Born in 1953, I became a speedway mad kid after first seeing West Ham when they returned to racing in 1964. The smell of racing dope, and the noise, plus the high speed action under those stadium lights were like a magic show, which got this 11 year old into a world that he will never forget.
My interest in Wembley came, I think, from the fact that Tommy Price was the West Ham manager then, and he had been the skipper of the Lions. As the Wembley Lions were no longer racing I did not consider them a challenge to my beloved Hammers, although at the same time I always thought of them as my second team (In fact when they returned to racing in 1970, they really were like a second team to me as half their riders were ex-
Although the Hammers are now long gone (May 1972), they will always have a place in my heart. They provided me with a lot of fun, but also sadness and distress, being at West Ham when Dave Wills was killed in 1965 is something I will not and would not wish to forget.
I remember another time that fills me with sorrow, that is the memory of walking down the Whitechaple Road in East London in July 1970, when a paper boy waved a newspaper at me, the headlines, “Local Speed Aces Killed…”, it was a report on the dreadful accident at Lokeren when a vehicle carrying a group of speedway riders and officials was involved in a fatal crash. Our heads along with the Hammers flag were hanging low that Tuesday night, one of the few times that speedway has seen the supporter’s spirits so very low.
Today I only follow the sport through the press as my nearest track is Lakeside Hammers and work and family commitments mean I can only get there infrequently. Hopefully I manage now and again to be a bit of help to a number of Speedway websites, plus, not unexpectedly, the West Ham Speedway site. I also try and keep alive the speedway memories on the Local History Site of the council I work for, Newham.
It can only be in the world of Speedway that a manager of the English Team, will talk to just an ordinary supporter. I sent some information to one of these web sites and no less a man the Reg Fearman, replied, thanking me (could you see a Football manager doing the same, I think this is why the older world of speedway was described as a Family Sport, because you felt that you were a part of one large, if somewhat distant) family.
My Uncle Stan, left me photos many years ago of the team he supported, The Wembley Lions and these photos are a pictorial account of their 1946-
By this means, despite the loss of Speedway in our Capital City, London, we can keep alive the memories of the West Ham Hammers, Wembley Lions, Wimbledon Dons, Harringay Racers, White City Rebels, New Cross Rangers and Stanford Bridge with the inappropriate team name “The Pensioners”, and we must not forget the team nearest to my heart, poor old Hawks from Hackney, O/K the truth is as an East End Lad I was secretly happy when the Hawks did well, just as long as not at the expense of the Hammers!
The image on the left shows the author of this piece almost 50 years apart.
Think he would be first to tell you that he has remained a firm supporter of the sport of speedway throughout that time.
Disappointed perhaps by the decline in the number of tracks particularly in London but as enthusiastic as ever.