Defunct Speedway Tracks

 

 
 
John Hyam Part 3
 
 
Syd van der Vyver   Cyril Maidment & The Russian Tourists   Bill Longley   Wal Morton  George Bason 
 Johnny Greenwood  Jack "Red" Monteith  The_Closure_of_New_Cross_June_1953  Ray Harris  The Tebbys
 

 
 
The Tebbys
& Speedway
 
The name of Tebby was around speedway for many years - from 1939 until the mid-1970s.
 
 
Photo: Jim Tebby
 
If asked to give Tebby a first name, most people will plump for Jim, the chirpy character who was such a favourite with Wimbledon in the 1960s and into the 1970s. His abrupt departure from Plough Lane was a shock to many people - as it was the rider. Years of loyalty to the Dons was suddenly cast aside in an abrupt and controversial move by then Dons team manger Cyril Maidment.
 
Tebby had just invested in new equipment for the 1973  season when he was told by the Wimbledon management 'your services are no longer needed.' It resulted in him moving on to Newport, where he gave the Welsh track devoted service  over the next couple of seasons and rode in 94 matches for the Welsh club.
 
The record books will show that Jim Tebby first appeared on the senior racing scene as a 16 year old junior at Harringay in 1952 along with other aspirants like Roy Bowers and Jimmy Gleed, who both  went on to carve respectable niches in the sport.  I stand to be corrected on this, but I am certain that Stan and Jim Tebby were the first-ever father-son to ride in a best pairs event when they raced  in a meeting at California in 1953. 
 
National Service calls in 1954 temporarily blunted Jim's speedway aspirations. That means he was born in 1936 - then how come the Tebby name was involved in speedway just three years later in 1939? The fact is it wasn't Jim but his father Stan, who for many years acted as his son's mechanic.
 
 
Stan Tebby 1967 in France with Claude Boston on the left
 
Stan was very much an amateur speedway rider. His name first crops up at the California-in-England track in the few months before the start of World War Two in September 1939. His post-war racing career centred mainly on grass tracks in the home counties, as well as the amateur speedway tracks like California and High Beech. And for more than a dozen seasons spanning the 1960s and early 1970s, Stan was a member of the group organised by Victor Boston which staged speedway meetings at various venues in Northern France.
 
The bike that Stan used in France in the 1970s had unique rear-suspension specially fitted for the bumpy French tracks. It is now on display at the London Motorcycle Museum in Greenford, Middlesex, along with race jackets used by Jim over the years.
 
I knew the Tebby family very well. In the 1950s, and I was often a weekend guest at their home in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. They owned a variety of road motorcycles and gave me the free use of one of them to explore this picturesque part of the English countryside. 
 
Another highlight of my visits to the Tebbys was trips with them to then Wimbledon and England star Ron How's pub at Missenden, where other who used to drop in for a drink, to chat about speedway and play a game of darts included Danny Dunton, Roy Bowers and George Bason.
 
 
Ray Harris
 
Courtesy of J Spoor
 
John Hyam writes:  When Ray Harris died aged 85 years in April, 2005, it brought back a couple of non-speedway memories about a rider who had such links with the sport at Stoke. He spent 11 seasons with the club and made a record 285 league appearances for the Potters.
 
 
 
Stoke's Promoter Duo Mike Parker and Reg Fearman flank the Potters riders. Ray is the shorter heavy set guy 4th from the right
 
I first saw Ray in action at Eastbourne in 1947 when Stoke visited Arlington for a Division Three match. I was a schoolboy taken to the Sussex track as a special treat - and to see Wimbledon loanees like Dennis Grey, Harry Saunders and Jimmy Coy in action for the Eagles. 
 
But it was Harris who caught my attention. He was a stocky little man, unlike the slimmer riders turning out for both sides. But in action, he was hard riding and courageous. I can now understand why he was to become so well-loved by fans at the old long-demolished Sun Street Stadium. And also how, because of his stocky appearance, he became lovingly known as the ‘Portly Potter.”
 
It was 10 years later that I next saw him - at London’s Liverpool Street Station. I was then a negotiator organising trips to Holland (in slight conjunction with Phil Bishop), and to Germany, Denmark and France.
 
In May 1957, I had arranged for three riders to compete at Bremen and Oldenburg in Germany. Two of them were Colin Gooddy and Pat Flanagan. The other was Ray Harris.
 
We smiled when Ray turned up - resplendent in sandals, baggy grey flannels, a blazer and open-neck white shirt. We also smirked knowingly when we saw his bike - it had a rear suspension unit fitted. Inwardly we all thought - ‘what sort of speedway rider is this?’
 
When we got to Germany we found out. Flanagan and Gooddy raced conventional bikes on the two bumpy German tracks. They struggled for points. Harris revelled in the conditions and took top place behind the Polish star Marian Kaiser at both meetings. Only the home-bred German favourite Hans Jager could live with Kaiser and Harris and his rear suspension on track. Harris’ hard-riding no-nonsense style gained from the tougher grounding of British league racing saw us nick-name him ‘Bomber’ for his brave style of riding. 
 
He had a fine sense of humour - as did his three companions. With some shame I now recall an incident late at night in a hotel corridor. I found an old tin bath, persuaded Harris to sit in it, then with Gooddy and Flanagan pushed him up and down the corridor making sounds we though were like speedway bikes revving up. The other residents - very understandably were annoyed. Suffice to stay, we moved on to a new hotel the next day.
 
Off-track, Harris had a love for ‘scrumpy’ cider. He told us what a marvellous drink it was. One-time Wimbledon team boss Dingle Brown recalls: “When I was a 1960s junior at Stoke, Ray always used to bring me some ‘scrumpy’ which he fermented in a barrel at his home. It was potent stuff”.
 

 
 
Bill Longley
Australian
 
 
 
 
Bill Longley - A Real Gentleman on and off the Track. "Little" Bill Longley above left, not much over 5 feet tall  and in New Cross colours above right
 
John Hyam says: Former New Cross and Australia speedway star Bill Longley was 93 years old when he died on Friday, April 29, 2005 in a Brisbane, Queensland residential home.
 
As with so many of the sport’s stars whose careers scanned the pre- and post-war years, Longley is little more than a name in the records books to modern era fans.
 
But for those who saw diminutive Longley in action, he rates alongside other greats of this time - Vic and Ray Duggan, Aub Lawson, Frank Dolan, Max Grosskreutz and his New Cross team mate Ron Johnson. The passage of time - nearly 60 years - means there are few who saw these great riders. I did and feel that Longley’s placing with them is more than justified.
 
Although he was an Australian, Longley established strong links with south London, where he lived in Lewisham for nearly 25 years. He only returned to Australia with his wife Kay in 1965 when his father was taken ill. 
 
Before taking up speedway in 1937, Longley was a sidecar racing driver in road, trials and grass track events. He raced sidecars until 1936, in which he climaxed his career in this discipline  by winning the Australian grass-track title.
 
He turned to speedway at the Melbourne Motordrome in January 1937 and made such sensational progress that he finished as winner of the season’s points championship. On the basis of this, New Cross rider Clem Mitchell recommended Longley to the London track.
 
 Longley, who stood just 5ft 2ins tall, quickly became a big favourite at the Old Kent Road track where the supporters lovingly dubbed him ‘Little Bill.’
 
Longley was a member of the New Cross team which won the National League championship in 1938 and again in 1948. When the Rangers won the title for a second time, Longley and Johnson were the only members of the original title-winning team left. Longley took over the captaincy of the New Cross team in late 1949 when Johnson crashed and fractured his skull in a crash at Wimbledon.
 
When World War Two started in September 1939, Longley tried unsuccessfully to return to Australia. He then joined the RAF as a physical training instructor.
 
He has a vivid speedway memory of the first months of the war. “There was no racing for about six months when it was decided to hold a championship meeting at Crystal Palace at Easter 1940. This was the last ever meeting at the track. I won it with a 15-point maximum,” he said in an interview in 2003.
 
League speedway resumed in 1946 and Longley was allocated to Bradford. The following season he returned to New Cross in a triangular deal taking Les Wotton from New Cross to Wimbledon, while Dons’ Oliver Hart joined Bradford.
 
This was a golden era in Longley’s career. He rode 53 times for Australia in tests against England in both countries and was captain of the side nine times.
 
Nor was Longley without achievement at individual level. He reached all three finals of the British Championship in 1946, 1947 and 1948. The peak of his form in this event was in 1947 when he scored 11 points for third place behind Jack Parker who defeated Bill Kitchen for the title after both tied on 14 points.
 
Longley also qualified for the first post-war World Championship in 1949, sharing joint-seventh place on eight points with fellow countryman Aub Lawson.
 
When New Cross closed in June 1953, Longley had brief spells with Wimbledon and Rayleigh before retiring.
 
Apart from his British and Australian speedway racing, Longley also competed in Holland, Czechoslovakia and Germany while in 1954 he contested the Finnish ice racing season.
 

One of his big disappointments was not to win an Australian championship. “The nearest I got was in the 1949 Australian three-lap Championship at Melbourne when I tied with Bill Kitchen but he beat me in a decider,” he said.

 
Longley was also involved with speedway off-tack, in the early post-war seasons working as a test team selector alongside Arthur Simcock of the Australian Speedway Control Board.
 
And another off-track happening for Longley was in the early 1950s when he became one of the first people in south London to open and own a launderette! “They were a rarity in those days, but gave people the chance to not only do their washing but to have a chat about things. I met quite a few New Cross speedway supporters,” he recalled years later.
 
In 1983, Longley started to work as a Justice of the Peace for the Queensland Police Force and only retired from this voluntary post in early 2004.
 
So far as speedway was concerned, one of his memorable achievements came in June 1939 when the Duchess of Kent attended a meeting at West Ham. “I always cherish the fact that I was the first Australian speedway rider to win a trophy in the presence of royalty,” Longley said.
 

 
 
John Hyam's Review Of Norman Jacobs' Book 
 
On New Cross Speedway
 
John Hyam says: New Cross Speedway - Out Of The Frying Pan by Norman Jacobs.  The book, originally published in 2008 is still available.  Out of the Frying Pan: The Story of the New Cross Speedway  Here is my review of Norman's book as it appeared in the 'South London Press' at time of publication: -
 
John Hyam continues: I fell in love for the first time on Wednesday, April 17, 1946.
Not with a glamorous girl but a whirlwind motorcycle sport. And we are still together after all these years. That night I saw speedway for the first time and its magic has stayed with me ever since.
 
I was 13-years-old and knew so little about the sport that when I saw the riders leaving the pits for the first race parade, I thought they were racing. That changed in less than a minute when they lined upon the starting grid. The track lights dimmed, the tapes rose and four temporarily stationary gladiators roared into the first bend, spewing cinders as they broadsided the turn.
 
Ron Johnson, one of the great names of New Cross, and his partner Phil Bishop took a 5-1 heat win from rivals Ron Clarke and an engine-failure hit Jack Parker. But my searing memory of the meeting was when announcer Cecil Smith gave the time of a scratch race as "Clickety-click-point click" for 66.6 seconds. 
 
Sadly, the new venture failed to catch on with fans, and the track folded for the last time on August 2, they lost 41-37 to Poole. Three nights later in a last-ever match the Rangers slumped 51-27 in Dorset.
 
The last team to wear the New Cross colours included established lower-league stars like Jimmy Squibb, Bob Dugard and Stan Stevens. And, good as they were at this level, older fans with memories of top international aces like Johnson, Jack Milne, Cyril and Bert Roger, Barry Briggs, Tommy Farndon & Co failed to accept a lower form of racing. They wanted the very best.
 
And, as leading speedway historian Norman Jacobs recalls in his latest book, the Rangers had their fair share of speedway's greatest names. Originally, the first promoters, Freddie Mockford and Cecil Smith, had promoted at Crystal Palace. However, in 1933 they had a disagreement with the trustees of the Palace over the rent. So they went into an agreement to introduce speedway at the then newly opened New Cross Stadium in Ilderton Road, Peckham, for the 1934 season.
 
Jacobs neatly compartmentalises the New Cross story into four sections: (1) How it started; (2) The 1930s; (3) Post-war at New Cross; (4) The revival. They span 30 years, but taking out the four war years (1940-44) and the six dormant years, speedway only took place over 20 seasons. And the pre and immediate post-war seasons were a golden time for the sport.
 
In pre-war years, speedway was sport's greatest crowd-puller. Crowds of 30,000 were commonplace for many meetings until the sport ground to a halt at the start of World War Two in September 1939. And, after a handful of open meetings at New Cross following the end of the war in May 1945, it was very much business as usual when league racing resumed in April 1946.
 
While in pre-war years there was an atmosphere of romance in regard to the leather-clad gladiators on bikes, there were also moments of great tragedy. In its second season at New Cross, the rider who many claim is the greatest ever England rider, Tommy Farndon died after a crash on Wednesday, August 28, 1935. It happened in the final of the second-half's New Cross scratch race. Farndon and his New Cross team mates Johnson and Stan Greatrex were the starters along with West Ham's Bluey Wilkinson. 
 
On the third lap, Johnson hit the safety fence on the back straight. Farndon, who was close behind, hit his team-mate and was thrown over his bike's handlebars, landing heavily on his head. Both were rushed to the Miller Hospital at Greenwich. Johnson was discharged later, but Farndon was found to be in a critical condition.
 
The hospital was besieged by hundreds of people waiting for news. Regular bulletins about his condition were posted on the hospital gates and bus and tram drivers stopped their vehicles so that passengers could read about Farndon. The rider died two days later without regaining consciousness. Many fans outside the hospital collapsed with grief and were given medical attention. At the time of his funeral, thousands lined the route.
 
The book is given the title title 'Out Of The Frying Pan' because of the size of the original track, just 262 yards and nearly circular. It provided extremely exciting racing with riders virtually in a continuous broadside. Probably the most spectacular  exponent of broadsiding was legtrailer George Newton. 
 
His career was halted in 1938 when he suffered a serious chest infection and had a lung removed. Ten years later, Newton was back with New Cross, but just as he was finding his pre-war form, he was taken ill again. He never rode again for New Cross, but for some years was a leading rider at several second division tracks.
 
New Cross gave speedway its second world champion when American ace Jack Milne won the title in 1937. The team won the National League championship in 1938 and repeated the feat 10 years later.
 
The book also deals with the career of Ron Johnson, the charismatic Australian who played such a major role in cementing the golden years of the Rangers. His career was of the highest caliber until a crash at Wimbledon on August 1 1949 when he fractured his skull. After that, he struggled to live up to his colourful reputation as one of the sport's all-time greats. 
 
In 1951, Johnson returned to Australia, and after a successful come-back was briefly with West Ham in 1955, then needed the help of friends and supporters to pay his fare home. After New Cross reopened in 1959, the following season Johnson made another come-back but was outclassed even in junior events.
 
In 1963, when the Rangers reopened in the Provincial League, then 54-years-old, Johnson was back for another trial but failed to make the team. He made his last appearance at New Cross on May 14 when he beat Phil Bishop 2-1 in a match race series. Johnson died in Australia in 1983.
 
This book is packed with anecdotes, records, and stories of the greatest names to grace speedway in an era when it was rated among the highest attended sport's in Britain. "Out Of The Frying Pan" covers the history of New Cross  in-depth, outlining great team and individual performances, as well as revealing the roles of the promoters in maintaining the sport at a renowned speedway venue.
 
 
The Closure Of
New Cross Speedway
June 1953
 
 
John Hyam says: The event that had the most profound shock on my speedway life was the closure of New Cross in June 1953.
 
To me, it had always seemed that speedway there would go on forever. Such is the innocence of life in its formative years. I had been a regular at the track from the opening meeting of the 1946 season and there had always been New Cross speedway...it even followed me through my two years National Service in the RAF between 1951 and 1952.
 
Then one day - New Cross had gone from the sport. It was the first departure from the British scene of a major club, a track which had staged many England-Australia tests matches. Some of speedway's greatest riders had worn the orange race jacket with the black Maltese cross. From the pre-war giants like Tom Farndon, Jack Milne, Geortge Newton, Ron Johnson and then, in post-war seasons, the famous Roger brothers - Cyril, Bert and Bob, Eric French and many more.
 
 
Tom Farndon
 
Courtesy of John Spoor
 
Tom Farndon modelling the famous New Cross race jacket
 
Courtesy of John Hyam
 
Artwork: No! it isn't a photo.  Painting of Tom Farndon by John Proud 
 
 
John Hyam continues: Then on that June day in 1953, the month that the Queen had her Coronation, New Cross speedway was no more.
 
The crux of the matter was that promoter Fred Mockford had been refused permission to sign then emergent Swedish star Olle Nygren. He told the Control Board that if Nygren could not join the Rangers on a permanent basis he would close the track. 
 
For more than 60 years, I believed the race winner was Mick Mitchell, who away from the track was a school caretaker in Lewisham. Recently, I found out that Mitchell was not in that race - the winner was Belle Vue's Wally Llloyd. And, just for the record, the challenge match New Cross won the challenge match 46-37.
 
For the next 17 years, New Cross speedway was a major part of my life. I was horrified when they closed in 1953 after promoter Fred Mockford was refused permission to sign the Swedish star Olle Nygren to srengthen the Rangers. Six years later, speedway was back at New Cross. 
 
After a handful of open meetings in 1959, they raced for two seasons in the National League. The winter of 1961-62 saw another closedown, then Wally Mawdsley and Pete Lansdale reopened the track for Provincial League racing in 1963.
 
 
Olle Nygren 
 
 
 
I don't think that officialdom took his threat seriously. They refused to let New Cross sign Nygren and that was the end. I know there were later attempts at a revival, bridging 1959 into the early 1960s to revive speedway down the Old Kent Road, but it was never the same, It was something akin to the more recent Conference League revival at Wimbledon in 2002 which, despite honest promotional endeavours, never matched the truly great days of the Dons and again a host of legendary riders - Barry Briggs, Ronnie Moore, Tommy Jansson and many more.
 
It has always been my opinion that when New Cross closed in 1953, the big decline of speedway followed. The sport imploded. It crashed like a house of playing cards. The New Cross closure led on to a fateful period when from a time with near 40 tracks running in three leagues, just a handful survived. And, but for the advent of Mike Parker and his organisational ability to found the Provincial League in 1960, speedway might well have died out in Britain.
 
 
Mike Parker 
 
 
 
Mike Parker Newcastle promoter with his greatest signing Ivan Mauger.  Parker tried sidecars and midget cars at his Newcastle circuit Brough Park but Tyneside made it clear that they only wanted speedway at Brough Park.
 
Unusually, when Parker arrived on the speedway scene his primary interest was midget car racing and it was his intention to stage the four-wheel sport on many of the then closed Northern tracks. He then opted to trying to stage mixed formula meetings with speedway, sidecars and midgets on the programmes but again had little support.
 
In the end, he was persuaded to concentrate on speedway and the big 1960s revival took place. It ended seven seasons in the sporting wilderness for the sport and counter- balanced a decline that could be traced back to the shutdown of New Cross when a blinkered Control Board refused them permission to to strengthen its side by signing a Swedish speedway rider.
 
The Website's John Skinner, a Newcastle fan, says:  Mike Parker and partner Reg Fearman reopened Brough Park Newcastle Speedway in 1961.  Parker took control of Newcastle whilst Fearman took on Middlesbrough under the duos umbrella although the two Promoting partners split eventually. 

Mike proved to be successful and Newcastle fans over 60 yrs old will remember him signing Ivan Mauger, Brian Brett and Ole Olsen.  But we fans also remember Parker and Ivan Mauger having conflicting issues leading to the departure of the worlds greatest rider.  World Champion Ivan left Newcastle at the end of 1968.  Ole in 1969 filled the "Ivan" gap then Parker decided to go elsewhere, Wolverhampton  promised a better bet financially than him remaining at Newcastle so he ruthlessly pulled the Newcastle plug taking the Diamonds star Ole Olsen with him.
 

 
 
Johnny Greenwood
 
Courtesy of John Hyam
 
Edinburgh Monarchs 1953 - Eddie Lack, Johnny Greenwood and Dick Campbell
 
John Hyam says: One of speedway's tragedies is when a potentially brilliant career is shattered by injury. There have been many instances over the years, and one that especially stands out in my mind concerns Johnny Greenwood.
 
He was just 21 years old when his career came to a shuddering end in 1956 more than 6,000 miles away from his home at Keighley in Yorkshire. It happened at Adelaide when he broke his right arm which was left partially paralysed bringing an abrupt end to a promising career.
 
Bill Walsh, a former cycle speedway rider from Keighley in Yorkshire, has been a lifelong friend of Greenwood. Bill said, "I first met Johnny when we were pupils at Keighley Boys Grammar School and we are still in regular contact".
 
He was taken to ride in Australia by Fred Tracey, the old Walthamstow and Coventry rider, who was then the Melbourne promoter. He did so well at Melbourne that it was decided to take Johnny on to race at Adelaide where Jack Young was the big star. And Johnny's winning ways meant that he was soon a back-marker off 200 yards in handicap races. Only Young was given a bigger handicap - 20 yards behind Greenwood.
 
On the night of his accident, Johnny was going for an unbeaten run. In his last race of the meeting he passed Bob 'Cowboy' Sharp on the third lap to go in front. Then, for some unexplained reason, Johnny seemed to lose concentration and slammed into the safety fence on the third bend of the last lap.'
 
Walsh added, "He was badly injured and severely damaged the nerves in his arm which eventually led to the permanent loss of it. At 21 it was as bad as it could get."
 
As a 17-year-old. Greenwood had been a protégé of Ernie Appleby at his Newton Heath training track near Manchester in 1953. Before the year was out Johnny had rides with Liverpool in National League Division Two, then finished the season at Southern League track St Austell.
 
At the start of 1954, Greenwood was with Edinburgh in their brief early season in the National League Division Two where he averaged 8.29 points in four league matches. His debut meeting at Meadowbank was in a pairs event where he took 13 points in his five rides and only renowned Scottish stars Ken McKinlay and Don Cuppleditch beat him. It made Greenwood an overnight favourite with Monarchs' fans.
 
A feature of Greenwood's brief spell at Edinburgh was his fiery style of riding when partnered with Don Cuppleditch.  When Cuppleditch led in races, Greenwood was always hot on his tail, but when the placing's were reversed there was no way the heat leader could get back in front. And when Edinburgh faced Leicester in the National Trophy, Greenwood returned paid double figure scores. 
 
A feature of Greenwood's attitude to racing was that he hated to be passed when in front. McKinlay once said, "After a race in which he had been overtaken, Johnny asked me to explain just how his rival had managed to get past him. He was a true racer and dedicated to winning."
 
The closure of Edinburgh early in the season saw Greenwood move to Exeter, before the calls of National Service took him to Iraq for two years. Upon demob and with the 1956 season coming to an end, Greenwood joined Division One side Bradford, making just two appearances. And it was while racing at Bradford that Aussie track boss Fred Tracey was captivated by the youngster's spectacular style and invited him to go to Australia - a venture that was to end his racing career.
 
The serious injury did not see an end to Greenwood's love of life generally nor of speedway. He married and raised two sons and still takes a keen interest in speedway at Grand Prix level, and especially likes to see the meetings in Poland. Additionally, he is an enthusiastic member of the World Speedway Riders Association

 
Jack "Red" Monteith
 
Courtesy of John Hyam
 
John Hyam says: The death in 2010 of Jack 'Red' Monteith passed virtually unnoticed. But he was a well-known character on the Scottish scene.  According to historian Jim Henry, Red was a well-loved character at White City Glasgow in the early 1950s, where he graduated to speedway after spells as both an ice hockey player and cycle speedway rider of some note.
 
Henry said, "His antics in his novice days at White City are legend and he was as wild as Joe 'Whaler' Ferguson at times. He was loved by the fans and few left the stadium before he raced in the second half." Jim added, "Red had a few outings for Tigers in the 1950s, rode at Motherwell in 1958, then came back to help out Edinburgh in 1963.  Then he returned to Glasgow when they re-opened in 1964".
 
 
"Red" In Glasgow Colours
 
Courtesy of John Hyam
 
"The early Scottish visits of the 'Men in Black' to Scotland saw Red back on the track and loving it." Henry claimed, "Glasgow fans can thank Red for his efforts to save speedway in the mid-1990s when he was heavily involved in bringing Brian Sands to promote speedway at Glasgow."  
 
Courtesy of John Hyam
 
 
Jim Henry also has an amusing tale about Red. He said, "My favourite story, told by Red in his own quiet way, is about an incident in 1963 when he was travelling from Glasgow to Edinburgh on a motorbike and sidecar with his speedway bike on the sidecar platform and his  mechanic riding pillion. 
 
 

 
 
Wal Morton
 
Courtesy of John Spoor
 
Wal at Wimbledon in 1936
 
John Hyam says: Wal Morton's speedway career spanned four decades. From starting as a novice at Coventry in 1932, he turned out for the last time in two second-half races at Ipswich in 1965.
 
It was no story book ending - he came last in his first ride, then managed a third in his farewell to the sport. In his 33 years association with speedway, Morton managed to progress from the pioneering era of the 1930s and 1940s into the classic speedway era of the 1950s and 1960s.
 
Courtesy of John Hyam
 
Wal Morton Glasgow 1946 
 
Fittingly, over the years he rubbed shoulders with some of the sport's greatest names. In pre-war seasons at West Ham he rode alongside 'Bluey' Wilkinson, then at Wimbledon was a team-mate of another legendary Australian star Vic Huxley.
 
 
Courtesy of John Hyam 
 
Wal Morton Harringay 1947 
 
 
Courtesy of John Hyam 
 
Wal Morton & Frank Dolan
 
The post-war years saw him as a team mate of Vic Duggan at Harringay in 1947, then in 1952, when back at West Ham, was in a side that included Jack Young. Towards the end of the 1950s, Morton was at Norwich as a team mate of Ove Fundin. And, of course, over the many seasons - and at many tracks - Morton was in sides that included many other famous riders, too many to tabulate here.
 
 
Courtesy of John Hyam 
 
 
Wal Morton Norwich 
Mid 1950s
 
In the early 1960s, Morton's career had something of a resurgence. In 1960, took over the captaincy of the struggling Liverpool side and finished as their top scorer. He was hailed as 'veteran of the year' by 'Speedway Digest', the leading annual of that period.
 
After Liverpool, he rode for Bradford and Middlesbrough. At the latter track he created an unique first when he turned out for a race with Geoff Pymar - another who had by then seen his 50th birthday. It was the first time the combined ages of two race partners exceeded 100 years.
 
Morton's last full season was at Hackney in 1963, although he appeared in second-half races over the next two seasons until the farewell rides at Ipswich. It brought to an end a career in which he was linked with more than a dozen clubs.
 
Morton died on April 21 1995 aged 85 years. It seemed he was by then one of speedway's forgotten men. Historian Mike Kemp said, "I found Wal was buried in an unmarked grave at St Edmund's Church, Old Costessey, Norwich in 2003.
 
It took two years and a lot of help to raise enough money in donations from speedway supporters  to provide a stone costing £649 which was put in place in March 2005 as a tribute to 'Wandering Wal.' It was fully deserved for a man who raced for so many clubs.
 
 
Photo Courtesy of the : Mike Kemp Collection
 
Yet there might never have been a Wal Morton speedway career. Before taking up the sport, he was an amateur boxer and held the Midlands welterweight championship in the early 1930s. Then he saw a speedway meeting - hung up his gloves - and dedicated his sporting life to two wheels.
 

 
 
Syd van der Vyver
 
Courtesy of John Hyam
 
Syd in Leicester colours in 1949 
 
John Hyam says: One of the colourful band of South Africans who tried their hand in British speedway at the start of the 1950s was Syd van der Vyver, who had spells with Rayleigh and Leicester. Sadly, on British tracks he never showed the pace that had made him such a dashing and spectacular performer in his homeland.
 
He came to the UK with an impressive South African pedigree, having been capped in the test series against visiting England in both the 1948-49 and 1949-50 test series. But away from the track, he was also highly regarded as a mechanical genius, and between 1948-51 was also chief mechanic to the Johannesburg Pirates, who were based at South Africa's Wembley Stadium.
 
South African historian Ken MacLeod tells an amusing item about van der Vyver's period in charge of the workshops. He said, "When speedway first started at the stadium, some of the
less sober spectators used the pit wall as a urinal. 
 
"Syd was watching the racing from the pit wall when he saw them in action. So he went to the workshop (out of sight of the  spectators) and rigged up a spare generator and cable, then placed it along the ground where the naughty guys were performing. As a result, they received a minor shock where they least expected it. Needless to say, the practice stopped pretty soon afterwards."
 
Like his fellow countryman, the 1950s Liverpool star Doug Serrurier, Syd is also a South African motor sport legend, although mainly for car racing. Ken Macleod said that on four wheels van der Vyver was twice South African Drivers champion and in international races in South Africa he did did very well against legendary stars like Stirling Moss, Jack  Brabham and Jim Clark.
 
When van der Vyver died aged 69 years in 1989, a little known secret about him came to light. Although he was known as Syd, his first name was found to be neither Sidney or Sydney as one might expect but was in fact Siegfried.
 
 
Syd In Action 
 
 
Courtesy of John Hyam 
 

 
 
Cyril Maidment &
The Russian Tourists
 
 
John Hyam says:Cyril Maidment scored a maximum for Belle Vue in their 48-30 defeat of Russian tourists Lenningrad Neva.
A FIRST for British racing came in 1968 when a Russian club side raced against Belle Vue on Saturday July 27 1968, then the following Tuesday were in action at Leicester.
 
But it was no fairy tale trip for the Russians - minus top rider Vladimir Smirnov. The riders from the Lenningrad Neva club went down 48-30 at the old and much-loved Hyde Road track, then were completely outsmarted 60-17 at Leicester where only Anatoli Belkin won a race for the tourists.
 
The tour was something of a mish-mash in its arrangements, largely billed as a return for Belle Vue's 1967 racing trip to what was then the Soviet Union. And it was also inter-linked with Belle Vue's 40th anniversary and a vague arrangement with a 1968 tour of Britain by the Russian State Circus.
 
At Belle Vue, the Russians started strongly and scored a 5-1 in heat two through Gennnady Vyonov and Belkin. But sadly the Russians had a long tail that refused to wag. Three riders - Vyonov (9), Yuri Lambotski (7) and Belkin (7) scored 23 of their total. Belle Vue riders scored heavily with Cyril Maidment and Tommy Roper recording 12 point maximums.
 
At Leicester, the Russians luck ran out in the second race when Vyonov crashed heavily, suffering a shoulder injury which forced him out of the match. With Leicester in full command after that, Belkin's eight points was nearly half the Russians overall total. His seven team mates managed just nine points between them.
 
Maybe that shattering of the Lenningrad team was to have been expected. Leicester then had a formidable side which included such stalwarts as Anders Michanek, Ray Wilson, John Boulger and Norman Storer.
 

 
 
George Bason
 
Courtesy of John Spoor
 
 
John Hyam says: I was saddened when I heard of the death of George Bason a few years ago. While he was never a star rider, he was from that essential band of devoted riders who form the backbone of the sport. Without so many of this ilk, there would be no speedway for the stars to shine.
 
George was born in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. although an error in a 'Who's Who' in speedway misprinted his birthplace as Harlow, and that was perpetuated. As a rider he started on the pre-war amateur tracks at Longmoor (California-in-England) and Oxford (the site of the present track but much different then) where his opponents included Lloyd 'Cowboy' Goffe, Billy Newell and Danny Lee. He also rode at Crystal Palace in open meetings in 1938, and as a junior when the club briefly raced in the National League Second Division.
 
At the Palace, Bason's career came under the watchful eye of the South African veteran Keith Harvey, while his rivals in junior races included Bernard 'Bronco' Slade, Charlie Challis and the Canadian wrestler turned speedway rider Eddie 'Flash' Barker.
 
After the 1939-45 closure of speedway tracks for Hitler's ill-timed intervention and World War Two, the 1946 rider pooling took Bason to West Ham, then on to Wembley in August when 'Bronco' Wilson was injured. At the same time, West Ham were also allocated Charlie Dugard - the man who established Eastbourne in later years. Charlie didn't like the West Ham track, and he joined Wimbledon. Soon afterwards, Bason and Dugard clashed in an individual meeting at Wimbledon in a pile-up that left both with broken legs. For a week or so they were also in neighbouring hospital beds. "That's the nearest we came to being team mates for a second time that season," Bason told me years later.
 
Courtesy of John Hyam
 
Southampton 1947  - from left George Bason, Matt Hall, Bert Croucher, Vic Collins, Jimmy Squibb.
 
The 1947 and 1948 seasons saw Bason with Southampton in the National League Third Division, and in his early Bannister Court days he briefly succeeded Vic Collins as team captain. By 1949, Bason was riding for Liverpool, but these were changing times in the sport. As a legtrailer, Bason needed cinders to utilise his riding style, but tracks were increasingly using shale to cater for foot forward riding. As with so many legtrailers, Bason found it hard to adapt and dropped out of the sport, although he did make a brief return in the early 1950s at Swindon.
 
 
Courtesy of John Hyam 
 
George Bason practises at Liverpool in 1949 
 
In 1953, he resumed racing in open meetings at what had been Longmoor, although by then the Berkshire track was known as California, and in 1954 he was an early member of their Southern Area League squad. California was ideal for Bason's style - it was a pure, deep dirt track, and he revelled in the conditions. But slick tracks like Eastbourne, Rye House, Ringwood, Aldershot and Brafield saw him floundering and he dropped out of the California team. But the venue also staged many open meetings, and Bason continued to turn out in these.
 
While at Liverpool in 1949, Bason had also raced at Antwerp in Belgium, against Reg Duval, Bill Harris and the Belgian champion Lambert Dock. And with the decline of chances in England, he switched back to the Continent, racing in Germany and France until the 1970s. In 1978, Bason was among VSRA members who took part in the anniversary event at Hackney. His appearance was brief - he reared on the starting gate in his demo ride and injured his knee.
 
For many years, Bason spent time encouraging young riders. These included Ron Sharp (New Cross and Stoke) and Ted Spittles (Ipswich). He was also a regular spectator at Oxford for many years and for some seasons was also mechanic for Oxford star Peter Robinson.
 
I first got to know Bason in 1954, and have a fond memory of going to visit him and his family at his small-holding in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, where he combined vegetable growing with a garage and speedway bike tuning business. He showed me his collection of pe-war and post-war speedway magazines and programmes and we also mulled over his pre-war speedway and grass track racing activities. One of his favourite pre-war grass venues was Corfe Mullen in Dorset - even then dominated by Lew Coffin! And Bason was one of the 1939 pioneers who established speedway for the first time at Oxford's Cowley Stadium.
 
 
Courtesy of John Hyam 
 
In France in 1967 - George Bason, back left, with. front, French rider Claude Boston and Stan Tebby. 
 
After that initial meeting at California, I met Bason many times. He was always a gentlemen and devoted family man. His name probably hasn't carved a major niche in speedway history, but, as I said earlier he was - and so were many hundreds like him - part of the structure upon which the sport is founded. They deserve to be more than speedway's forgotten men. Bason was 86 years old at the time of his death in 2003.
 

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