glad to see you are still putting pen to paper,how about doing something on Split Waterman the 1950s wide-boy,after his speedway racing was over he reputably went into gold smuggling. "
"Fascinating to read the 'fantasy' details of the World Final That Never Was(1939), 72 years on. What a pity an 'original' programme from the 1939 Final hasn't surfaced after all this time. It must have been compiled and, probably, printed before War was declared and even if they were alll pulped, someone somewhere must have a 'proof' copy hidden or stashed away, don't you think? At least one of the original 1939 World Final tickets has survived, which was reported in VINTAGE SPEEDWAY Vol.10 No.1 Spring 2002 (pages 32/33). I wonder if any others have found their way into collections during the past 10 years? If you have got one of the original 1939 programes - or know of somebody who has - let us all know, please! "
"i remember George Hunter coming to my house round about 1979, and heard him saying to my dad (Chic Todd), that Mike Parker was a bastard and was the reason he left Wolves. I never knew there was that much of a hatred there !"