1970 - Visitors and Wider Horizons
While the 1969 season was one of consolidation,
with only limited contact with the rest of the Cycle Speedway scene, 1970 was a year when Glasgow widened its horizons and
welcomed many different visitors. Generally the visitors were far more experienced than the Glasgow riders but, while home
victories were scarce, a lot of valuable experience was gained.
Enter The Shields…
Levernside moved to a new track at Woodrow Road and were now called Shields Racers, using the former
Scottish Rangers team colours. Shields had signed Billy Russell and Ian ‘Morrie’ Morrison had moved to Birmingham.
It was no surprise, then, that the Ralston team folded.
And the Wheelers.
However their loss
was compensated for by the formation of Mill Wheelers, a team which Ian Welsh had formed, briefly enlisting the support of
Pete Bell. Although the former Craigton Eagles captain enjoyed his renewed contact with the sport, he had to give up again
soon after because of professional commitments. The team was made up at first of some Newlandsfield boys who had been on the fringes
of the meetings held at the Vogue a few years earlier, but when Ralston collapsed, Bill McMillan, Brian Logan and Jackie Hides
were eagerly snapped up by Mill.
badly over the winter. Brian Gilliland had moved to Horspath. Billy Campbell and his step-brother Alan "Bo” Brown went
considerably further when their family emigrated to Australia! The Knights managed to sign George “Ditcher” Christie
but were obviously considerably weaker than their league winning squad of the previous year. Worse was to follow in mid-season. David Norrie
opted to pursue road racing rather than Cycle Speedway. David was a natural sportsman who went on to play squash at a high
level. It is no exaggeration to say that he had the potential to be the best
rider of this particular generation and could have made a major impact in NACSA events, since he was young enough to have
entered both the 1970 and 1971 junior individual events
The Hampden squad was unchanged. The league would once again be a contest amongst four teams.
SOGGY EASTER EGGS
Glasgow’s first visitors
were Hungerford Panthers, a young team recently reformed by super enthusiasts Mr & Mrs Mansebridge. They endured a particularly
wet Easter weekend in Glasgow before heading on to Edinburgh and then south. Not surprisingly they found the going tough against
the Glasgow teams, but we couldn’t have wished for more pleasant “first foots”.
On Saturday 28Th
March Hungerford opened the Glasgow season, losing heavily to Hampden who withdrew heat-leaders Dick Barrie, Colin Caffrey
and Nicky Nicolson from their final rides when it became apparent that a large score was likely. With barely enough time to
wring out their sodden racing gear, Hungerford then moved on to Kingsway for a late afternoon meeting which again brought
a heavy defeat. Most
of the boys were boarded at Pete Bell’s house where, after the two matches, they enjoyed plenty of hot food and an even
more welcome hot bath.
The following morning
they raced Shields. The match started at 11.00 a.m. – leaving them barely enough time to roll their eggs! John Speirs,
a printer to trade, produced a program for this meeting. Neither
John nor Billy Russell was included in the Shields team who despite this won convincingly by 64 –32. Billy incidentally was shown in the program as “Scorer”. As with Hampden,
Shields heat-leaders Caffrey and Stevie Mitchell were withdrawn from their final rides. Top scorers for Shields were Hugh
Rodgers with a maximum of 12, John Paterson with 9 and Stevie Mitchell with nine
from three rides.‘Morrie’ Morrison rode for Shields
scoring a paid 5 from the number eight berth. Panthers top riders were R Cox with 13 and K Talmage with 8.
At the pre-season AGM it was decided that the Spring League would adopt the
4-3-2-1 scoring system which the ‘Feds’, the British Cycle Speedway Federation, had pioneered the previous year.
This system penalised teams when a rider didn’t finish a race. A winner would score 4 points. If the
riders of the other team finished second and third, they would score 3 and 2 respectively, making a total of 5 points. If
the winner’s partner then failed to finish, their team would lose the race by 4 points to 5. This was supposed to discourage
foul riding and to ensure that teams brought the requisite number of riders. Whether any of these benefits improved racing
in Glasgow is open to debate. Scores seemed abnormally high and riders scoring double figures were not necessarily particularly
impressive. Hampden was the first team to break the 100 points barrier when newcomers
Mill Wheelers were put to the sword.
LAST HEAT THRILLER
Following their move to a new track at Maxwell Drive, the Levernside team
was now known as Shields Racers. In one match they were giving rivals Hampden a bit of a going over and were 10
points up with only two races to go. Ronnie Young of Hampden remembers,
“We needed a 7-3 and a 7-0 to win – and we got them both! The 7-3 was fairly straight forward and almost expected,
but the 7-0 that Dick (Barrie) and Colin (Caffrey) got in the final heat was something else.” Dick takes up the story. “As I recall, it was Colin
and me against John Speirs and Stevie Mitchell. Colin gated first and I was last, but coming out of the second bend I sort
of ‘nudged’ their pair into each other and we all fell off. I remounted (nae steps, I hope!) and took off, but
Stevie's foot had gone through John's frame, or wheel, or both. When I came round again, they were still tugging desperately
at the bikes and Stevie’s leg, trying to get them apart! “That
was the end of the race, as Colin had lapped 'em! “I really am sure of
that bit – the total recall, even now – of coming around and seeing them tugging away at each other – made
me laugh so much I nearly fell off again!” The resulting 7-0 gave Hampden the match by just one point.
Hampden Win Again
Hampden went on to defeat Shields again a few days later at the Woodrow Road track in another
close encounter. Racers heat-leaders, Billy Russell, Stevie Mitchell and John Speirs were proving difficult to beat, but Hampden
packed the minor positions. Two 6-4’s in heats fourteen and fifteen gave Hawks a 3 point lead going into the last heat.
Stevie Mitchell duly won the race, but Hawks’ Dick Barrie and Colin Caffrey came second and third to split the heat
and secure the meeting. Hawks maintained their undefeated record and so won the Spring League title. Shields, however, had
a crop of promising new riders, notably Hugh Rogers who was an electric gater and was one of the first to adopt 7 inch cranks
which seemed to make his bike jet propelled!
THE WORLD CHAMPION COMETH!
Glasgow’s next visitors, a team from East Anglia, were to provide sterner
resistance during their visit in early May. Glasgow versus Norwich They were captained by Mike Parkins, the 1962 World Champion. The title had not been contested since that date and
so he was presumably the reigning World Champion of the time! In a closely fought
meeting at Maxwell Drive East Anglia beat Glasgow 51- 45 in a tactical encounter which saw ten of the sixteen heats split
3-3 . They made a break through in heat nine when Mike Parkins’ track craft brought his partner through for a 5-1 giving
them a 6 point lead. An exclusion to the visitors Steven Rix in heat 15 handed a 5-1 to the Glasgow pairing of David Norrie
and Bill McMillan.
Glasgow had now a chance
of a draw should they gain maximum points in the nominated race. It was not to be, however, as Mike Parkins completed an untroubled
15 point maximum. His partner Rod Witham took third. Stevie Mitchell underlined
his potential at this level with 12 points from five races and the experienced John Speirs weighed in with 10 from four. Bill
McMillan, making his debut for Glasgow, impressed with his 5 ‘paid’ 7 from his three reserves races.Glasgow’s
inexperience at this level was apparent. The riders were unable to capitalise on heats where they had the inside gate positions.
East Anglia invariably forced draws. The Glasgow boys were actually more successful in splitting heats when starting from
gates two and four
The full scorers for this, our first inter–district test match were:
1) Dick Barrie (Hampden)
1) Mike Parkins 15
2) Colin Caffrey
2) Paul Medlar 5
3) Stevie Mitchell (Shields) 12
3) Phil Baxter
4) Billy Russell
4) Ray Medlar
5) John Speirs
5) Rod Witham
6) David Norrie
6) Steven Rix
7) Bill McMillan
Rick Bennet 3
8) Nicky Nicolson (Hampden) 2 8)
Reg Reeves 2
Later that afternoon, East Anglia also beat a select team comprising
both Edinburgh and Glasgow riders by a single point only, 48-47 , after a last heat decider when John Redpath from Edinburgh seemed to take a ‘dive’ and so gifted the match
to the visitors. Exactly why he did this was unclear. He claimed he had
sustained a rib injury but few believed him. Some of the Glasgow riders were distinctly unimpressed and let him know it, leading
him to complain to the steward that “Someone has approached me…”.
It became a popular and
lasting catch phrase!
NACSA TOUGH TIMES
Glasgow teams and
riders entered NACSA competitions in greater numbers than in the previous year when Ralston riders were the sole entrants.
To enter, it was necessary to obtain a NACSA licence and also to have sports injury insurance. We had certainly moved into
a more organised sphere!
In the senior team event
first round, Hampden beat Kingsway 61-35 and progressed to meet Bridgend Bats in the next round. Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” was number one in the charts at the time and Hampden
certainly needed some divine help that day! They lost by a whacking 74- 22 score.
Only Dick Barrie and Colin Caffrey managed to beat a “Bat”. In his last races Dick noticed that you could actually
see the starting gate move just as the tapes went up, a discovery which was very useful when he later returned to ride in
an individual event there!
On the individual front
a number of Glasgow riders were drawn at Whinhill in Edinburgh. For the junior
event the turnout was poor and everyone who showed up qualified for the next round without a wheel being turned. Racing took place, however, in the senior event. Nicky
Nicolson says “The track seemed huge, certainly bigger than anything we had in Glasgow and the surface was really soft.
I don’t think it had been used at all, even though we were about six weeks into the season.”
The conditions didn’t suit the Glasgow boys!
Dick Barrie was the sole Glasgow qualifier. He later rode at Bridgend where he remembered the starting gate secretand
so his resulting fast starts helped him to qualify. His semi-final round was at Uxbridge where he was unfortunate not to make
the cut, particularly as the final was to be staged at Hampden.
and Mike Blair rode in the junior semi-final at Offerton. Initially there was
some confusion, inspired by Dave Blinston, over whether Mike was only a reserve for this meeting. Fortunately this was resolved when at least one rider failed to show up. Mike took what Glasgow considered
was his rightful place in the meeting. ‘Moosh’ was unfortunate not
to reach the final. He reckons that the Manchester ‘mafia’ ganged up on him in his last ride, aided and abetted
by a total lack of action from steward Josh Gleave!
THE AULD ENEMY GAINS REVENGE
Hampden was the venue for the Scotland v England test match on 24th May. This time the ‘Auld
Enemy’ travelled in greater strength, although John Watchman and Tony Johnson withdrew late. They were replaced by John
Whiting and Josh Cleave. Lauchlan McDougall, a Shields rider, piped out
the teams and was then presented to Les Whaley, the Guest of Honour.
After a closely fought
meeting, England gradually edged ahead and a 5-1 in the penultimate heat clinched the match. The final score was 57 –51.
England had avenged the previous year’s defeat. Tam Daly was uncharacteristically off-form that afternoon and failed
to score. It was left Stuart Potter, Jack Pinkerton and Doug Noble to spearhead the tartan attack. Top for England were Derek
Garnett, Kevin Greenhalgh and John Watling, all of whom scored double figures. The
full scorers were :-
0 2 2 0 1 5+1 1) Kevin Greenhalgh 2 3 2 3 1 11
2) Tam Low
3 1 1 2 1 8+2 2) Dave Parsons 1 0 2 n 2
3) Stuart Baxter
2 2 1 x 2 7 3) Derek Garnett 3 2 2 1 3
4) Stuart Potter
f 1 3 3 3
John Watling 1 1 3 3 3 11+1
5) Jack Pinkerton
3 3 1 1 2 10+1 5) Roger Ellis 1 3 0 2 0
6) Tam Daly
0 0 f 0
0 6) Dave Wilson 2 3 1 2 x
7) Ian Archibald
2 x 0
7) John Whiting 0 2 1 3+1
8) Doug Noble 3 3 3 0
8) George Cleave
0 1 1 2
Jimmy Cobain was the Scottish team manager while his English counterpart
was Brian Moston. Dave Parsons looked somewhat off colour early on and may have been regretting enjoying Jimmy Cobain’s
hospitality the previous evening! ‘Chic’ Mackie was the steward and
Clerk of the Course duties were shared by John Speirs and Pete Bell. John Gillies
was the timekeeper and Doug Noble recorded a track record of 42.7 seconds in heat 9 when beating Derek Garnett.
Blair had again persuaded The Rutherglen Reformer to cover the meeting and once more they gave it generous coverage. The Glasgow
Association had repeated its previous successes and shown its continuing ability to present major meetings.
EVEN MORE ENGLISH VISITORS!
Bristol were the next “tourers” to pay a visit. They scored a 58 -38 win over
a Glasgow Select side at Hampden and in doing so gave two of their riders, Geoff Patman and Pete Hooper, some advance practice
on the Hampden circuit. They both returned later as members of an English League side to race Scotland.
A program for this meeting
has been found and so have a number of photographs. Unfortunately these two sources are at variance with each other! Evidence
from both confirms that Stevie Mitchell, Billy Russell, John Speirs, Colin Caffrey, Ronnie Young and Bill McMillan all rode
in the meeting.However the program lists the other riders as ‘Moosh’ Nicolson and, somewhat surprisingly, George
Christie. The photographs, on the other hand, show Dick Barrie and Mike Blair as the other team members. One shot clearly
shows ‘Moosh’ Nicolson in ‘civvies’ in the pits! Given the uncertainty over some of the program entries,
it is hard to come to any conclusions about the Glasgow points scorers.
For Bristol, Geoff Patman scored a ‘paid’ 15 points, Roger Lowery
had three heat wins and a fall for 9 points and Jim Sullivan’s unbeaten record was spoiled when he came last in his
Edinburgh had staged
a ‘Festival Weekend’ during the August Bank Holiday for the previous seven years. This year it was Glasgow’s
turn, which gives an indication of the extent to which organisation of the sport in Edinburgh had crumbled – and correspondingly
improved in Glasgow.
Qualifying Fours and
Individual events were staged at Hampden, Shields and Kingsway on the Saturday of the weekend. The Finals, together with the
Scotland v English League Test Match took place on the Sunday afternoon at Hampden.
South London Rangers
won the Hampden qualifier, in an event that disappointingly saw Seafield and Sighthill unable to field four riders and hosts
Hampden toiling badly to defeat any of their opponents. Nicky Nicolson recalls “The guys that did turn up were mainly
of international standard, John Murphy, Ian Archibald and Jackie Pinkerton. Needless to say we didn’t fare at all well,
which was disappointing as a we had a large crowd of local people that afternoon and we got ribbed by our mates for some time
after that”. The riders
in the Hampden ‘Four’ that day were ‘Nicky’ Nicolson, ‘Moosh’ Nicolson, Colin Caffrey
and Mike Blair.
Leicester Monarchs, regular
visitors to the Festival event over the years, won the Kingsway event ahead, of Blackley. Bridgend won the round which also featured Tottenham, Shields and a team called simply ‘Glasgow’
– presumably a select side.
The Fours Final was exceptionally
close, with Leicester, Bridgend and Seafield all in with a chance of winning the event right up to the last heat. This race
was split 3 -3, which resulted in a tie between Bridgend and Seafield, both with 21 points. Leicester was just one behind
on 20. The tie-break was over two heats. Bridgend won 7 -5 to clinch the trophy.
John Watchman (Blackley) won the Individual Championship with 13 points from
Stuart Baxter (Bridgend) on 12. Geoff Patman and Tam Low tied for third with 11 points each. Dick Barrie qualified for the
final and scored 4 points. Stevie Mitchell rode three times as reserve scoring 2 points.
The Scotland v English League teams were as follows :-
NACSA Individual Finals in Glasgow 1970
The Greatest Event
The last gala day of an eventful season was on 20th September when the NACSA finals were staged
in Scotland for the first time. It showed the respect in which the Glasgow Association was held that a comparatively young
organisation was allowed to present this ‘Blue Riband’ event. Handbills were produced, billing this as ‘the greatest cycle speedway event ever held in Scotland’ - and possibly it was.
riders withdrew from the senior event. Frank Smith, Roger Ellis, Jon Grant, Dave Dale and Tony Johnson (again!) were unable
to attend. John Murphy and Stuart Baxter from Edinburgh were among the replacements,
taking the Scottish representation to five. In an exceptionally close event, Stuart Potter won with 12 points. After a tie-break
Jackie Pinkerton beat Derek Garnett to decide the second and third places.
There were no absentees for the junior event, which was unfortunate for ‘Moosh’
Nicolson and Mike Blair, who were first and second reserves respectively. Both received medals for the event but spent an
inactive afternoon watching the others race.Gordon Tennant of Bridgend had bike problems in his first ride but then won all
his next four to tie with Pete Swain of Leicester and Rob White of Carrs Wood. They finished in that order in the three man
Bridgend scored a splendid
double by supplying both the junior and senior winners.It was an historic occasion for Scottish Cycle Speedway, too, offering
further proof of Glasgow’s continuing success in staging major competitions.
Hampden were unbeaten in the Spring League and no doubt fancied their chances in the main
league competition, but their aspirations were deflated early on by a heavy 58-38 defeat by Shields at Woodrow Road. On a night
when little went right for the Hawks, only reserve Gerry McColl, who scored 10 points, including three heat wins and, to a
lesser extent, Colin Caffrey with a total of 9 points, rode to anything like their form. Dick Barrie finished last for the
first time. The Nicolsons, ‘Nicky’ and ‘Moosh’ both set up personal ‘lowest scores’. Neil
Grant and Ronnie Young did likewise. Surprisingly, no Shields rider managed
a maximum against such off-form opposition. Their top scorers were Stevie Mitchell with a ‘paid’ 14 points and
Billy Russell with a ‘paid’ 12 – both from five rides.
Shields continued to carry all before them, while Hampden were untroubled by either Kingsway or Mill.
Their second league encounter was held in mid August when the Hawks were without Dick Barrie. The scores were close until
heat eleven when Shields held a 2 point advantage. In Heat 12 Hawks riders Colin Caffrey and Neil Grant suffered a double exclusion.
Then Stevie Mitchell and John Speirs scored a 5-1 over ‘Moosh’ Nicolson and Ronnie Young. The meeting was effectively
over…. and so was Hampden’s league challenge!
NO LEAGUE AND CUP DOUBLE
IN THE WET!
Shields had already been won the League, although some meetings remained to be raced. The
Racers were hot favourites to “do the double” by beating Hampden in the K.O. Cup Final at neutral Kingsway. On
a wet afternoon, Hugh Rogers and a couple of other Racers showed up early at the track. They came to the hasty and unwise
conclusion that the meeting would be cancelled and went home! Oh, how wrong they were! It speaks volumes for the size and
strength of the Shields squad that sufficient numbers turned up for them to field a full eight man team which held Hampden
until the later heats. A 4-2 win by Colin Caffrey and ‘Nicky’ Nicolson
clinched the result and the Cup went to Hampden.
...AND SO THE FINAL
Shields gained some revenge by winning the final league meeting against Hampden with a 51
– 45 score on the afternoon of 18th October. Most of the riders were more concerned with staying awake than
riding, having been at Belle Vue Speedway the previous night for the British League Riders Championship. Shields’ circuit
at Woodrow Road continued to be a ‘bogey’ track for Hawks, although some of them actually improved on their personal
“worst scores”. Dick Barrie failed to win a heat for the very first time in Hawks colours. Mike Blair and David
Earley with 3 points apiece and ‘Moosh’ Nicolson with 2 points all scored their lowest totals of the season. ‘Nicky’
Nicolson probably escaped a similar fate by taking over the team manager’s role that afternoon! Colin Caffrey, with
the benefit of four inside gates, scored 14 points in what proved to be his last outing as a Hawk. Top for Shields were John
Speirs with 12 points from five races, Hugh Rodger with 11 and Stevie Mitchell with a ‘paid’ 11 points. Uncharacteristically,
Billy Russell managed only three third places.
Shields had gone through the Summer League unbeaten and were the undisputed best team
Thus ended a highly successful “season of various visitors”,
but John Speirs could be seen leaving the track after the racing was over, a thoughtful look in his eye, already planning
for next year!