Simon has spent many years watching speedway around the circuits in the north of England. He includes the Polka Dot Kid in his selection of his all-time favourite seven.
The consensus seems to be the mystery rider above in George Wigfield who rode for Sheffield and Nottingham. Thanks to all who got in touch. Special thanks to Dave Gifford who sent another picture of George for comparison purposes.
We didn't expect an article on tapestry to be so popular, but it's generated a remarkable amount of feedback. So much so that we've had to hold back feedback on all other subjects to accommodate it. See below.
"I'd never have thought that you could put tapestry and speedway in the same sentence, let alone combine the two like that. They must have been super fine pieces of work to catch that sense of movement. Let's hope that you don't have to put quite so much effort into customising the helmet colors that you make! Well done Maureen!"
"Very interesting story about Maureen's tapestries. She's done more than make helmet colours. She and husband Dave were tireless workers for Speedway in South Australia for decades, starting at Sidewinders Junior Speedway in the 1980s, then onto North Arm and Gillman. They helped untold overseas riders on their visits to Adelaide. Two of the people in the background that do so much but never get any recognition. Without these type of volunteer workers Speedway in Australia would be a lot poorer. Sadly no longer involved."
"The piece by Maureen Schooling (Tapestry, 18th March), with the relevant accompanying photograph, certainly brings back happy, if somewhat blurred, memories.
Maureen did indeed present me with that fine tapestry just prior to my departure from Australia in the early 1990s. However, the previous night I'd been at an all-night party in Adelaide and so I'm afraid the euphemism 'tired and emotional' probably best describes my disposition at the time rather than simply 'emotional'. See that empty crate behind us? That symbolically equates to a lot of rum down the 'hatch,' probably from a distillery not a million miles from the Queensland town of Bundaberg, as it happens, and there'll be plenty of Aussies who can verify what the old 57% vol. O.P. can do to the unaccustomed 'POHM' (i.e. me) even when mixed with a crateful of coke!
Nevertheless, despite the state I was in, the amount of work and high level of craft that Maureen must have put into making the tapestry was still immediately apparent and I do remember that what little wind was left in my sails following the previous night's 'jolly' was very quickly taken right out of them. I was, in effect, left speechless. Whatever I did muster to say in response was no doubt inadequate in conveying my sense of gratitude at being the surprised recipient of such a fine memento. Not, incidentally, a memento of the time I spent as a Bandit, though it does certainly serve as such, but of the time and friendship granted me by Maureen, husband Dave and so many other people I met while racing Down Under, principally in Adelaide. I trust I made a better job of thanking Maureen in the card I sent from England, er... some months later (!), when presumably I'd finally sobered up, though of that, like so many things these days, I really can't be sure of.
Therefore I'd like to take the opportunity here to thank Maureen for the memory of that particular February morning, represented as it is in the photo, and for all those other memories from more clear-headed excursions with her family throughout South Australia. Needless to say, I still have the tapestry: it is beautifully made, I will not part with it and, for the reasons explained, still hold it in high regard with real personal value.
Some values change, however, and, digressing ever so slightly, looking back at that photo of Maureen and myself on SpeedwayPlus, no matter how hard I tried to remain focussed on the things that matter to us both, I just couldn't help but recall a line from a song by legendary punk group from Leeds, the Mekons (still going strong), who once sang words to the effect of:
Look, coke [non specified brand] is not good for you. Don't drink it!
The words in question are from Insignificance, a song on the album Retreat From Memphis (1994), which, as a matter of fact, contributed as inspiration for the thesis subject I pursued for an MLitt in American Studies. Subsequently, a lot of time was spent not thinking about speedway but writing about US corporations, dead 'cowboys' and perhaps the most enlightened of former British punk rock groups - and that is what you call an education! Oh yes.
So, rather than the two of us (Maureen and me) appearing to be unwitting participants in an advert for an American sugary drinks conglomerate, and especially if there are any kids logging-on to this blog, I more than happily repeat those paraphrased words of infinite Mekons wisdom:
Look, coke [non specified brand] is not good for you. Don't drink it!
Rum, on the other hand, ideally from La Habana and held by a drinking mug filled to the brim with sweet, sweet irony, would be absolutely fine - only in moderation, mind, and distilled to a relatively more humane % volume. You see, you mustn't O.D. with 'Queensland O.P.'! Ahem...I'll say no more on that one!!
If, however, any of you kids reading this aspire to be a good professional speedway rider or, alternatively, simply plain healthy and sensible, or even all three (eh?), there's no need whatsoever to take any advice from me. Just you stick to the orange juice! And no, that doesn't include 'finta,' as any of our self-respecting friends from New Zealand might say. After all, that particular 'brew' is Fa...Fa...Fa...far from pure...(how should I put this?)... 'orange juice!'
And yes, I more than happily repeat those last words again, too, and they ought to be as music to the ears of both young and old alike...
Ok, ever so slight digression over.
Maureen, despite those various injuries you mentioned in your piece, I sincerely hope all's well with you and Dave half-a-world away at your relatively new place in Tasmania. Thanks again for what you did for me all those years ago (now twenty-plus...brrrr, shiver me timbers!) and, as ever, my very best wishes to you both.
"Re Reidar Eide was injured the night before he rode at Glasgow. The race at Halifax included Ronnie Moore and Eric Boocock. All three were close going out of the second bend when Ronnie Moore picked up and moved over on Eric Boocock leaving Reidar nowhere to go except into the fence at high speed. As he hit the fence he was thrown up and managed to hand vault over the fence not knowing that there was a sharp fall on the other side. He made a heavy landing on his side and had rib, hip and leg bruising. I drove him straight to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for x rays and he was released to rest for a few days. Despite me clearly and repeated t elling him what had happened he was initially convinced that Eric had PUT HIM in the fence. This was absolutely not true as Eric was a very fair rider always. Even days later when at Coventry Nigel Boocock tried to assure Reidar that 'our kid is not a dirty rider'he took a lot of persuading by me that he was wrong in his belief. Three years later he thanked me for insisting he had been wrong about the incident. Reidar and I travelled extensively together up to the time he was at Reading."
"Wasn't there a problem launching speedway in Spain due to the Spanish authorities not allowing the use of bikes built outside Spain. I remember an attempt to run speedway in Majorca (was the promoter Wally Mawdesley?) using Bultaco engines. 250c two strokes? I mean it just wouldn't be speedway would it?"
"It makes everybody sad when another track closes. We need to be opening more tracks not closing them. Let's face it Speedway is a great spectator sport. I cannot understand why Football get's so much coverage. Speedway is just as exciting if not more exciting. It's because Football is on the TV from morning till night and we are all brain washed with it. Don't get me wrong I like Football too but Speedway deserves it chance too."
"Does anyone recall a speedway match way back in the 1950 s when on a dreadful night of torrential rain Wimbledon went to the unbeatable Wembley and won 42/41? I recall that Mike Erskine scored 11 points. I got absolutely drenched and it turned me off the stadium for life."
"Re the comment on Roy Uden, please see this picture, Sorry not in very good condition, but the Newspaper was from September 1948, and in a very tatty condition.
The paper is twisted, and despite me adjusting it in the scanner to make it straight, the scanner keeps twisting it back! It shows a Charterer of Roy, seem he was in the RAF, and as it states he is rebuilding his Speedway Career after the RAF, I assume he rode pre-war."
"So good to read about Alf doing good. We crossed paths when he came to work where i was serving my apprenticeship. I went to old meadowbank and did cycle speedway, so you can imagine the excitement when he came to my workplace. I leart a lot from Alfie and crossed paths with some of the riders coming in to see him, and had lots of laughs too. Alf if you happen to read this all i can say is a big THANKS i learnt a lot and have passed it on down the line. Best wishes to Alfie and Margo "
"Many thanks to all who have answered the "Custom House Track Record Conundrum". 62.1 is the fastest calculation, and the mind boggles at physically having to watch that round the famous bowl. If only the place hadn't been flogged off. And for £475,000 at that! Those were the days!"
"Dudley is so right about each track having a regular race night and a good promoter who believe in the power of publicity in the local press to attract the crowds. If you want a good crowd any promotion has to put in hard work to achieve it.
My track, Oxford, for too long suffered from promoters that only turned up on the day with little effort put into publicity prior to the meeting during seasons when the race night was constantly being changed with some weeks no racing at all. They relied on free publicity the night before the meeting from the local newspapers. They didn't bother with poster around the town or any publicity that would cost money. I am told that one promotor refused the sale of the Speedway Star at the track and even fell out with Oxford's local radio which aired a weekly speedway programme that was winning industry awards. Real effort if it had to be paid for was in short supply. The tracks decline under such circumstances was due to the lack of positive promotion. Oxford still has strong support, the track is still waiting to be used it needs genuine promoters who can convince the stadiums owners that they can make it work and pay the rent.
Equally Dudley is right that riders percieved loyalty to a club is very important, but sadly there is little evidence of it today with riders changing teams each year as well as being contracted to more than one track either in the UK or abroad during the season. Some riders, when interviewed hardly seem to care about their team, they only relate to how they are doing. I know it is professional and exspensive sport and yes they want and need to earn as much money as they can, but many supporters are disillusioned by this attitude. Team and league speedway is what sets our sport apart from other motor sports. Most of us would like to have more teams in the leagues but I suspect that the promotors who run the sport are not of the same mind they are comfortable with what they have got and do not encourage expansion.
When we talk of the hey days of the sport we had many more teams up and down the country and as a result many more supporters it would be interesting to analyse, if we could, the way and the reasons why supporters attended the tracks in the past. I suspect that such was the interest and the reason why attendance was so high was because they were all keen to see as much racing as possible on the different tracks. Enthusiasm feed on enthusiasm especially with all the tracks in London. That said I am very sorry that Newport has closed and my heart goes out to all their supporters, but don't give up there is always a chance that you will get back on track. If one of us wins the Euro Millions lottery who knows what would happen!!"
I would like to add a personal memory of Jackie Biggs. Whilst riding for Coventry, Jackie broke a couple of ribs but was determind to carry on riding. He "borrowed" one of his wife's roll-on, and pulling it up accross his chest, continued . I have broken ribs in my time and can honestly say the pain is excruciating just breathing, let alone riding a speedway bike."
I was only about 14yrs old late 50s or early 60s. I knew Jack and Barry when they had the lock up garage at the top of the avenue in Tottenham. Myself and my friend Les Sims used to be there all the time and we used to help them clean and wash bike parts, they were the real nice guys."
"I enjoyed Dudley Jones' piece but must take issue with his dismissal of my often-demonised role in Terry's departure from King's Lynn. Far from being 'a new manager' I had been general manager at Saddlebow Road for six years and administratively and otherwise involved for several seasons before that, enjoying what was first a friendship and then a very long working relationship with Terry. In his later seasons he regularly cast doubt on his ability to continue riding because of other commitments and at the end of 1978 (his worst year, not a bad one but well short of his usual high standard) he indicated it was unlikely he would be back. Accordingly the directors of Norfolk Speedways together with the club's then major sponsor backed me in going after Dave Jessup, who was duly signed, and with DJ and Michael Lee in the side and everybody else contracted, by the time Terry very belatedly said he would ride after all, there was no room to accommodate him. The stuff that followed was very unfortunate, and I realise even after this time many people continue to cast me as the villain which I must say I'm not crazy about. All that said, of course this man was the heartbeat of King's Lynn for years and I suggest far and away the one most entitled to be fondly rememberd by old-time fans."
"I was a young kid when I saw my dad - Ginger O'Beirne - and the rest of the tigers try to roll back time. Enormous effort went into it - but eventually it had to be admitted that for Ireland, speedway had run its course."
"Regarding Briggo's West Ham track record. Jack Young held the record of 70.6 when Custom House closed in 1955, however by the 1964 re-opening the wheel size had changed resulting in the record being reset. The track size remained 415 yards. Briggo set a new TR of 73.4 at a World Championship Round 2 meeting on 4th Aug 1964 only to break this again (72.6) a week later when he rode for Swindon in a league match. It took just over a year before Nigel Boocock lowered it to 72.4 during the British Final, coincidently won by Briggo! Ray Wilson's record of 70.2 on Tuesday 8th April 1969 was to remain unbeaten. By my estimation the TR would now be 62.1, which I calculated by converting the times to speeds and comparing to track speeds of a non-defunct track of similar size, this being Owlerton."
"I would like to add my personal regrets to Dudley Jones' feelings of sadness at the demise of Newport. I worked for the South Wales Argus newspaper in Newport in the early 70s. The crowds at Somerton Park by that time may have been smaller than the massive attendances in the 60s, but still seemed pretty healthy. I visited the new track about eight or nine years ago and there seemed a reasonable attendance at that stage. Watching was comfortable from the grandstand. I do agree with Dudley's other comments. I also recall a visit in the recent past to Rye House. Len Silver is a shining example of really promoting the sport and working the crowd. So few people really know how to do it these days. I was also impressed by Dick Barrie's performance on the centre green at Somerset last summer, when he visited with, I think, Berwick. Speedway is primarily entertainment, and desperately needs its showmen."
"Briggo and the West Ham Track Record, now it gets technical! Jack Young held the record as the fastest man around the `new` West Ham track untill Ray took it, I was there that day, boy was he moving! Remember the West Ham Track was shortend and redesigned on Jacks word The final Programme of 1964 shows Briggo as holding the Track Record for `Small Wheel` @72.6 Secs (Jack was 70.6). Briggo described the West Ham Tack as one of fastest and best in the world, and who are we to disagree! Rays unbeaten time was 70.2 Jack also held the 1-lap record for West ham at 18.00 secs The modern one lap record was jointly held by Sverre Harrfeld and Ken McKinlay at 17.6 secs. One can only imaging with the modern lighter bikes what the record would be now. "
"Ken's research identifies "a general decrease in the average age of the finalists from the mid-1960s until the introduction of the GP Series in 1995". So surely, the key difference is the switch from one-off finals to a SERIES? Nowadays the rider who becomes "World Champion" is the most consistent over the whole campaign which will, thereby, inevitably tends to favour those with the most experience of racing and the tracks themselves as well as requiring they ride best, mechanically well maintained equipment. These characteristics are probably most likely to come with age."
"BarryW - thanks for your feedback. Definitely have some West Ham programmes from 1964 showing Briggo as the track record holder - although, a bone of contention here. I think it was around 1952/3 that the rear wheel was changed to a smaller one, and the West Ham progamme showed 2 track records, one for the larger wheel and one for the small wheel. Briggo is down at 73.4 on the modern day wheel (the smaller one). That record, of course, was smashed over the seasons down to 70.2 by Ray Wilson. Yes, it was the Easter Monday meeting, as Leicester also used to race on a Tuesday evening, therefore the Hammers curtain raiser in the late 60's/early 70's was always the Lions on Easter Monday. Any views as to what the record would be now? I calculate around 64.8 or is that wishful thinking?"