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Glasgow Cycle Speedway History Association

Alan Irvine is off back to Oz

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Alan Irvine is off back to Oz again

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 The return of the Glasgow Tigers to the White City in 1964 was to prove to be a major event in the lives of a number of lads of our generation. Alan lived nearby in Corkerhill village and quickly became a regular at the Paisley Road West circuit. Indeed he was to join the track staff, and would later lead a “strike” for higher pay – but that is another story, for another time!!

An aerial view of the still lamented White City 

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All over Glasgow, young boys were out on their bikes, trying to emulate their heroes, on tracks that required a great deal of imagination to believe they were anything like the real thing! Alan remembers riding round the red ash path at Mosspark Bowling Club, along with Iain “Morrie” Morrison. It was square with right angled corners and was so narrow that only one rider could “race” at a time! Dare say the bowlers weren’t too pleased about them being there either. However the track that was built on the site of disused black ash football pitches, adjacent to the Corkerhill railway sheds, did pass muster, even if the inside line was frequently a matter of intepretation!

Alan first tried cycle speedway there in 1965 along with other “pioneers” such as “Mud”, “Elk”, Fraser Aitken, “Bunny” and Fred Caffrey. It was only the latter two, who along with Alan continued to ride the following year. Mostly it was just “scratch” meetings with sides being picked from whoever turned up. Fraser Aiken organised a meeting between Corkerhill and Allan Glens school, for whom a young Nicky Nicolson took his bike on the train from his Drumchapel home to Partickhill station from where he cycled through the Clyde tunnel to Corkerhill. Perhaps this made quite an impression on the Corkerhill boys for the future!

However there were a couple of more formal meetings when Glasgow raced Edinburgh “B”. Alan, Fred and “Bunny” supplemented the former Mansewood regulars of John Speirs, Dick Barrie, Brian Gilliland, Ian Stewart and Robert McGregor to complete an eight man team. The scores in these meetings are not known but they were undoubtedly close, keenly fought encounters and were to whet the Corkerhill boys’ appetites to take part in a properly organised team racing in a recognised league. This only seemed to be possible in Edinburgh.

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Although “Bunny” was to fade from the scene, Stevie Mitchell, Billy Russell, Iain Morrison and Colin Caffrey were to join the Corkerhill group, who eventually summoned up enough courage to phone Ross Gargrave and persuade him to form another Scottish Rangers team, staffed almost entirely by the Corkerhill “Railway Children”, so named because they travelled through to the East by train.

After an eventful season in the Lothians, there was now growing support for restarting the Glasgow league, with teams forming in Kings Park and Ralston. The Corkerhill boys had enjoyed their season at Harrison Park but the travelling was beginning to lose its appeal and were amongst the prime movers in setting up the new Glasgow league The former Scottish Rangers were allocated over these new and generally in experienced teams.

Alan, along with Stevie Mitchell, joined Levernside and he was to enter the record books by winning the first ever league heat when he won heat one of the Hampden versus Levernside Spring League meeting – see photo at the top of the page

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He was to return to Hampden the following week to take part in the Easter Egg Trophy.  The first prize was a large Easter Egg, with a Hampden badge being on offer for the runner up and a much smaller egg being the consolation prize for the third place man. As the meeting progressed, there seemed to be more interest in securing the badge, rather than the chocolate – changed days!! May be Alan got it eggsactly right … sorry!!…as he finished second to take home the coveted badge!

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Although the meeting was nearly forty years ago, we have managedto get in contact with a lot of the riders who took part afternoon  indeed many will be here tonight – although Billy Campbell and David “Nudge” Norrie are unlikely to make it being based in Australia and New Zealand respectively.

            Nicky Nicolson recalls “Alan was a fearsome opponent who could hook you with his knee! I made the gate on Alan and knew he was right behind me. I went like stink and was relieved when I managed to put some fresh air between us! However it wasn’t always like that! – a first bend sandwich with Alan and Billy Russell saw me come off second (third?) best. I had to drive down to Berwick that afternoon with my elbow out the car window as I couldn’t get it to stop bleeding – in fact I still have the marks to this day!”

            David “Nudge” Norrie has little recall of that afternoon but remembers Alan’s very trendy sideburns and also one or two first bend crumps.

 

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Alan was one of Levernsides top scorers in these early fixtures but faded from the scene – getting married no doubt had a lot to do with it!!

However by 1971, he was back on the scene and joined the rest of the Corkerhill boys in the Shields organisation, which, with shades of the Scottish Rangers, fielded two teams in the Glasgow League – the Racers based at Woodrow Road and the Raiders who raced at Corkerhill. Alan wore the tartan of the Raiders. Although not part of Shields historic NACSA winning line up, he is still proud of his club’s achievement to this day – and rightly so, it is legendary in the annals of Glasgow cycle speedway.

Winning NACSA was a hard act to follow and the sport went into decline the following year, particularly following Shields unfortunate ban from NACSA after being unable to fulfil a cup tie. The league staggered on for a few years and Alan, now living in Kings Park, was a regular in a number of meetings until the sport just faded away. A few years later Alan was off to Australia and he was to miss the resurrection of the sport and the rise of the Hampden Rebels who went on to win the ASC National League.

Nowadays, the sport is confined to one track in Edinburgh and we keep in touch with their results from “Keeping Track” which is periodically issued by the Glasgow Cycle Speedway History Association. So as we say “farewell” to Alan, we’ll keep in touch via the wonder of the internet, and we’ll always remember the contribution he made to the cycle speedway scene, particularly during the Corkerhill years.

We have attached a few of the programs for meetings in which you rode to give you something to read on your trip! Have a safe journey, mate.