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1972 The Beginning of the End
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1972 The Beginning of the End
 
Winter Discontent

 

The winter of 1971/72 was literally and metaphorically a very dark time. The government and the miners had their own match race to see who really ran the country. For the rest of us, it meant the three day week and scheduled power cuts which sent us off to bed at 9pm.

Shields had their own version of discontent following their historic achievement in winning the NACSA trophy. The precise cause is not known, but the effect was to be dramatic and far-reaching. Neil Grant’s detailed log of the 1971 season shows that Shields Raiders won the KO Cup having been given a walk over in the final after Racers scratched. Possibly there was an incident in the final Raiders v Racers league meeting. Raiders certainly were a volatile crew when things didn’t go their way – witness their epic encounter with Hampden in summer 1971 – and John Speirs too could have his moments. Whatever actually happened, the outcome was that John Speirs transferred to Kingsway and with Racers and Raiders struggling to field separate squads, Shields fielded only one team for the 1972 season.

Not only did Kingsway sign John Speirs during this bleak winter, they had also signed up international John Murphy from Edinburgh to accompany Jackie Pinkerton on the trips through to race for the Knights. Not content with plundering the east, Kingsway also added Alan McColl and Paul McQuarrie both of whom had started the previous year in the colours of Mill Wheelers, who were hardly the strongest team in the west to begin with! Mill now had their own track provided by the local council in Queens Drive, - but barely had a team. Hampden Hawks were expecting to see little of Dick Barrie and Nicky Nicolson but Moosh Nicolson and Neil Grant were to marshal their resources. Shields had a full squad but were badly lacking in any managerial experience, which was ultimately to prove their downfall. The league now had a decidedly lopsided look to it

 

Opportunity Missed

With hindsight, the situation could have been rescued at this point had there been an experienced neutral who could have seen the wider picture – Kingsway had a big enough squad to field two teams – and perhaps more importantly enough managerial experience to run both and if, say, Fred Caffrey and Lauchie McDougall had been re-allocated to Mill, five reasonably competitive teams could have been formed.

Sadly guys like Jimmy Cobain and Pete Bell were no longer on the scene and the opportunity was missed

 

AGM Aggro

So far so bad! The AGM had been held on the 23rd of January in Langside Halls in an atmosphere best described as terse. Shields, led by team manager Billy Russell, refused to accept their trophies although they were less than explicit over their grievance. It is thought that they were unhappy about not getting trophies for their KO Cup “win” when Shields Racers had scratched from the final. As Hampden had not received trophies for winning the cup in the two previous seasons, it was a bit hard to follow their logic.

  1. Next, John Speirs had proposed a number of rule changes namely
  2. Teams twelve points down could pick gate positions
  3. Teams using reserve replacement would be deducted race points – two for one rider missing, six for two missing
  4. Home clubs would be responsible for appointing stewards and would be fined if they did not appear
  5. Stewards would be fined if they did not appear
  6. Teams would be fined for not wearing uniform jerseys

None of the proposals were accepted. There was a suspicion that the first would allow teams to overcome early losses should a certain team structure be adopted. This was probably unlikely. However it was symptomatic of the lack of trust now pervading the sport and this proposal was rejected.

The second seemed designed to suit teams who could track a full squad - namely Kingsway after their close season swoops. Again this was rejected with only Kingsway supporting the proposal.  Stewarding was a vex question but it was felt that their appointment was a Control Board function and, as it was voluntary, fining stewards for non appearance would just end in them withdrawing from the “panel”. The last proposal over team jerseys brought some heated debate before it was rejected although it was agreed that teams should strive to be smartly turned out. In any case most teams now had team uniforms – see Dedicated Followers of  Fashion

John Speirs stood down from his Secretary/ Treasurer post and Moosh Nicolson was elected secretary. Alan McColl’s nomination for treasurer was greeted with some hilarity but as no one else would accept nomination he was successful. This wasn’t to prove so funny later on when it was alleged that association funds were later used to buy him a new suit!

 

Dedicated Followers of Fashion

While some riders had their favourite jerseys and in some cases “lucky” jeans, most turned out in their team colours. Kingsway from their inception favoured royal blue jerseys although strangely enough team manager Chic Mackie was a non-conformist. Shields had adopted white bri nylon polo necks, probably because half their team already had them from their Scottish Rangers days. Hampden were initially “individual stylists”. Dick Barrie invariably wore a black polo neck, denims and Chelsea boots. Moosh Nicolson wore a maroon football jersey while Nicky usually turned out in an orange football jersey with two black stripes sewn on the sleeves – a couple of years later Adidas added a third stripe as football jerseys became a fashion item   Neil Grant sported a red and white striped top which later became the uniform of TGIF– yes we were ahead of the times! Hampden had an exceptionally long team meeting to decide on team jerseys. The voting system would have made proportional representation seem like a lottery. In the end Moosh and Neil just went out and bought pale blue football jerseys. Dick Barrie however was reluctant to wear his claiming it was unlucky as he was thrown out of the meeting by the steward on the one occasion he actually wore one. Mill also had their individual choices. Bill McMillan was famed for wearing an orange knitted jersey throughout his career. Brian Logan and Ian Welsh wore red football jerseys, possibly as a tribute to Charlie Monk, the Glasgow Tigers star, who rarely rode without one.

 

We’re Banking on It

Kingsway had resited their track the previous year by moving it about twenty yards nearer the bingo hall. This had helped avoid the flooding problems, which they had previously experienced. During the winter, with the help of “Face Lift Glasgow”, they revamped their track, putting dramatic banking in on the corners.  Sandy Robertson remembers using old fridges and anything else they could lay their hands on to provide the base .For some it was a great idea whilst others doubted it was within the rules and nicknamed the track “the Velodrome”. The NACSA rules of the time contained the following paragraph

“Banking   No excessive banking shall be allowed on a track. The degree of banking permissible shall be not more than 1 in 24 i.e. not more than half an inch rise for every foot of width”

Clearly the new track was banked far in excess of these limits.

To handsel the new track, a special individual meeting was held with a field made up of Kingsway’s own riders and those from other teams who had helped with the reconstruction. A special program was issued for this event. The program notes hoped that the new style track would afford a considerable home advantage!

 

Going East

It is not clear at what point Dunedin from Edinburgh were accepted into the league. It certainly wasn’t discussed at the AGM in January but by April Dunedin’s name appeared in the fixture list. Nicky Nicolson recalls “ Dunedin came through for a double header one Sunday in late April. They had Rab Grant, John Tait, Jon Redpath and George Watson in their team and had little difficulty in beating Hampden. Presumably they scored even more against Mill later that afternoon. Really it was a long way to come for such one sided meetings. Hampden raced Dunedin at Davidsons Mains in May. We struggled to get a team together but eventually managed seven. Dunedin were well short of a full team too, no doubt reflecting their lack of enthusiasm for this type of fixture. Transport to Edinburgh was always going to be a problem for most teams. It wasn’t a problem for me as I lived in Edinburgh then and I had taken three bikes through in my car. Fortunately for the rest of the team, Chic Mackie agreed to bring them through in his van. However it was apparent that fixtures in Edinburgh could only be staged if Chic was prepared to ferry the teams through. Not surprisingly Dunedin soon withdrew from the league!

The Spokesman magazine published the following completed Spring League table, which certainly seems a surprise although it is felt that some meetings may have been awarded.

                                                P      W      D      L        Pts

Kingsway                               16     13       0      3         26

Dunedin                                 16     12       0      4         24

Shields                                   16      9       0      7         18

Hampden                               16      4       0      12         8

Mill                                          16      2      0       14         4

 

NACSA Team No Show

Shields defence of their NACSA trophy was disastrous. They were drawn away and with Stevie Mitchell and Fred Caffrey unavailable were struggling to put a team together. Transport was also a problem with none of the team having a car. Perhaps more importantly, they had no one with any team managerial experience following John Speirs move to Kingsway. They wrongly concluded that, if they didn’t turn up, the tie would simply be awarded to the home side. Unfortunately their hosts had gone to some trouble in laying on a reception to welcome the reigning NACSA champions and were not unsurprisingly upset with the “no show”. Absenteeism was always a problem for NACSA and it seems Shields were made an example of when they were later banned from NACSA.

In reality this suspension was really meaningless as no Glasgow teams sought to be involved in NACSA events beyond 1972.

 

NACSA Individual…at least some turned up… but was it necessary!!

Kingsway staged a second round event on the 4th June and twelve riders from Kingsway, Shields and Hampden turned up – although Hampden’s presence was minimal with Mike Blair, the sole Hawk, being excluded in his first ride and then taking no further part in proceedings!

Jack Pinkerton won the meeting with fifteen points followed by Colin Caffrey with thirteen ad John Murphy with twelve. Chic Mackie and Fred Caffrey were adjudged to have dead heated in their first race and both finished the meeting in joint eighth place with eight and a half points. Chic won the runoff to claim the last qualifying position while Fred joined Alan Sinclair, Mike Blair, John Robertson and Sandy Robertson on the non-qualifiers list. However Nils Desperandum – do not give up hope!!

Hampden staged a quarter-final round four weeks later. Wilson of Blackley, Fordham of Stradbroke and Taylor of Ivy House all managed to make the journey. However there were at least five absentees and as a result all five non-qualifiers got another chance rendering Kingsway’s earlier round irrelevant!

Taylor (Ivy House) won the meeting with thirteen points, followed by Wilson (Blackley) and John Speirs (Kingsway) in joint second place on twelve. Other qualifiers were

John Murphy (Kingsway)     11

Jack Pinkerton (Kingsway)   10

Fred Caffrey (Shields)            9

Chic Mackie (Kingsway)       9

Colin Caffrey (Shields)          8

Colin Caffrey had tied with Ed Fordham for the final qualifying place but won the subsequent run off. Still Ed shouldn’t have been too downhearted on his long journey south – after all he could be certain that at least one rider wouldn’t turn up for the semi-final!!

 

Fair Enough

An attempt was made to further publicise the sport by staging a demonstration meeting at Hampden on Fair Friday when the Glasgow Tigers traditionally did not have a Friday meeting.  This was organised mainly by Neil Grant and Nicky Nicolson. By now the league teams were of such disparate strengths that it was felt that having four balanced composite sides would provide a better advert for the sport. Nicky Nicolson recalls “We had four sides – Rockets who wore Shields Racers colours; Clansmen who turned out in Raiders tartan jackets; Crusaders in Kingsway’s strips and Giants who wore the Glasgow body colours. I was in the Rockets side, along with Billy Russell, Neil Grant and Jimmy Hall. This meant I could borrow Billy’s bike which was really fast!” The event was a success with about 200 attending, but disappointingly very little benefit accrued.

 

Final Individual Final ..  for a few years anyway!

The Glasgow Individual was held at Hampden on October 1st and was won by Dick Barrie after a run off with Chic Mackie with Neil Grant third. Dick remembers

“1972 brought another dodgy last race for me.  I was off four and needed a win to tie with Chic. I was knackered, absolutely Donald Ducked, and the race had to be started three or four times. The problem was that Paul McQuarrie was off 1, and was trying to help Chic’s cause, while Moosh Nicolson and Mike Blair (I think) were in 2 & 3.  Because I couldn’t get off four, they had to tie McQuarrie up, which they kept doing, but he wisely either swerved onto the grass or dragged one or other of them down with him – each time Ross Gargrave (neutral steward and ex-Scottish Rangers main man,) ordered all four. Eventually I got away and our two sat on Paul to stop him passing me. In the run-off, my toss-up luck held, and I stayed ahead of an equally buggered Chic.At the end of the race, I stepped off my bike and let it run into the first bend, retiring on the spot.”

It would be some years before another Glasgow Individual would be stages and the trophy took up near permanent residence on Dick Barrie’s mantelpiece.

 

 

Final Festival too

A festival event was again run on the September weekend and featured riders from Edinburgh, Bristol and the Midlands. England beat Scotland in what was to be the last full scale international for quite some time

 Half a League Onwards        

No details of the league are presently known but, it seems almost certain that the full program was never completed and that Kingsway would have topped the league table had one been compiled.

In any case, Shields had fallen into disarray following their NACSA suspension and to enable the league to continue a new team called “Fingers Flyers” had been formed from those remaining Shields riders (Iain Morrison, Lachie McDougall, Hugh Rodgers) and four from Kingsway (Alan McColl, Paul McQuarrie, Alan Sinclair and John Robertson). Edinburgh rider Jon Redpath was also in the “Fingers” pool.

The KO Cup Final was staged at Hampden on Saturday 30th September when Kingsway beat “Fingers” but compared with previous years it was very low key and was greatly overshadowed by the tragic death of Sven Kaasa, the Glasgow Tiger who had been killed the previous night at Hampden Speedway. Most of the riders had been at the speedway and all were feeling rather subdued particularly during the minute’s silence held prior to the first heat of the final.

 

The season closed on a low and the end was now beginning……………..