The Scottish Connection (the memories of Rich Pawson)
Whilst reading through a Scotia programme for the home match with Hull in 2006 mention was made of the affinity between the two clubs and of an incident involving an Edinburgh rider climbing a crane in Hull docks but not naming him. More of that later and the name of the rider involved.
Below are my recollections of the many matches and incidents that have occurred over the intervening 30 year period and I can truthfully say all the memories are good and all the riders, officials and family members I have come across over the years have been nothing but friendly and hospitable. Most of this is done from memory so some of the dates, names may not be 100% correct but I’m sure people will put me right
I first came across the marauding hoards from north of the border when they breached Hadrian’s Wall in 1977 In the form of a Glasgow touring party who came down for a two week holiday.
In August 1977 the Humberside area was invaded by a Scottish touring party, our first experience of racing against teams from north of the border. This was the start of of what has proved to be a great relationship both on a racing and friendship front with riders from both Glasgow and Edinburgh over the years which continues today some thirty years after the first meeting. It was, as far as we are aware, the first appearance of a young Chic Mackie at the age of 38 in Hull. Chic has continued to race in Hull to this day with his most rteent appearance been in 2015 and is still passing on his experience and knowledge to riders today and is always a welcome visitor. From memory the riders stayed on a campsite to the east of Hull.
The following is a record of the matches although the exact dates and in some cases venues are not known. Apart from Chic Mackie the touring party included: Rob McNulty, Lachlan McDougall, Ian Morrison, Colin Grant, Ian Mackie, Tam Baggley, Ian Mackie, Roy Varty and Derek Varty.
In addition there is also a record of an Aces/Diamonds select racing Sighthill Hammers from Edinburgh in an away challenge match which was won by the select team by 99 to 78.
I can’t remember anything much about the matches but do remember a number of nights spent in various pubs with our visitors. In particular The Greenwood (on Greenwood Avenue, North Hull Estate) a nice quiet pub to take a dozen or so Glaswegians and now demolished. What a choice. I’m surprised that passed off incident free and the Ganstead (previously known as the Swiss Cottage) at Bilton.
What followed over the next ten years or so were many matches between the Hull club and any number of teams from both Glasgow and Edinburgh. Again the memories of the matches don’t immediately spring to mind but what happened off the track does. A lot of it involved alcohol for some funny reason.
I’ll start with Glasgow first home of the legendary Chic Mackie (well he is in Hull). I raced at three tracks in the city. This would be in/around 1977/78. The heavily banked track that was Kingsway. If you think the banking at Hull is steep then Kingsway made it look relatively flat (unless my memory is wrong). The only other track I have raced at with such steep banking was the one at Exmouth. One particular incident just spring to mind whilst racing at Kingsway. At some point during the match we couldn’t understand why the riders suddenly started twitching whilst under starter’s orders. It turned out they were been shot at by someone with an air rifle concealed in the tenements that surround one end of the track. Only one death resulted from this!!!! Seriously this, as far as I’m aware is the only time riders have come under fire during a match unless someone else knows otherwise. Apart from Chic I can’t remember who else rode for the Kingsway team at the time.
Apart from Kingsway the other team in Glasgow at the time was the Hampden Hawks. There track was built on an old tennis court and was just down the road, as the name suggests from Hampden Park. This was a flat track unlike the Kingsway one. No particular memories of the matches we rode here although there were a few.
The third track in Glasgow was a brand new one built at Cathkin Park, again in the vicinity of Hampden Park). The track was built to a high specification and included a fence and floodlights. By this stage there was only one team in the city who then raced under the name of Glasgow.
The track at Cathkin Park is still there but I am not sure what became of the other two.
Apart from Chic Mackie other opponents I can remember are: Rob McNulty, Lachlan McDougall, Ian Morrison, Colin Grant, Ian Mackie, Tam Baggley, Ian Mackie, Roy Varty and Derek Varty.
Now onto Edinburgh. I probably raced there for the first time around the same time as Glasgow ie. 1977/78. At the time there was quite a strong local Edinburgh League of around 6/7 teams. Names of teams I recall were Annfield, Portobello, Granton, Meadowbank , Broomhall and Gylle. There were probably more. I raced on four tracks in the city. The current one at Redbraes, Jack Kane, Davidsons Mains and Gylle. All four tracks offered a different challenge. Although we never got shot at in Edinburgh we did have to contend with the drug dealers at Jack Kane.
Of the current members of the Hull Club only Andy Schofield, Barry Ashton and myself were racing during this period so the following may be not to, open to challenge.
Many incidents occurred during these years which are amusing to look back on. The first involved what, I think was our first trip to Glasgow. Not sure exactly who went but there was certainly myself, Andy Schofield and Ian Swanborough and the main person of the story Iain Milne. We all stayed at Chic Mackie’s house in Darnley, somewhere in Glasgow, don’t ask me where as I havn’t got a clue. At the time we were all around the age 16-18, not used to alcohol to any extent and not really supposed to be in the pub. Least of all half a dozen or so drunken teenage English on a Saturday night in Glasgow. All I can remember is us having to leave the pub pretty sharpish as Iain (Milne) in his drunken state had decided to either look up/or lift the skirt of a woman in the pub. We got out in one piece and rolled up back at Chic’s in a drunken state. It’s amazing he still talks to us after such a start. That was probably the year we didn’t leave Glasgow until about 10.00pm on the Sunday evening arriving back in Hull around 6.00am the next morning. I remember not bothering to go to bed but going straight to work. Couldn’t do it now though.
Funnily enough Iain ultimately left Hull to move up to Scotland, his parents were Scottish, and he is now living in Kilsyth so he can’t have upset the locals that much.
We also stayed over in Glasgow on a number of other occasions but probably with a bit more experience learnt to keep our alcohol intake to a more reasonable level ( or did we drink the same but could handle it better) and keep out of bother despite a number of nights out in the city. I sometimes wonder how we managed to race on the Sundays after the excesses of the night before at times and even sometimes win the match.
As I said at the beginning Glasgow is the home of Chic Mackie who has proved a great opponent and friend of the Hull club over many years and continues to do so today. It hardly seems like 30 years since our paths first crossed. He is the only opposing rider to have an article written about him in the local paper (when we held the veterans final) and it is always great to see him every time he visits Hull. Unfortunately on his last visit he left with yet another shoulder injury. Not the first time he has suffered in Hull. I can recall spending a Saturday night with him in the casualty department of Hull Royal Infirmary some years ago.
Across to Edinburgh were Hull probably raced there three or four times a year during this period. We liked going up to Scotland for the weekend so more we would even arrange extra matches to make it possible. Again many nights were had out and about in the pubs and clubs of Edinburgh drinking with our hosts. Perhaps the most interesting trip to Edinburgh was when our hired minibus broke down about 30 miles south of Edinburgh on our journey home. The breakdown truck could only take so many passengers so four of us decided it would be good fun to try and hitch home. Apart from myself the only other person I can remember who definitely attempted to hitch home was Simon Plows. So the four of us were left standing at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. What seemed at first like a good idea began to feel like a mistake as no one would stop. Well would you stop and pick up four males in there late teens early twenties. We rapidly discovered no one else would and were beginning to panic when our Knight in Shining Armour arrived in the shape of a man in his, probably forties, stopped and offered all of us a lift to the M62/A1 junction. We had nearly cracked it in one go. All we then had to do was get back from the service station near Pontefract to Hull. We cheated on this. Simon Plows rang his mother who came and picked us up. Eventually we only arrived home a few hours after the rest of the group. Fortunately this is only one of two occasions I have been involved in a breakdown whilst going to away matches. The only other occasion was when returning from Kesgrave in 2003 which resulted in spending the night in the car parked up in the breakdown companies yard next to the main east coast train line in Newark. Not an exactly quiet night.
Back to where I started. The incident of the crane and Hull docks. Nearly true. On one of the many visits to Hull by an Edinburgh team we of course went out for a drink together on the Saturday night. Just down the road from the Hull track was the Ferryboat pub. It wasn’t a bad pub but certainly not up market. The pub had a large back room which put bands on. Off we all set for a night of drink etc and to watch the band. The said rider also revealed that he also had a talent for playing the guitar and his party piece was the House of the Rising Sun the old Kinks classic. I’m not sure how it happened but he ended up on stage with the band, borrowed a guitar and took over as lead singer for this one song. I think this was the same night he climbed the crane which was in the shipyard that was next to the pub at the time. At the end of the night he was last seen about fifty foot up one of the shipyard cranes. The rider in question was Kenny Hunter. Is he still around now?
Many friends have been made with riders from Edinburgh over the years. Of those currently riding most will know Chic Mackie, Jack Pinkerton and John Murphy. Other riders from the time were Graham Newlands, Murray Cockburn, Stuart Anthony, James Wallace, Rab Grant and probably many more who I have forgotten. From a personal point of view two who became great friends for a number of years were John Murphy Junior and Billy Murphy the nephews of John. Also involved as a manager of the Meadowbank team at the time was Ray Murphy (John and Billy’s dad) and John seniors brother. I spent many weekends in Edinburgh over the years enjoying the hospitality of the Murphy family and likewise returned it when they came down to Hull. The connection with the Murphy clan and Jack Pinkerton led to the ultimate (in our eyes) cycle speedway touring party ever to hit the south of England over a three year period. More of that later.
One of my other early trips to Scotland involved been part of an English touring party that visited Edinburgh and Glasgow for a weeks racing. I can’t remember the exact year but it was sometime in the late seventies. I don’t even remember how I got invited/ involved. The party comprised of Mike Green, Malcolm Lane and Brian Cnudde from the Crawley club, Mike Hack who I think was riding for Stoke at the time, Ken Taylor from Denton (Tameside), possibly Steve Howe from Denton ( I can’t remember) and myself. The week started with a challenge match between Hull and Denton on the Saturday afternoon after which I returned to Manchester to meet up with the Crawley contingent at Belle Vue speedway on the Saturday night. After staying in Manchester overnight we all set off for Edinburgh the next day. We had rooms booked in a guest house for the week. The one notable thing about the journey up was the change of drivers on the M6. I assumed we would stop but how wrong I was. Both the people in the front seat pushed their seats back as far as they would go then as the driver slid to the left the passenger slid across him to the right. The manoeuvre started off with the car in the middle lane to allow for the car veering either way. This however did not account for other traffic. Somehow we survived this and got to Edinburgh in one piece. The racing seemed quite tame after this. During the week we raced four/five challenge matches in both Edinburgh and Glasgow and also enjoyed a trip to Edinburgh (Powderhall) for the speedway. Nothing much sticks out as far as the racing goes. We obviously spent a lot of evenings in various pubs and also enjoyed a trip to a whisky distillery and a brewery during the week. We also had an encounter with with the Lothain police one night. Well Malcolm Lane, Brian Cnudde and myself did. For some reason we had borrowed Ken Taylors car and upon returning to it had difficulty getting the key to work in the door lock. Unbeknown to us were were been observed by a police car across the road. I can’t imagine why they approached us, three 18/19 year olds trying to get into, what was a fairly new car, late in the evening in Edinburgh. Anyway they came across and asked what we were doing. We explained that it was a borrowed car and we couldn’t seem to get into it. T’ car. Ken who asked the police. I can’t remember his name. It wasn’t looking good. Were does Ken live “Manchester” came the reply. It was getting worse. I can’t remember how we got out of the situation but we did somehow. The week ended for me with a lift back to Manchester and then having to get the train back to Hull with my bike and associated luggage.
Back to the touring parties which descended on the south/west of England and Wales. I went on three of these tours. These were on consecutive years in, I think, 1979,1980 and 1981. Some of the matches, events and riders may not be 100% correct as I am going from memory from over 25 years ago.
The first year the tour was organised by Jack Pinkerton/John Murphy Senior who along with Brian Morris stayed somewhere in the Oxford Swindon area with their families. The other members of the party were John Murphy Junior, Billy Murphy, Barry Watson and myself. John and Billy came down from Edinburgh to Hull to meet with Barry and myself and off we set in two cars to the first match which I think was possibly at the old Airport Road track in Bristol were we met up with the Jack, John Senior and Brian. This would be the pattern for the week. They would go off and spend time with their families during the day and meet us on the evenings when we had a match. We had no plans of where we would be staying but each just had a sleeping bad and intended sleeping in the cars unless we got a better offer. Fortunately we did staying at the house of Robin Martakies in Bristol. From memory a very nice three/four story house in a very nice area of Bristol the highlight of which was the well stocked bar he had set up in his cellar. I can’t remember how much we drank/if much at all but we certainly did later in the week in Swindon. As well as Bristol we also rode matches against Swindon, Horspath and Headley (Oxford) during the week. We also enjoyed trips to speedway at both Oxford and Swindon during the week. The friends we made in Swindon that year went on to serve us well over the next two years. After the match we rode against at Swindon we all stayed with one of their riders, John Gallagher and his wife Val. One of John’s hobbies was making his own home brew which he warned us was very strong. Of course the four of us took no notice of the warning and after about four pints were all dead to the world and laid out in his house were we stayed until the next day. Apart from John we met many people in Swindon, the Rudmans and the Hewletts amongst them. Riding for Swindon at the time were Allan Rossiter and Martin Hewlett who both went on to careers in speedway. Unfortunately Martin’s was cut short when he collapsed and died after a race a Swindon which cut short what looked to be a promising speedway career.
The second and third year’s tours were organised by John Junior and Billy Murphy and myself. The older riders from the previous year probably weren’t available. I’m not sure who went which year or which tracks we visited when but the following is who went and the tracks we raced at. On both years we started and ended the week in Swindon, with a trip to Peterborough Speedway for the National Fours meeting thrown in on the way down one year. Apart from John Junior and Billy Murphy, Barry Watson and myself others who rode were Andy Schofield, Ian Clark, Andy Moody and Mark Harrison from Hull and Fred Mitchell from Newcastle. Unlike the first year we never went to Oxford or Bristol to race. For a change we headed over to Newport and raced at their track (I think it was the original one) behind the water pumping station and spent the night sleeping in the cars next to the track. Racing for Newport that night was a “girl”. Now this was a rarity then. I think it was the first time we had known a girl to race and a nice looking, about 16 year old one at that. Andy Moody did try to convince her of the Northern tradition of kissing opponents after the match but got short shrift (she probably thought he was ugly) although did attract the attention of the male opponents.
We also headed down to Exeter one year, although we never actually raced at the Exeter track. We did however race at Exmouth which must be one of the most banked tracks I can ever remember racing on and at Kingsteignton, a track that was built in the grounds of a local quarry. Heading eastwards we also saw racing action at Weymouth, Poole (the old track), Hamworthy (in Poole), Bournemouth and Havant (near Portsmouth). We did stop off to look at the Southampton track but never actually raced there. We also managed to get trips to speedway at both Poole and Weymouth between racing. As regards the racing, I can’t remember any results, but from memory we won some we lost some.
We probably had a better time off the track then we did on it. With 8 or 9 of us all in our late teens/very early twenties travelling round, living and sleeping in three or four cars things were bound to get interesting. Usually the best way to keep clean was to find the local swimming pool and go swimming most days and have a good wash and shower after. The swimming pool showed John Murphy Juniors skills as regards diving to its maximum effect. John was to diving what Eddie the Eagle was to ski jumping a trier but not very good. The more he tried the worse he got. At six foot plus he was not exactly agile and every attempt was met with a round of applause and usually a very red chest for John as he belly flopped into the water. Poor John also suffered in Weymouth when we visited the local fairground and decided to go on the waltzers. We all noticed John was beginning to look a bit white and sickly but so did the ride operators. I’m sure they extended the ride for John’s benefit because as soon as he got off he disappeared round the back and only re-appeared some time later still not looking too well.
Whilst in Weymouth we were lucky enough to be put up by Martin Hepworth and his parents who ran a café on the outskirts of the town at the time. All 8/9 of us slept on the café floor but the only problem was we had to get up and be out for when the café opened early in the morning. His parents probably regretted offering us accommodation as we rolled back their a few nights later after not receiving any offers from anyone else. To give them their due they let us sleep there again.
We also descended on the house of Bournemouth rider Colin Barnes (think that was his name) one night whose parents again put us up for the night. Other nights we were not so fortunate and spent one night sleeping in the clubhouse/centre green at the Hamworthy track and another on Bournemouth beach. We all built shelters against the sea wall using deckchairs. This night has its pluses and minuses. The plus was that a group of female foreign exchange students descended on the beach and promptly stripped off and went for a swim. No one had a camera available unfortunately. The minus was that cleaning of the beach started at about 6.00am so we had to get up very early that day.
Most nights and often the days involved a visit to the pub at some stage so it’s a miracle how we managed to race most days. But we were all fit and young and very daft.
We had three great years doing this, made many friends along the way and hopefully did not upset anyone too much. If anyone out there reading this remembers either racing or racing against/ coming across us please e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org.