Post War - Newcastle Riders


1945 to 1951 - Part 3

Norman Evans   Jeff Lloyd     Herby King     Don Lawson     Son Mitchell    The Hodgson Brothers   Will Lowther     Wilf Jay   Leo Lungo   Tommy Bateman   Derek Close    Red and White Diamonds   Ivan Stephenson's Photographs  Kyra's Photographs  Les Eagleton The Magpies

Norman Evans
Norman was a Diamond during 1946-48.  He was the first postwar Newcastle captain.
 John Davies says:  Hi John, I was looking at your speedway websites and found a photograph of Norman Evans on his bike. Our Local History Group is doing a booklet on life in our village in the 1950s. Norman lived here and was a regular in the local pub so I would like to do a feature on him illustrated by that photograph.
Whose round is it?
John Davies says: Hello John, 
After retiring from speedway, Norman returned to his family home in our village (Kirkby in Cleveland) where he worked as a bricklayer/builder. I attach a picture of him in the village pub.


Jeff Lloyd


Picture Courtesy of Colin Greenwell

This is 1946 and as you can see from the above photograph, Brough is full to the rafters. Jeff Lloyd poses for this shot which shows the "pudding basin" helmet.  Open faced helmets like this one were in use right up until the 1970's when full faced ones became a must.  My first helmet was a bit like this one and I bought it in 1967. They offered no protection to the face as only goggles and a leather mask or silk scarf were used to "protect" the rider. Face protection by mask or scarf was only intended as protection from the weather.  Many riders must have suffered bad injuries due to a lack of protection to the jaw.
Jeff's bike is not well displayed in this picture but it appears to be a JAP engine in an Excelsior frame. The grandstand in view was on the back straight and it was an excellent spacious place to view from. Sadly it fell into serious neglect from the 1980's onwards and has recently been demolished.  Brough Park now has viewing from the home straight only, so god knows how we would house a crowd the size of those attracted in the 1940's.
 Courtesy of Gordon Heiniger
  Right: Jeff Lloyd in New Cross colours.

The Farewell Cup
20th October 1947

Split Waterman Wembley with Newcastle's Derek Close.  Derek did not ride in the following meeting so these two met up some place else and posed for this picture.

On the 20th October 1947 Split Waterman won the closing Brough Park event. The Farewell Cup.  After looking through all the results from that era, it appear this was the only occasion that Split Waterman rode at Brough Park.
20 October 1947 - The End of Season Farewell Cup-Individual Event
Heat  Heat Winner  2nd  3rd  4th  Time                                                                                                        
Evans  Wells  Lloyd  May  77.2 
Gilbert  Crowther  Jay  Calder  75.8 
Grant  McLachlan  Smith  Kitchen (fex)  76.8 
Waterman  Lowther  Hunt  Craighead  75.8 
Kitchen  Craighead  Jay  Lloyd  78.4 
Lowther Evans Crowther McLachlan(f) 77.6
Waterman  Grant  Crowther  Wells  75.2 
Gilbert  Hunt  May  Smith 77.2 
9 Grant Hunt Lloyd Calder 77.6
10  Waterman  Evans  Jay  Smith  76.2 
11  Lowther  Crowther  Lloyd  Muir  78.2 
12  Crowther  McLachlan  Craighead  May  78.6 
13  Gilbert  Kitchen  Lowther  Wells  77.0 
14  Grant  Gilbert  Craighead  Evans  77.2 
15  McLachlan  Hunt  Wells  Jay  79.2 
16  Waterman  Kitchen  Calder  May(f)  77.4 
17  Gilbert  Waterman  McLachlan  Lloyd  78.2 
18  Kitchen  Crowther  Evans  Hunt  77.6 
19  Craighead  Smith  Calder  Wells  79.4 
20  Lowther  Grant  May  Jay  79.4 
21  2 man run off  Waterman 1st       77.6
    Gilbert 2nd       
Rider  2 Total  Postion   
Split Waterman  14  1st                                                                                                                              
Bill Gilbert  14  2nd   
Alec Grant  13  3rd  Newcastle 
Will Lowther  3 3 1 3 12  4th  Newcastle 
Bill Kitchen  10  =5th   
Joe Crowther  10  =5th   
Norman Evans  =7th  Newcastle 
Doug Mc Lachlan  =7th  Newcastle 
Roy Craighead  =9th   
Jack Hunt  =9th   
Pat Vincent Smith    =11th  Newcastle 
Bob Wells  =11th   
Peter Lloyd  =11th  Newcastle 
Wilf Jay  =11th  Newcastle 
Danny Calder  =11th   
Charlie May  16th   
Ray Muir          17th   

Leo Lungo 
 Courtesy of Gordon Heiniger
Courtesy of Colin Greenwell
John says:  I have known we had a rider by this name: Leo Lungo, and I have often wondered about his nationality.
Barry Wallace says: Leo Lungo was a Scot who rode in the 1946 Newcastle team - featured in the first programme of 2009 - but sadly he died during the winter of 1946/47 after falling ill with pneumonia.
Thanks Barry, your knowledge is second to none. 
Leonora Tate says Hi John,
I was reading through your website, particularly this page, while researching my family history:  My great uncle was Leo Lungo. He was a prominent speedway rider in the 1930s and early 1940s but sadly died of pneumonia in 1946, aged just 31. He grew up in Bellshill, Lanarkshire to Italian parents. Very few family photos exist, I have just managed to find this one on your speedway website. I wondered if you might know of anywhere else I might find other photographs of him competing? I’ve tried the newspaper archive on Find My Past, which has numerous mentions of him, and one or two articles, but no photographs.  Thank you for your time, Leonora Tate
Leonora's Photographs of Leo Lungo
Photo's Courtesy of Leonora Tate

1948 Magazine Review
Not A Good Year! 


Herby King


The Magpies
Courtesy of Graham Gleave

Don Lawson

Reg Fearman says: Don Lawson  Australia. Don Lawson former speedway rider with Newcastle and West Ham passed away in Sydney today (2nd August 2019) after a short illness.  He was 96 yrs old
John says: Don was with Newcastle 1949 to 1951
Reg goes on to say: Don lived for a time at my parents home in West Ham when he came down from Newcastle Speedway UK to West Ham.  Newcastle was cigar shaped and West Ham one of the largest tracks in the country would have suited him better, he moved on to Norwich, he always found it tough in Britain.  The following does not retract from his love of being in the limelight and his involvement with the ASRA.  In some speedway circles he was affectionately known as 'The Count' which was reflected in his dress code.  Don was not born a Lawson but was  fostered by Ma and Pa Lawson the parents of Aub, Cyril and Joyce. Ma and Pa (I lived with them and Don during the season of 1950-1951) fostered many children in their younger days.In the 1940s Don decided to change his surname to Lawson by deed pole Allan Quinn was a witness at the event.  I thought the above should be recorded.  There was/is another very, very big name long departed, his details recorded are even more incorrect which I may divulge in the future. Best wishes, RF
The Lawsons
Don, Cyril, Pop and Aub
Courtesy of John Levitt

John Levitt says: I am slowly but surely going through my parents speedway photo albums and amongst the various photographs etc is a photograph of a Newcastle rider. I believe it may be Don Lawson. My parents were mainly West Ham speedway fans although their albums depict riders from lots of different teams, most if not all their photographs would have been purchased at the time and they probably stopped attending matches in the 1952/53 period when their family began to grow. I have attached a scan of the image and I would appreciate if you could confirm my belief. I also wonder where the  picture was taken was it the UK or Australia? regards John Levitt

John Skinner says: I am not certain that it is Don Lawson so if you can confirm whom it is please send me an email John  The "N" racejacket was used for one season only 1949 when the team swapped it's nickname from Diamonds to Magpies.  Don came to us from Australia via West Ham speedway.  He rode for Newcastle for 3 years 1949-1951 so it is quite likely that the photo is of Don Lawson
Steve Baker says: the pic you have of Don Lawson is definitely him. He was of course, the step brother of Aub Lawson. I enclose 2 other pics, of Don, one in Newcastle colours and one in West Ham colours.

Don with Reg Fearman
Don with Ivan Mauger

Don Lawson With
Son Mitchell 
This is a photo of Don Lawson with Son Mitchell standing behind him taken in 1950. Just look at that crowd behind Don and Son in the photo, wouldn’t you love a crowd like that now?  Yes all of the photos on the site from the 40's 50's and 60's show a packed stadium.  The modern sport just isn't well supported and there is always the threat of track closures.

Archie Cooper's Photo 
My friend Archie Cooper has been a fan since the 1940s, he was active then as a cycle speedway rider too.  Archie is also an accomplished photographer.  His pictures like the above one adorn my websites on various pages. 
Archie and I meet briefly before each home match and he occasionally brings a Photo, book or other memorabilia which helps me with my websites.  I look forward to Archie's visits each week and his latest picture shows action from 1948 at Brough Park.  Jack Parker leads in a heat from the 4th annual speedway "Gala" on 6th July 1948.  Can you help name the other two (might be easy if you have the match programme). send John an email if you can name the other two riders  John 
Barry Wallace says: Had a look at a few pages while I was on your site and can state that the action shot featuring Jack Parker leading in the Gala meeting also shows Jeff Lloyd in his New Cross race-jacket trying to get through on the inside, while Glasgow's Will Lowther - you can make out what were red-and-white-stripes on his body-colour - is on the outside. 
Gary Thompson says: Hi John, Jack Parker leading and I think Will Lowther of Glasgow on the outside and Jeff Lloyd of New Cross on the inside. Jack Parker scored a 15point maximum.
L says: - I believe it was more likely the 5th July 1948 when the Northumberland Cup meeting was on. If that is the case then I have the results of that meeting.  From the information I have it appears to be heat 6. Jack Parker leads but on the inside is one of two New Cross riders at the meeting.
I believe it's Jeff Lloyd going of the riding style, the other New Cross rider there was Ron Johnson.
On the outside the rider with the White helmet appears to have light and dark strips on his race jacket not a Diamond, the other 2 riders in the heat were Will Lowther (Glasgow White City) and Jack Hunt (Newcastle).  So in my humble opinion the photo shows Jack Parker (Belle Vue) leading Heat 6 from Jeff Lloyd (New Cross) inside and Will Lowther (Glasgow White City) on the outside, Jack Hunt (Newcastle) is not in the picture.  Heat 6 result: Parker, Lloyd, Hunt, Lowther. Time 74.8

Gary Thompson says: Hi John,  I have a copy of the programme and is dated 6 July 1948. Also I have a copy of the highlights on dvd sadly without any sound. Oh to see the size of the crowds like that again eh?
Alan Taylor says: Just came across your old speedway photos, which I found most interesting; could the rider nearest the inside be Vic Duggan, the handlebars are right and the left foot is in the direction of, and close to, the front wheel.
John Chaplin says: The other riders in the Brough Park picture with Jack Parker are Will Lowther on the outside and Jeff Lloyd at the back.

Kyra's Photographs

Alec Grant & Norman Evans
Courtesy of John Spoor
Alec and Norman taken at a British Championship qualifying round at Bristol.  The photo dates from 1948 the last season before the whole diamonds team was transferred to Glasgow and we imported the entire Middlesbrough side for the 1949 campaign.  The year we were known as "The Magpies" and had the large N racejackets.
1948 Newcastle
(In Colour)
Courtesy of  Glyn Blackburn
? Alec Grant ? Norman Evans (on bike) Johnnie Hoskins, Ern Brecknell, Ken Le Breton, Peter Lloyd ?


1949 Newcastle Diamonds Transferred To Glasgow Ashfield Giants


Courtesy of Norman McNamee

This 1948 Newcastle side, was transferred by Johnnie Hoskins to Glasgow Ashfield in 1949, Newcastle then imported Middlesbrough's team which had closed its doors.  Can you name the riders? John
1949 "N" Team
The 1949 "imported from Middlesbrough team". The Magpies : Don Lawson, Derek Close, Frank Hodgson, Benny King, Manager Harry Whitfield, Front Row: Ern Brecknell, Son Mitchell, Jack Hodgson and Herby King
1949 The Newcastle Magpies
Left to right, back row: Jack Hodgson, Ken Thompson, Joe Arthur, Herby King. Front row: Derek Close, Ern Brecknell, Frank Hodgson (Captain), Son Mitchell.
Les Eagleton 1949
Hi John, yes he only did one year as he left to start his business. Starting as 'Les Eagleton and sons' He was owner of Manor Motors on the quayside, Ferry autospares, Howdon Motors, Dunston auto dismantlers and As-Nu West Allotment. A busy guy!
He lived in a house on it's own beside what is now 'Derwent valley egg farm' at The Beeches in Burnhopfield, where they have that Horror experience show at Halloween. He was a keen golfer and a Captain at Garesfield Golf Course for many years. Here is the page where his name is listed Rider List (newcastle speedway Great reminiscing John, anything more I can help with, drop me a line, cheers, Ken.
Wilf Jay 1949
Courtesy of Col Greenwell
Colin Greenwell a Middlesbrough fan pointed out that Wilf Jay is missing from the above team photos so he sent me the above picture of Wilf and an explanation of the Wilf Jay situation see the paragraph below: -
Newcastle Magpies 1949 Programmes


1949-51 Son Mitchell

This is Son Mitchell (1949) another of the ex Middlesbrough riders who came to Brough when the Boro's license and assets were transferred to Newcastle for the 1949 season.  As he is wearing a diamond in the first picture and not the Magpies "N" it appears to be from a year other than 1949, my guess would be 1950?  Tell me if I am wrong!
Eric Watson has been in touch about the above picture he says: - Answer : Well the picture could have been taken 1950 or even 1951 as the Diamond Jacket was used in both of these years. Likewise Son Mitchell rode for Newcastle in both years. So you can safely annotate it "Newcastle 1950-51"
John says: The "N" racejacket was used by the Magpies in 1949 so Son Mitchell's picture wearing a Diamonds jacket was from 1950 or 1951
Son Mitchell & Joe Arthur
Son Mitchell and Joe Arthur for Newcastle. Joe Arthur was a Middlesbrough reserve who moved up to Newcastle in 1949.  Don't know who the opposition rider is, whom has fallen.  These white jerseys had a large black N on the front.
Courtesy of Colin Greenwell


The Hodgson Brothers


Picture Courtesy of Colin Greenwell

This is Jack Hodgson ex Middlesborough rider who came to Brough when the Boro's license and assets were transferred to Newcastle for the 1949 season.  Jack was one of a few Brothers double acts that the team has had in their colours. The Creasors, The Stobbarts, The Hodgsons, The Owens, The Greens and The Worralls  spring to mind.  Anyone know any other Brothers who rode together for Newcastle? John

Picture Courtesy of Colin Greenwell

This is Jack's brother Frank Hodgson signing something in 1950 ish, or was he just marking up his programme?  No! this is what he was signing: Well it appears he was signing his Newcastle contract?  The witness was the Newcastle promoter Harry Whitfield who also rode pre-war, here's a shot of Harry (below), in his younger riding days at Wembley, Gordon Byers told me that Harry was a rider who should have won more races than he did.  But riding for the Wembley Lions must have been lucrative as Gordon says he often picked up 50 quid for a nights work when the weekly wage back home in the Naval Yard back on Tyneside was about £2.10/- in them days! 
Wembley stadium was often packed for speedway matches then and both Sunderland born Gordon Byers and Harry were riding in front of 70,000 or 80,000 crowds: -  My last visit to Wembley was way back in 1975 for a world final won by ex-Diamond Ole Olsen.  It was a full house then and I remember being carried along without my feet touching the ground by the crowd on the way out!

Picture Courtesy of Colin Greenwell

Frank Hodgson riding in the 1949 Newcastle race jacket.  Look at the face mask! was he a fan of Al Jolson I wonder?  Thank you Colin for these pictures all of which are of Newcastle riders with a Middlesbrough connection. Let's hope your team gets back on track somewhere on Tees-side real soon. 
Update: speedway is back on Tees-side The bears roar again under the name Redcar Bears.
Jim Henry says: Frank rode for Middlesbrough 1946 to 1948. He moved to Newcastle at the start of 1949 before he moved to Glasgow Tigers. Will Lowther moved from Tigers to Newcastle. Frank retired after racing for Glasgow for a few seasons. Brother Jack also rode for Middlesbrough and Newcastle before rejoining his brother at Glasgow. Details of their post war careers can be found on the Speedway Researcher web site.  Regards. Jim Henry
Hi John,  Jim Henry says: Bolloxed it in earlier email.  In 1949  it was Jack Hodgson who moved from Newcastle to Glasgow in the swap deal  NOT Frank. Frank did move to Glasgow but it was late season 1950.  Frank therefore spent all of 1949 and a big part of 1950 with Newcastle. Both retired at the end of 1952. Sorry for the miss-information.
1.) Jack  -  Middlesbrough to  1948  Newcastle then Glasgow WC 1949    - retired end of 1952
2.) Frank  - Middlesbrough  to 1948 Newcastle 1949 Newcastle then Glasgow WC 1950  retired end of 1952.  Regards and a Happy New Year.  Jim

Benny King Wilf Jay Leading
Alec Grant & Don Lawson
Eric Watson says: it is not Benny King leading, it is Wilf Jay.  John says: I stand corrected, thank you for helping me out

1949 Newcastle Magpies v
Cradley Heath Heathens
This is action from Brough Park 1949.  Seems Cradley Heath suffered from a lack of imagination as well as Newcastle as regards the race jackets and also the caption names the two "Heathens" but not the Newcastle rider.  Help me with this please is it Frank Hodgson?
Eric Watson says: -This is Brough Park in 1949 it is of Herby King (Newcastle) leading Alan Hunt (CH) while the rider in the middle by the fence is Bill Kemp (CH)


Will Lowther

Eric Watson has supplied an additional pen picture for Will see below:-
WILL LOWTHER. Born Gateshead 1913. A man of many tracks, Lowther started riding on grass at Tyneside and got his first ride on cinders at Bristol in 1934. He was afterwards identified with Harringay , New Cross, Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Wimbledon, where in 1936 an injury to his spine  almost threatened to end his career. He was Captain of  Glasgow ‘Lions’ (yes Lions not Tigers) in 1939 and immediately prior to the War rode for Middlesbrough. Then after the War he re-joined Glasgow as Captain again and was their top points scorer in 1946 with 172 pts. In 1947 he got 253 League points (an average of 10. 4), and in 1948 totaled 403 pts for a % of 62. 3. In 1949 he scored 247 pts. In 1950 he moved to Newcastle and scored 134. 5 points. He moved to Motherwell in 1951 scoring a total of 120 pts and in 1952 a total of 166 pts. After that he must have retired as there no more information on him at all.


Will Lowther  Wal Morton

Col Greenwell says:  You have a large photo which you have named as Will Lowther. I really think it is Wal Morton, not Will. Anyone agree with me?  Email me if you agree with Col  John
Eric Watson says: I agree with Col Greenwell's statement below it - it is not Will Lowther but is definitely a photo of Wal Morton
John says:  Oo-er! I don't know my Will from my Wal, thanks for putting me right with this photo


Wilf Jay

Wilf Jay and Derek Close in the N race jackets, what imagination whomever it was that decided to dispense with the diamond in favour of it had. Although It looked ok on a pair of novelty ear rings! pictured below.
Wilf Jay at full throttle 

Newcastle captain Norman Evans and Wilf Jay



Tommy Bateman

Tommy Bateman and Derek Close  

Tommy posing at an unknown venue



1948 Newcastle Diamonds

 Courtesy of Barry Stephenson
Philip Dalling says:  Peter Lloyd, Ken Le Breton,  Alec Grant,  Jack Hunt,  Johnnie Hoskins (promoter), Danny Calder, Norman Evans (on machine), Charlie Spinks, Crusty Pye,  Wilf Jay and Keith Gurtner.

 1948 Programme
Newcastle v Glasgow

Newcastle Magpies 
1949 Programme
1949: Magpie Earrings

Ern Brecknell

Newcastle Diamonds
A better quality photo of the pic shown above with the caption showing the riders names.  The two photos must have been taken a split second apart

Wilf Jay Leading From
Ern Brecknell  
Diamonds: Wilf Jay leading from Ern Brecknell The visiting riders are Stoke Potters, can anyone name the potters riders? John

1951 Programme
Newcastle Diamonds v
Liverpool Chads

Derek Close
Newcastle 1949-51

1950 Derek Close Left
& Tommy Bateman


  Ivan Stephenson's
Every now and then someone comes forward with photographs or memories from the Diamonds long history.  In this section Ivan Stephenson has supplied the Newcastle Speedway History website with a number of photos from his excellent collection.  Ivan was a well known figure at Brough Park working tirelessly pitside.  Some of his photos follow below: -
Brough Park 1946
Australian Syd Littlewood Newcastle 1946 he also rode for Newcastle in 1939.  Younger fans will not recognise Brough Park in this picture.  That is the back straight grandstand demolished many years ago.
Brough Park July 1948
Brough Park July 1948 Jack Parker Belle Vue, Will Lowther Glasgow and Jeff Lloyd, ex Newcastle Diamond 1946-48 
Brough Park 1949 

Brough Park 1949 Paddy Mills Norwich, Jack Hodgson Frank Hodgson Newcastle

Mike Tams 
Mike Tams Canada. Newcastle 1950-51 Southampton 1952-53.  
1946 Norman Evans
Norman rode for the Diamonds as captain 1946-48.  The picture does not appear to have been taken at Brough Park and I do not recognise the track. If you can say where the photo was taken please email me John
1946-48 Australian
Charlie Spinks
Charlie Spinks Australian Newcastle Diamond Brough Park. (1946 1928 Lea Bridge,) (1932,36,38, West Ham,) (Newcastle Diamonds 1946-1948)  
1946 Will Lowther Glasgow & 
Norman Evans Newcastle
1946 Diamond Jeff Lloyd
Jeff Lloyd /Crystal Palace, Bristol 1939. Hall Green Birmingham 1938. Newcastle 1946. New Cross 1947-49. Harringay 1950-54.  My thanks to Ivan Stephenson for supplying the above photographs


Red & White Diamonds

Not a lot of people know this but until 1961 Newcastle Diamonds had been in red and white (apart from their Newcastle Magpies year 1949, when they were black and white with a large N on their race jackets).  Pre 1960s, the world of photography was usually seen in monochrome.  Black and White photos did not show up a red race jacket at all and if you have seen old photos of Newcastle riders you will probably think our riders rode in black and white as they did until recent years 2014 etc., where the prominent race suit colour is blue.  In modern times it is unthinkable for us to be red and white like the enemy at the stadium of light.  
I have been trying for years to uncover colour pics pre 1961 to show the red n white diamonds jackets.  I have received some blurry images from 1948 of Newcastle riders wearing Red n White race jackets, shown below.  If anyone has any good colour pictures of our Red and White period riders please consider sharing them via this website.  If you have any photos email me here.  John
Jack Hunt and Wilf Jay
 Charlie Spinks, Norman Evans and Ken Le Breton

Max Grosskreutz, Wilf Jay and Jack Parker

These 6 blurry colour images are from Newcastle's 1948 Northumberland Cup meeting.  If you can help with any info from the meeting please send me an email.  John
Veteran rider Tag Allison showing the 1940s Diamonds body colour.  It seems red and white was used in 1938-39, 1946-48, 1950-51 and changed to a large N for the 1949 Magpies season with the change of promoter.  The familiar black and white diamond was seen for the first time in 1961

Newcastle v Liverpool
Liverpool and Fleetwood rider, Angus McGuire's daughter Janet McGuire has sent the following Newcastle programme scans, featuring her dad Angus
Courtesy of Janet McGuire


1951 Newcastle

Col Greenwell says: Hi John.  A few guesses for you.  First rider on the left. Son Mitchell. (leaning on bike). next to Son, Wal to Wal, Don Wilkinson.....certainly Derek Close on bike.
So 1951 was the end for the Diamonds, 10 barren years followed without the sport in the City.  Thankfully the Brough Park Greyhounds Association kept the stadium in good repair making any speedway comeback a lot easier.  
Newcastle closed at the end of the 1951 season and did not re-open until Promoter, Mike Parker came along in 1961.  So the 1950's more or less passed by without any speedway on Tyneside. Can anyone tell us the reasons why? as the crowds were bigger in those days than they are now. So why was Newcastle a speedway free zone for most of the 1950's?
Update: the possible reason for the absence of speedway during the 1950's may have been due to the government introducing an "entertainment tax"? Can anyone confirm that this is why there was no speedway in Newcastle for 9 years?

Eric Watson says: Question : Was the Entertainment Tax the reason for no Speedway at Newcastle for 9 years (from 1952 to 1960) ?

1. To answer this I should like to give you my background experience to show that I have some sort of  answer for you. I first saw Speedway at the age of 12 in 1947, in my home town of Southampton, at Charlie Knott’s Banister Court Stadium, just two years after the War and with Food Rationing still in force. After 6 years (1939-1945) of Cinema entertainment, Speedway Racing was a ‘God’ send, with its ‘Thrills & Spills’ and the smell of Castrol R oil fumes. For 3 years up to 1950 we reveled in this fantastic new sport. But in 1950 it all changed, yes the Entertainment Tax of 45% in the £1, was to be a MAJOR contributory factor in Speedway’s decline for the next 10 years until 1960 when it was abolished. The Tax caused Gate Prices to almost double overnight – bringing a rapid fall in attendances, with the consequential closure of 24 Tracks between 1951 and 1958. Four Tracks closed down forever, 14 more didn’t re-open again until after 1960 when the Tax was stopped.  

 2. However it wasn’t entirely due to the Tax, the British Isles had a new form of entertainment to counter the sport of Speedway, in the form of Television and where previously TV sets had been very expensive and beyond the means of the working man, they were suddenly available to everyone to rent from Radio Rentals, for a reasonable weekly fee. So every one was viewing the new media in the comfort of their own homes. Another thing that didn’t help the lost Gate attendances, was that Petrol (rationed all through the War & for several years after the War) became de-rationed in May 1950, so allowing Families to use their Car again to travel long journeys all over the Country and on Holiday.

 3. At Newcastle the distress signals came all season and it was only the sensational riding of newly discovered Star Rider Derek Close that kept them in business. The 3rd New Management in as many seasons, were constantly demanding bigger crowds by July 1950, to be viable. Rumours of closure in August 1950 were denied – but they did sell popular veteran rider Frank Hodgson to Glasgow-White City.

 4. It was much the same in 1951 and Roy Dook was appointed as Team Manager. But the Team performance was so bad, that Roy put his leathers back on and started riding again. But the Speedway was virtually dead in Tyneside and any hope of revival went with the Transfer of Derek Close to Motherwell. Even with Close the Team performances were bad, with only Derek Close, Son Mitchell & Don Wilkinson escaping any criticism.

 5. A further nail in the coffin was that the Government increased the Entertainment Tax from 45% in the £1 to 52% in the £1, arguing that it was classified as a sport of speed rather than of skill. Needless to say Newcastle finished bottom of the 2nd Division National League table with only 15 points from 30 matches, winning 7 with 1 draw and 22 losses. They had 1039 Match points for them and 1472 Match points against them. This was so sad for a quality side like them. They were (when at their best) an exciting Team to watch and rode very well against Southampton ‘Saints’ at Banister Court (a Match I saw) in 1950 although ‘Saints’ won 53-31, the ‘Diamonds got their revenge back at Brough Park beating Southampton 46-38. In those days (at Southampton) the League Matches were over 14 Heats, with 6 Main Riders and 2 Reserves per side. Then a 2nd half of 6 to 7 Heats of Scratch Races, with 2 Heats always dedicated to Juniors/Novice Riders. 

6. I know this is no consolation but in 1951 Southampton closed down a lot earlier than your Newcastle did. ‘Saints’ only rode for 7 meetings before closure. Although we were lucky as we re-opened the following year in 1952 in a lower Division in the newly formed Southern League. We had 3 seasoned Riders plus a lot of Juniors & Novices in our side, which of course kept the cost of wages down, and running Speedway in a lower Division was also cheaper. I was amazed that we didn’t fail in that return year. But we developed a lot of good Riders that got better with each season. We lasted until our final closure in 1963. The Stadium plus Ice Rink Arena (with the Southampton ‘Vikings’ Ice Hockey Team) all closed down with site being sold for Housing Development. The closure was so unexpected because the year before in 1962, the ‘Saints’ had just won the National League Championship Title, with top Riders such as Barry Briggs, Bjorn Knutsson, Peter Vandenberg plus strong support riders Alby Golden, Cyril Roger and Dick Bradley. Sadly Southampton has now been without  Speedway Racing, Ice Skating & Ice Hockey for 46 years. If I want to see Speedway now I have to travel to Poole in Dorset or Swindon in Wiltshire.

 7. As to why you didn’t have Speedway in Newcastle for 9 years (1952-1960) I don’t know. I have given you the cause for closure (Tax & TV viewing) so I can only assume that because of the crippling Tax 52%  most of  the prospective Promoters, couldn’t persuade their Financial backers to open their purse strings and take a chance on the situation getting better – which of course it did in 1960, and by 1961 you were back in business. I am sure the Council would have supported any application to run Speedway again as would have the Speedway Control Board Authorities. Because after all the Brough Park Stadium was still there, intact and ready to go.  As the re-opening in 1997 by Promoters George English & Dave Rowlands proved when they opened up on behalf of ‘Newspeed Ltd’.

 8. I hope this throws some light on the topic for you, and allows you to put some snippets into the Web site to show why Newcastle was without Speedway for so long.

Best Regards,

Eric Watson


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The modern era next 1960's and Ivan Mauger!