Glasgow 1960 – Two Viewpoints
The Cycle Speedway Gazette of March 1961 contained the
following two articles reviewing the 1960 season
The 1960 season heralded the beginning of a promising new
era in the Glasgow Cycle Speedway League. The opening weeks of the year were
extremely trying – in fact many riders wondered whether their clubs would still be in competition by the end of the
season. However, the riders, clubs and league weathered the storm and are now
going from strength to strength.
At the beginning of the season, Glasgow had three clubs active, but by September the league
contained five racing clubs and the prospect of a sixth being started
Without doubt, the top dogs of the racing year were Eastwood Aces and Mansewood Lions, both of whom
regained or retained individual and team championships. League matches were of
a fairly high standard, racing being held twice weekly. Eastwood Aces won the
League for 1960 by a narrow margin from their nearest rivals Craigton Eagles and Mansewood Lions.
Greater prospects of further competition were realised when Edinburgh
revived. An away match Glasgow v Edinburgh in Edinburgh in September resulted
in a victory for Glasgow by a big margin. The return in Glasgow in October was
expected to result the same, but the too optimistic Glaswegians were shattered, even though Edinburgh just failed to secure
The future seems indeed rosy. The financial position is secure, and tracks are being improved.
To all rivals, Glasgow in 1961 should present quite a display of fine, tactical cycle speedway riding.
F. G. P. Casely
The Glasgow League last season was abandoned after threequarters through, due to Glen Aces, Knightswood
Toffs, and Priesthill Giants being forced in quick succession to withdraw, because of rider shortage.
Such leading riders as Hamish Orr, Douglas Maxwell and John Gillies were
“called up” and Peter Bell and John (Joe) Letts just could not find time, and half the Priesthill team got married. The League would have undoubtedly been won by Eastwood Aces, who were unbeaten until
the league was abandoned.
We raced two matches with Edinburgh, who really rocked us when they came
within an ace of winning in Glasgow after taking a big beating in Edinburgh. Everyone
is looking forward to these matches again, and at least one match might be won
CURRENT TROPHY HOLDERS
Mansewood September Trophy – BERT HARKINS
Senior Match Race – BERT HARKINS
Junior Match Race – GORDON McGEACHIN
Glasgow Grand Prix – BERT HARKINS
Rendezvous Bowl – GORDON McGEACHIN
This year, no one is sure if a proper league can be run, but there will still
be racing of some sort with our two leading teams, Mansewood Lions and the Eastwood Aces.
Everyone is hoping that Craigton Eagles can raise a team, it would be a great tragedy if they had to close since they
have raced constantly during 1960.
Latest news is that Norman Christie and Dick Barrie are planning to race this year,
and a league may yet be formed.
From these two rather conflicting reports on the previous season we can see that the 1960 season
was a difficult one in Glasgow with the league programme incomplete due to the failure of some teams to complete their fixtures. “Fred” Casely’s article contained what could be described as his
trademark over-optimism, which as we will see from subsequent articles tended
to paint a rather rosy picture to say the least.
On the other hand, the article by “Huckleberry Hound” (probably Bert Harkins or John
Speirs) is a lot more pessimistic and nearer to the reality of the situation in Glasgow, in that league racing was unfinished
and that the season mainly consisted of friendly matches and individual matches on a “turn up and ride” basis.
The “Gazette” for April 1961 contains Fred Casely’s small item on the Schoolboy’s
Glasgow and District have again been invited to send a cycle
speedway team to race in the Kelvin Hall, during the Schoolboys Exhibition, which is sponsored by the Glasgow “Evening
Citizen” and takes place after Easter.
Also included in the April Gazette is a picture page showing the two team captains of
the 1960 Glasgow v Edinburgh Test Match at Mansewood and a photo of the Glasgow Team (in their trademark headgear). Glasgow
won the match but by a much narrower margin than the first test.
The old Glasgow body colours of the red “G” on a yellow background had been brought
out of retirement and re-painted for the test series.
The photos also show the preponderance of “cow-horn” handlebars (those supplied
with Phillips Speedtrack bikes) but this was about the time when a move away from them to other handlebar designs was imminent.
KELVIN HALL 1961
The May 1961 edition of the “Gazette” contained Fred
Casely’s report of the racing in the Kelvin Hall at the Schoolboys Exhibition.
As in previous years, Glasgow and District Cycle Speedway Association
were again invited to send in cycle speedway teams to race in Exhibition matches in the Circus Arena of the Kelvin Hall. Unfortunately the sponsors of the Sixth Boys and Girls Exhibition could only let us
stage races on two separate nights.
On the first evening, only FIVE riders turned up to
race, rainy weather no doubt keeping many at home. Our first-house show was rushed
and obviously unprepared, with three riders in each race, the remaining two taking care of commentating and starting /stewarding. The large audience was quiet and unresponsive, the only sounds being the occasional
squeals of tyres on the smooth floor.
The second house show was on a different plane whatsoever,
albeit the audience was small but very receptive. The riding arrangements were
different – four riders participating in each race, the outside man in the first race starting the second race with
the starter taking the inside slot. The Arena Manager commentated in his racy
style, excelling himself when it came to describing our spills.
There was an encouraging turnout out on the second
night. Racing was fast and furious, both riders and audience enjoying themselves,
especially with an unforgettably funny, thrilling, last race featuring four of Glasgow’s top riders – Bert Harkins,
Peter Christie, John Speirs and Jim Cobain.
The Kelvin Hall shows are very beneficial to cycle
speedway, bringing the sport right into the public eye.
Fred is probably correct in his conclusion that the participation
at the Kelvin Hall was beneficial to the sport – without doubt it brought us to the notice of the public and provided
a morale boost to the participants who raced in front of a big crowd, probably for the first time, but unfortunately failed
in its main aim which was to attract young people to the sport.
The May edition of the “Gazette”
also contains an article entitled “Tartan Topics” with the Glasgow report by Fred Casely.
close season retirements Craigton Eagles and Knightswood Toffs have not yet announced their team lists for 1961. Here, in Glasgow, the cycle speedway season starts comparatively late in the year.
* * *
Track bikes have been repaired, painted and in certain,
sad cases, replaced. The number of track machines which Mansewood manager Johnny
Speirs has, to date, smashed in track accidents, now reaches double figures with the advent of “Stinky 11th
* * *
Track repairing continues with the end of winter hibernation. It is even rumoured that two budding civil engineers, who ride for Mansewood, were
seen working on the Craigton (Rouken Glen) track.
Apart from the Kelvin Hall series of matches, the opening match of the season will be a friendly between Eastwood Aces
and Mansewood Lions.
* * *
Congratulations to those four stalwarts of Glasgow
Cycle Speedway – Bert Harkins, Jim Guthrie, John Speirs and Pete Christie – who all celebrate their 21st
birthdays around this time.
As we can see this is basically a “filler” article –
it contains no match reports or news of the teams participating in the league. It
can be seen that the Mansewood and Eastwood teams were probably at full strength and that the Mansewood and Rouken Glen tracks
were still in use. From the August Gazette more Tartan Topics.
The old Craigton Eagles team, combined with the trackless Knightswood
Toffs team are being formed into a new club, “The Toffs”, based at Rouken Glen.
* * *
To give the new club reasonable riding strength, a slight reshuffle of
the Eastwood and Mansewood teams has been necessary. Brian Gilliland, a good
Mansewood second string, is now on semi-permanent loan to the Toffs, while Eastwood have transferred Dick Barrie, and are
considering transferring one or two juniors to the Glen.
* * *
At the present Glasgow are in the happy position of having many riders willing
to fill team berths. Such experienced riders as Ian Mackie, Douglas Wade, Andrew
Crawford, Jim Speight and Dave Hunter, and a veritable host of novices, are available.
* * *
The organising side of cycle speedway has not been neglected either. Messrs Jas. Cobain, Douglas Maxwell and Jim Thornton are all ready and willing to manage, or help run,
clubs. Already Jim Cobain has arranged a general meeting of riders and officials
* * *
After a long spell away from cycle speedway, former Eastwood skipper Norrie
Christie, has now retired.
* * *
Poor Jim Cobain! While diligently
practising for a forthcoming match, he severely injured his right ankle, and had to content himself with stewarding the match. However, he should be fit for racing again by the summer holiday.
* * *
A very kind offer by a very nice young lady will result in Glasgow’s
receiving a batch of differently coloured track-hats. The caps will be used for
purposes similar to those in motor speedway.
A definite list of teams for our Autumn League starting
August 1st has now been published, they are : Abercorn Diamonds, Edinburgh Falcons, Liberton Rebels, Seafield Saints,
Belford Aces, Edinburgh Vikings, Meadowbank Stars, Sighthill Hammers and Trinity Tigers.
* * *
Of the new teams Sighthill are expected to do well,
best for them are Gavin Montgomery and Norman Douglas.
* * *
Seafield Saints should also do quite well. Alec Hughson and Terry Graise will make the basis of a good team.
* * *
I rate Stars Rider John Murphy to do well in any Individual
Championships to be held in the near future. John has now held his match race
Championship for over a year and he always has to be congratulated for the brilliant riding he turns out on such occasions.
It appears that the league was still not up and running although the “pooling” of riders
from the strong Mansewood and Eastwood Teams was obviously to create at least one more team.
Fred is still upbeat in his mention of available riders who remained unsigned.
Mention is made of one of Norrie Christie’s many retirements, which seem to have been regularly
followed by “come-backs” – Norrie was still participating occasionally right up to around 1968!
The Edinburgh report, at the bottom of the page, contains a paragraph on that long-time friend
of Glasgow Cycle speedway, Johnny Murphy, then, as now, a great talent. Some things never change! The
August “Gazette” also contained three match reports, none of which appear to be league matches.
Grand Challenge Match
ACES 42 : Casely
12 ; Harkins, Christie 9.
LIONS 35 : Speirs 7 ; Guthrie, Gilliland 6.
This was the finest match yet staged in Glasgow this year. New signings were made, racing was fast and good and the weather was wonderful. Those having their first races were Robert Motherwell and Roy MacDowall, the latter scoring three points. Bert Harkins gave Fred Casely his first maximum, while poor Jim Wilson had a bad day
finally having to be carried off injured.
In the “Silver Sash” match race, John Speirs beat Fred Casely.
The second half consisted of a small individual match, the “Rider
of the Night” being Dick Barrie.
Glasgow Best Pairs Match
Douglas Maxwell, Andy Crawford and Doug Wade, three of Glasgow’s former top
riders, came out of retirement to race in this competition.
Guthrie/Maxwell – 18 ; 2nd Speirs/Wilkinson – 16.
: Casely 12 ; MacDowall 4 ; Black 6 ; Motherwell 4
LIONS 33 : Speirs 10 ; F Molloy,
Gilliland 14 ; D Motherwell 2
In this closely fought four-a-side match, Eastwood were beaten for the first time
in nearly two years. One of the ‘old regime’, Mr James Cobain stewarded
This report contains a reference to the first participation in the
sport of Eastwood Aces junior Roy MacDowell, or “Roy the bad boy” as he was renamed by John Speirs due to Roy’s
earlier incarceration in a “home for bad boys”, what we would now call, in these politically correct times, “A
Young Offenders Institution”! Reference is also made to the Mansewood rider Jim Wilson being carried off injured – one of Jim’s
many injuries – surely Jim was one of the sports more accident-prone participants!
It is also noticeable that the reference to Doug Maxwell, Andy Crawford
and Doug Wade coming out of retirement and mention of Dick Barrie’s participation is a reflection of the racing scene
at Mansewood at this time. Riders would often turn up and race in challenge matches
and possibly not return for weeks.
This type of
ad hoc set-up for racing suggests that the standard of racing in the city was not up to the level of previous years. However,
this was not really the case as can be seen as the season progressed.
RIDING IN THE WEST RIDING
One of the major events of the 1961 season was a tour to Bradford, at
the September weekend.
John Speirs had studied back numbers of the ‘Gazette’ to find
a league of a comparable standard to ourselves, subsequently contacting Mike Cockroft, Bradford League Secretary, to arrange
the visit. As so often happens in these situations it was an inspired choice:
not only were the matches with Bradford League teams keenly fought out in good spirit but friendships were made that lasted
for many years.
The advance party of Bert Harkins, Jim Guthrie, John Speirs, Norrie Allan,
Brian Gilliland and Doug Wade left Glasgow in a hired Bedford Dormobile in the early hours of Saturday morning to be joined
in Bradford by Jimmy Cobain and Doug Maxwell, who also brought Pat Struthers as team manager.
Chic Mackie and family arrived unannounced in the afternoon and Chic did a sterling job as team mechanic in one of
those matches where front wheels were being “crumped” with regularity.
Unfortunately no contemporary reports of the matches or results
are available, but our opponents included Bowling Aces, Elmfield Eagles and Horton Panthers. Racing took place at two different
tracks, very similar in size and standard to Glasgow’s tracks, on waste ground in housing estates. Most of the Glasgow
party stayed with the families of Bradford riders and enjoyed
a high level of Yorkshire hospitality.
One highlight of the Bradford trip was an excursion across the Pennines
to Manchester to the speedway at Belle Vue. This was the first visit by many
of the Glasgow party to what was considered one of the best venues to watch speedway in the country. This was the era of the great Peter Craven who was the absolute master of the home track and was sensational
to see at Belle Vue. He was tragically fatally injured in a crash at Meadowbank,
riding against Edinburgh Monarchs.
This was a regular Saturday night outing for our Bradford hosts who made
the journey in Mike Cockcroft’s white van, which during the week was the milk delivery van of Mike’s family’s
dairy business. Any outing in the company of the Bradford lads was a guaranteed
“good time” as they certainly knew how to enjoy themselves.
After the speedway match, it was customary at Belle Vue that the
gates around the safety fence were opened and access was gained via the centre green to the rest of the Belle Vue complex
comprising the funfair, dog track, bingo, dancing and a number of bars. One of the Bradford lads, Jim Meadowcroft, asked the
question, “Are you going on t’ Bobs?” After a bit of
translation and discussion it was explained that the “Bobs” was a roller coaster – and the Glasgow lads
began to realise this was a veiled challenge to see what we Scots were made of. Naturally, not wishing to be seen as ‘wimps’
especially as there was a full day’s racing to come the next day, the Glasgow party were up for the challenge. All during
the speedway match the lads had watched the cars of the ride beside the track make their initial long ascent and had noticed
that the last car in the train carried a brakeman in a white coat whose job it was obviously to slow the machine should it
reach too fast a speed. It couldn’t be that bad, could it?
We were duly clamped into our seats to the extent that any sideways movement
was impossible, the cars began their ascent and Dougie Wade turned round and asked, “Where’s the guy in the
white coat?” To which Jim Meadowcroft replied “Ah, that’s the scenic railway – this is t’Bobs!” There was a sudden realisation that things were not quite as we expected, made even worse when a Mancunian
in the seat behind, at the top of the climb, told us that, “chap killed on this last week!”
To say that fear was now beginning to take
a grip was an understatement, however we had no time to worry as the cars plunged down the first descent, heading straight
for the turnstiles in Hyde Road. The next three minutes can only be described
as hellish as our bodies were battered from side to side as the train rattled its way over the tracks. Horrendous! After the relief of reaching the end of the run,
we had to walk about to get our “sea legs” again! This was probably the first time that Glasgow riders experienced
what would become something that any visit to Belle Vue had to contain – a ride on the “Bobs”, usually followed
by the comment – “That was bloody awful – do you want to go on again!”
After a full day of racing on the Sunday, with honours shared between our hosts
and ourselves, the Bradford riders suggested a pub visit followed by a visit to a Chinese restaurant. This was a new experience for some of the Glasgow party and was eagerly anticipated, and in the fine spirit
of friendship of the whole weekend both parties divided up and shared a table with the other.
At the end of the meal, as everyone was about to leave, the restaurant manager stopped the party containing Dougie
Wade and Brian Gilliland and their two Bradford table-mates and stated that someone from that table had not paid their bill.
discussion ensued at which the accusation was disputed, the three bills that had been paid were produced and identified, and
it became apparent that one bill was missing.
During this discussion everyone else had left the restaurant, the waiters
had locked and bolted the front door, and the dispute continued. Naturally once
those inside had been posted missing, those outside made attempts to regain entry, almost to the extent of breaking down the
door, especially when they could see through the glass door that the cooking staff had come out of the kitchen wielding Chinese
cleavers! The situation was only resolved after about ten minutes, with Glasgow
and Bradford riders hurling themselves at the door, when it was agreed to pay the sum on the missing bill.
It was some time before Dougie and Brian ventured into another Chinese Restaurant!
A Grand Time was had by All
There is no doubt that the visit to Bradford was a big success. All the matches were close run affairs, raced in a good spirit. The Bradford riders were equipped with slightly more modern machinery, including straight forks and handlebars
of a design known as Canadian bends or the slightly narrower North Road bends. The
Bradford teams were mostly kitted out in dress shirts in their team colours rather than the general mixture of football jerseys
etc that the Glasgow riders raced in.
It was an introduction to a “North of England” style of racing,
with more emphasis on fast gating, a style of racing predominant in Manchester which had a big influence on Bradford. However, many lessons were learned and improvements taken on board after the weekend.
But by far the most pleasing aspect was the great atmosphere among
the riders from both cities who really enjoyed each others company with the result that return trips were planned for the
The team for the opening match at Holme Wood, Bradford contained the three Bradford riders as we were still awaiting
the arrival of Mr. Cobain’s party