"I lived with Garry in 1979 / 1980 in Mira Mar California. He owned the home we lived in. He was selling cars and trying to get into selling Bell Helicopters. He had his pilot license. He mentioned he was a motorcycle rider but there was no internet then and I never thought anything about it. I just heard of your death. RIP old friend."
"What a great read and a great article. The BLRC was indeed the highlight of the year, after the Internationale and especially when the World Championship Final wasn't at Wembley.
Great days at Hyde Rd in the 70's. I think it may have been in 1972 when Ted Rogers (3-2-1) was the "guest star". Yes, we had to queue to get in, and 25,000, which I believe was the capacity at Hyde Road, would have been the crowd (you couldn't have got a fag paper between us) would have been the attendance. We were lucky (!) to be right near the tapes, standing of course, but with the old wooden fence, yes you really felt the whoosh of speed as the riders came hurtling round the fourth bend and jockeyed for position down the home straight and the swoop on the first turn.
Wonderful memories of a track much remembered, even by an avid West Ham and after that Hackney and Wimbledon fan (gotta keep it in London!). Great days - the "golden" years of speedway in the 60's and 70's. Thank you to all who had the sheer courage to get their butt on a bike."
"Fighting talk that will, I fear, fall on deaf ears. I was an occasional attendee at Odsal for Bradford speedway meetings during the last few seasons of operations there. Yes, the stadium offered a good view of a decent racetrack - but nobody went!
In the final season, when Odsal crowds sometimes struggled to reach four figures, despite Bradford topping the table, one could stand on the terracing above the first and second bends, and find oneself 40 yards from the nearest spectator. A miserable experience.
Speedway's audience has declined dramatically even since then, the late 90s. How many now watch live speedway every week? Maybe 18,000 in total? A comeback for crumbling, decaying Odsal? No chance. If Bradford Rugby League Club cannot make Odsal either pay or work (and they attracted 7,500 to the stadium's farewell fixture), what hope is there for a poorly-supported speedway team? Given the parlous state of the sport in Britain, its future little brighter than managed decline, the opening of any additional tracks (either new or revived) seems unlikely. Odsal included."
"A meeting was held at Dagenham on 9th August 1936 for The Secretary's Cup. According to a report in Speedway News, the cup was given to the Amateur Speedway Riders' Club by the Hon. Secretary, Mrs. G. O. Thornton. Mrs. Gladys Thornton then presented the cup to the winner, Frank Hodgson. One of the riders participating in that meeting was B. McKechnie. As the cup in the photograph is inscribed 'The Cup of Merit', I suspect it was awarded by H. L. Thornton at the end of the season, possibly at the Championship meeting on 8th November 1936, to Herbert Mackechnie (note the slight variation in spelling) as a rider who had perhaps ridden consistently well or made progress throughout the year. This assumes B. McKechnie is Herbert (Bert) McKechnie. "
"A super read, very accurate as well. I was also at the Leicester match and all hell did break out. I remember the Manchester Evening News gave the full back page to it. The title was something like the disgrace of speedway. Its a shame the sport didn't usually get such a good coverage! The British League Riders Championship was always a fantastic end to the season. This particular one was terrific with Ivan Mauger riding at his very best. Thanks for such a good review, it brought back some great memories. "
"An excellent and first-class article by Ken Nicholson, on the comparisons between wrestling and speedway promotion. Co-incidentally I have been involved in both, although in truth I could never describe myself as a speedway "promoter", just part of a consortium for a year.
Nevertheless, having had experience of both ventures, I must say that those involved in the wrestling business always thrive for, and on, publicity and go out of their way to generate it. Speedway has lost its showmen, be it riders or promoters. Garry Middleton always put a few bums on seats back in the 70's, and in my view the sport at the highest levels is all the poorer for the absence of Len Silver. "Uncle Len" knew how to pack them in at Hackney, the same as Johnnie Hoskins did in the post-war years.
You can't lay all of the blame at the door of the BSPA, the FIM with their ridiculous start-rules and other things must take their share. Sadly speedway is facing an inexorable decline unless and until individual promoters are prepared to hand over the running of the sport to one individual, as John Berry offered to do back in 1986, before being unceremoniously rejected. Cut out the delays and bring back the old "two-hour" evening where 13 heats and a full 2nd half were completed within that time. Referees need to get the 2 minute warning on much quicker as well. No wonder the season no longer ends on Oct 31 - with the current long delays at each meeting there would be nobody left who'd want to stand around in the cold that long these days."
"An excellent article by Ken who I assume must of a similar age to myself as I remember the wrestling. Even as a youth I knew wrestling was fake, let's face it if you twist someone's arm too far up their back, smash them in the face with your elbow or drop from a great height onto them the re's going to be serious damage but as Ken pointed out they were showmen and the promoters knew how to promote it.
WWF is exactly the same except the wrestlers are more professionally fit and muscular than the old British wrestlers who tended to be fat, Hulk Hogan and the Rock had replaced Mick McManus and Big Daddy (real name Shirley Crabtree), yes true, Shirley. Also we do love to hate a baddie but political correctness has done away with that, us of an older age remembering riders like Bob Dugard (Wimbledon), Arthur Browning (Birmingham), Jack 'The Villain' Millen, Malcolm Ballad (Eastbourne) to name a few who weren't afraid to ride hard and ride opponents into the fence, and in later years we had the likes of your Tomasz Gollob's (we all remember Craig Boyce decking him at the British GB at Hackney) and not forgetting everybody's favourite Nicky Pedersen.
Unfortunately I can't see speedway in Britain improving because of all the reasons Ken gives us. The only speedway that I as a retired person living in London gets to see is the weekly Swedish league on Freeview Sports or catching up with the GP or occasional British League match on You-Tube. Just as a footnote besides poor promotions I think one of the major reasons for the demise is there is too few promoter owned purpose built stadiums. Swedish Speedway seems to be surviving with purpose built stadiums, no guest riders simply rider replacement. "
"I was one of a sizeable contingent of Edinburgh Monarch's fans who made the short rail journey over the Forth Bridge to attend meetings at Central Park. Attendances were reasonable to start with but soon dropped off. I don't think there was ever much of a local fanbase and the venture was probably doomed from the start. There was a large main stand and some terracing but many spectators watched from grass banking."
Speedway's starting regulations have been tinkered with many times over the years. In this article from MCN in 1971, Cyril Brine proposed one of the many solutions that have been considered over the years.
"Bravo Ray Allen. I hope you get more than me to back your rallying call! It would be great to see Odsal, Coventry and Oxford back in the fold. Speedway folks must engage in the planning process both at the statutory plan preparation stage as well as the development management stage when other uses are being proposed. Planning authorities have to plan for communities and there is scope for local planning communities to get involved (guidance advises that in the context of planning that communities can be geographically or interest based.) The trouble is once abandoned so many stadiums are altered to stop speedway coming back without a massive investment. Again - well done Ray - hope this sparks off a revival. "
"It all comes down to the ability to draw crowds and make money. Sadly speedway seems to be struggling to do either, so why would anyone invest in Odsal? If the rugby team move out then I can see the council selling the place (for landfill, which is how it was sculpted in the first place). If the rugby stays then their pitch corners prevent a track being laid. Just one thing though - "not the greatest stadium for speedway" ??? Do we have a better one in this country? One where you can get up close and have such a great view, with no dog track? Belle Vue is pretty good but only along the straights - nowhere else comes close to Odsal!"
It's the Kiwis versus the Poles. The Polish team were handicapped by the absence of Jerzy Szczakiel, just a few months short of his finest hour.
The Oxford Cheetahs fans are still doihg their best to keep the team's name alive. They are taking a team over to the Island later this summer and this fabulous poster has been produced to publicise the meeting. Thanks to John Fray for sending it on.
"I shared Gary's life in England for approx 10 months. He was an acute business man with Mercedes Benz cars, and a great rider. I am so saddened that he died so young. When he was focused, he rode with such passion and determination, it was a pleasure to watch."
"Ivor was the first rider I saw win a speedway race on my first visit to Dudley Wood when I was only 13 years old, way back in Aug' 1963. He was almost unbeatable and I was 'hooked'.
I've seen all the greats who rode in the Cradley colours since then, but none quite filled Ivor's boots in my adoration of the man. He proved he was 'no big fish in a little pond' by mixing it with the big boys of the ex-National League and out scoring many of them with a 10-point match average until his fateful clash with Ove Fundin in Heat 1 of the '1965 Wimbledon Internationale'.
The Doctors told him he would never ride again with his spinal injury - he did, but he was never the same rider he once was, other than glimpses of his former dominance and sadly, he retired after the 1968 season after picking up many more injuries.
I recently visited his Wymeswold village and after speaking to a few elderly villagers, they showed me the house (formerly the general store and Post Office that he ran) where Ivor lived, and they pointed me in the direction of his final Resting Place (heartfelt thanks), which we visited to pay our last respects to the great man. My wife and I were sad to learn that his wife - Sandr a - although still with us, now has Dementia. She sold the shop and moved to a bungalow almost opposite, I was hoping that we could speak to her and learn more of my childhood hero.
Heady days indeed and fabulous memories of a superb racer, who deserved a lot more success than he actually got.
RIP Ivor, I'm so privileged to have seen the greatest of the Cradley Heath 'Greats' at his best. "
"As well as Bert Harkins, I also watched Basse At the world champiomnship qualifier at White City Glasgow. It was around 1952/53. I was 12 years of age at the time. What I clearly remember was that Basse was unbeaten on the night and rode brilliantly."
"Barry Briggs has always been my favourite rider, exciting to watch, always battling even for minor places. I have about half a dozen memorable things that stick in the mind about him.
Firstly I remember Gary Middleton of then Hackney beating Briggo from the back around Swindon (unheard of back then), he was the first rider in the British league that I remember wearing a full face helmet (Bell helmet). I was at the Wembley World Final when he lost his finger in the crash with Cradley and Sweden's Bernie Persson and the Russian flying over Briggo's bike and me getting home in time to watch it on tele.
However the main memory was at the end of 1972 Ivan Mauger was World Champion and Barry Briggs runner up, both riders said they weren't going to ride in the British League in 73 so the authorities said if they didn't ride in Britain they wouldn't be able to enter the World Championship in 1973. What you have to remember is Australia and New Zealand riders could only qualify for a world final via british rounds. It would have been amusing to see what would have happened had they not ridden over here, the number 1 & 2 not being able to compete.
Mauger went onto ride for Exeter and Briggo for Wimbledon where I was fortunate enough to watch him every week after also being priviledged to see Ronnie Moore in their colours. I did meet him at Rye House a few years back when he was doing that end to end of Britain track tour to raise money for charity. A remarkable man and his DVD is well worth purchasing. "
" Greetings from Canada-I recall Jack at Newport. Got a second lease on his career -in 1965 he was a heat leader at Somerton Park and top scorer in 1965 -first year of BL. He was the comeback hero of the season-can still see him beating the then top guys. Wot a rider"