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Motherwell 1972

As recounted in the Motherwell 1958 section, the Milton Street stadium was demolished during the 1960s but the site was never redeveloped. By 1971, the Kennedy family had taken over the lease and were staging Trotting racing on the huge 680 yard sand and shingle oval. Trotting featured ponies pulling the most basic of carts, barely a back axle and shafts, with the driver precariously seated thereon. The ponies had two sets of reins above and below their knees to prevent them galloping – only trotting was possible and hence the name.

In the summer of 1969, I attended a Trotting race meeting at the Gyle in Edinburgh. In these days there was a grass camping and caravan site adjacent to the Glasgow Road – nowadays there is a hotel and various banking headquarters on the site. No doubt the great attraction of Trotting was the on course betting, but as a spectacle it was nothing great. Chariot racing it was not! The site had previously been used as a speedway training track run by Ian Beattie.

By the summer of 1971, Motherwell was also staging stock car racing or hot Rod racing as they preferred to call it. Ian Hoskins may have had an interest in it. He certainly gave it a few plugs in the Hampden program and there were other speedway connections. Stan Gardner, the speedway referee, was usually the steward, while Hans Copeland and his pal, two members of the Hampden track staff were lap counters – not an exact science by any account! Dick Barrie was the track announcer, located in a high lookout tower, gave a running commentary on the races, and my brother and the late Neil Grant were “runners” taking information for the referees box to the pits and to the announcer. I seem to remember they got paid the handsome sum of two pounds for their running duties – quite a lot in these days, as speedway admission was barely 50 pence.

The stock cars were doing good business and the Kennedy company decided to diversify further into motor sports at the arena. On the 2nd January 1972, a long track meeting was held on the trotting track. The field ranged from World Champions, Ivan Mauger and Barry Briggs, down to second halfers. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t feature the most competitive of racing! However it was a novelty, and it did offer fans the chance to get out in the fresh air and recover from their hangovers. 

It may also have had a further benefit as it showed the BSPA that the company were competent when it came to staging an event and this may have influenced the promoters in awarding Motherwell an open licence for 1972 at a time when the Newtongrange application was refused.

The Speedway Years 1972 magazine reports that at the end of January 1972, the BSPA accepted Division Two league applications from Ellesmere Port and Scunthorpe and awarded open licences to Ashington, Barrow and Motherwell while refusing applications from Newtongrange and Chesterton (now known as Stoke), the latter being denied after a protest from nearby Crewe.

 

“Novelty” was very much the theme for 1972. In February ice racing, motor bikes on ice, was staged in Murrayfield Ice Rink in Edinburgh. It was a cross between cycle speedway and roller derby, but, initially, attracted a full house. Plans to introduce league racing fell down when Ayr Ice Rink was sold, although singleton meetings were also staged at Kirkcaldy and Aviemore. After a few meetings the novelty wore off and attendances dwindled. Still, it was fun while it lasted! See Scottish Ice Racing 1972 for a detailed history of the sport.

 

Much the same could be said about the long track racing at Motherwell, which staged a further two events before calling time on the venture.

 

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                                              Ice racing from Murrayfield - Ayr's

                                              Stan McLuckie and Bobby Beaton

 

Then the promotion came up with the idea of staging speedway ay Motherwell. A shale oval was laid inside the stock car track. There were now four ovals at Motherwell. The outer was the sand and shingle Trotting track; the next was a derelict oval whose rough state was explained as being the site for moto cross racing – this never happened; then the tarmac stock car track, inside which the smallish speedway track was sited. Here the problems began! The speedway track was a fair distance from the limited and low rise terracing. Worse still, the fence, which, like Hampden, had to be readily portable, was made of eight by four marine ply. From the terracing you could barely see any of the track!

All new promotions gaining an open licence have to have an experienced speedway person to “baby sit” them. It is believed Alan Robertson, the former starting marshal of the 1960s, filled this role. It should be pointed out that this is not the guy who was the inspiration behind the Linlithgow track in the 1980s. While Alan Robertson, the starting marshal, may have had extensive knowledge of the sport from inside the safety fence, he possibly never considered looking at things from the spectators point of view. Looking back it certainly seems so.

The Glasgow Tigers promotion, while accepting their riders had the right to accept open bookings at any track throughout the country, were rather perturbed that their heat leaders were the star attractions at a rival promotions events and were concerned that any injuries sustained there could leave the Tigers short handed in their league meetings. There was very little communication between the two promotions and even less co-operation! Motherwell intended to supplement two guest heatleaders, booked from Second division tracks, with riders of their own. They showed some resourcefulness in attracting riders like Harry McLean, Tom Blackwood, Alex Nichol, George Wells and Frank Skinner. McLean was Alan Robertson’s protégé and was their bright young hope. Of the others Blackwood and Nichol had ridden for Berwick in 1969 but had faded from the scene after losing their team places. Both, however, had featured in the ice racing events earlier in the year. Wells and Skinner were on the fringes of second half bookings at Coatbridge when it closed in 1969. Thereafter Skinner had retired while Wells got occasional rides at Berwick in 1970 before he, too, took a break. The standard of Division Two racing had increased each year since its inception in 1968, and there was a widespread feeling that these guys would be well out of their depth. None of the five mentioned received any track time at Hampden before Motherwell closed, nor were any Tigers juniors, George Beaton, Alan Mackie and John Wilson, ever likely to turn out for the Eagles, although they had taken part in long track events. Indeed Mackie and Wilson rode for Barrow in their home meeting against Motherwell!

The first meeting scheduled at Motherwell was due to be on the 15th of May when the Golden Eagles were to race Barrow, at the time another non league track opened by a consortium headed up by Ivan Mauger, Peter Oakes and Wally Mawdsley. While programs were produced for this meeting, it was never staged. It may well have simply been rained off, although it is also possible that last minute work at the track was not enough for it to be issued with the appropriate certificate. Whatever the cause, the meeting didn’t go ahead. The Eagles were certainly tooled up for this meeting with Workington's Mackay, Sansom, Amundson and Graham being added to locals McLean, Skinner and Blackwood.

On 28th May, the Eagles lost 45-33 away to Barrow. Guests Jackson and Evans from Crewe topscored for Eagles with twelve and ten respectively.

A month later, on the 12th of June, racing did take place with the Eagles hosting a side from Teesside.The track looked decidedly ropey and most races were strung out affairs. The track was probably about 330 yards, which compares with the Shawfield and Ashfield circuits but only one heat managed to break the 80 seconds barrier, highlighting how slow the racing was. Worse still, a  fairly sparse crowd found how poor the sightlines were during the running of heat one, and by heat two, had clambered over the Trotting and “Moto Cross” tracks and were gathered on the stock car track. Even then viewing was really pretty poor. There was never any chance of the sport becoming a permanent fixture under these circumstances.

The record books show that the visitors, Teesside, ran out 42-33 winners, with Eagles scorers being

Jack Millen        9 - three wins and two engine failures

Alex Nicholl       7

Harry McLean     6

Frank Skinner     4

Russ Dent         4

Tom Blackwood  2

Roy Young         1

 

Fot Teesside, it was a good night for the Swales twins, with Tim scoring a five ride maximum from the reserve berth, while brother Tony scored 10.

The second half was cancelled - by then everyone had had more than enough! 

 

 

To see the programs for the January Long Track event and the Motherwell v Barrow meeting Click here

 

 

What Went Wrong?

The complete lack of viewing facilities was staggering! There was no chance this was ever going to work. The Kennedy promotion must have spent a fair bit on laying the track and then got practically no return on their investment – a complete loss! They were either badly advised or ignored any advice given to them. Certainly, the shortest lived track in history! It certainly wasn’t fun while it lasted! Thankfully the BSPA never awarded them a full Division Two licence at the outset - that would have been a total embarrassment.

As far as I am aware the track was never used for any practices