On Saturday night I took myself to Livingston, to the annual bunfight staged by the Scottish branch of the World Speedway Riders Association where I was like a porker in manure, meeting and greeting so many old pals.
Former Bandits were in evidence, naturally – I schmoozed with Dave Trownson, Andy Meldrum, Jim Beaton, Tom Blackwood, and our opening-night Clerk of the Course (and later promoter/team manager) Ken Taylor.
One memory revived during the speeches was of the Shielfield night in the summer of 1975 when teenaged Dave Trownson went out and beat the fabulous Owen brothers all ends up.
I promise you this – if you were there that night, you remember the race!
Delightfully, I also hooked up with the family of the late Willie Templeton, one of only seven riders to collect more than 1,000 points in black-and-gold.
During the evening, Coventry’s inevitable withdrawal from the upper (?) league was talked about by those of us alert to the situation, which wasn’t formally revealed until Sunday morning. Which got the social media spanking machine flailing about, trying to find a home for its wrath.
These things never go well. Cradley Heath at Stoke, Glasgow at Workington the Monarchs in Glasgow and famously our brave Bandits at Barrow. Not great times. The Bees were never going to survive at Leicester, nor were they going to get back into Brandon.
When a club is rendered homeless, a new track has to be found in the immediate vicinity, or that club quickly, sadly but inevitably withers on the vine.
Incidentally, who remembers that, when we left Shielfield Park on September 6th, 1980 we weren’t dreaming of being at Barrow, and Berrington Lough certainly hadn’t been thought of?
We marched boldly out that night, expecting to have a new circuit all ready for 1981 – at Prior House (or was it Prior Hill?). We reckoned we had planning permission and everything. That went well, eh?
As we prepare for our 50th Season Celebration opening meeting – less than three weeks away now – I looked at the programme for that (we thought) last night at Shielfield. It was, for collectors, a superb 40-page production, designed and edited by the great, and so-sadly-missed Ian Graham.
I checked our team’s averages. They totalled 53.23 points. Our reserves (Rob Grant and Mike Caroline) were on 6.30 and 6.11 respectively!
Now that sort of cumulative scoring would do for us in 2017, huh?
Dick Barrie is a well-travelled commentator and speedway personality who first spoke out at Shielfield Park in 1972, following Bill Hope and Dennis McCleary into the announcer’s squeaky seat. He was a promoter at Berwick in 1989/91. Away from the Bandits, Dick has reported on speedway from five continents for over fifty years. He has presented a weekly radio programme in the east of Scotland (Radio Forth and now Crystal FM 107.4) for the past forty years Want to disagree with him? He’s on firstname.lastname@example.org and always happy to hear from interesting people.