Best-laid plans, etc, etc…..
I had decided, earlier in the year, to treat myself to a night up in our Hospitality Suite, being pampered and filled up with free grub and fine wines…..
At the last meeting of the season, I thought. Go out with a bang.
Well, Jamie Courtney scuppered that strategy, by pulling me off the terracing in June and thrusting me back onto the infield – it being a bit awkward, trying to combine a night on the tiles in hospitality with some earnest rabble-rousing on the grass……
Which is where I’ll spend this final and indeed Super Saturday, out in the autumnal chills and mists, instead of tucking into the provided purvey behind the glass – but there’s an upside.
If I’m not up there, you can be!
For fifty quid a head (and you’d have been spending £33 on entry and a programme anyway) you can see the season out in style, watching all thirty heats of racing, clutching your free programme and enjoying VIP hospitality (unlimited refreshments, great buffet, etc) after a group photo with one of your favourite Bandits – well, why not?
There are – amazingly, to my jealous, left-out-in-the-cold eyes – still just a few spaces to fill, so either call or text 07486-668240, or e-mail to email@example.com to bag a couple of seats for yourself and a loved one.
Tell them Dick sent you!
Next, we've obviously had fifty-one previous last nights – and there are a couple that stick in my mind.
The last meeting of 1990 was the Bonanza, won by David Walsh with a maximum against a superb line-up (better than the previous weekend’s NLRC at Coventry before a truly huge attendance) and capped by a magnificent fireworks display. This was, I believe, the best-promoted, best-presented meeting we’ve ever enjoyed at Berwick. Every single staffer should have been knighted!
But the one that sticks in my mind most was the last night of 1972, an autumnal evening on which our Bandits defeated Birmingham 42-36 in what was termed the “Four B’s Trophy”. This would be Saturday, October 7th that year. Our top scorer was Willie Templeton, who dropped just one point (to Mick Hines) in Heat 1, but gained revenge over Mick in Heat 10.
So Willie was probably feeling pretty pleased with himself, and when his young pit-crew fuel-and-oiler asked if he could borrow Willie’s bike for an after-match Mechanics Race – yes, they allowed such fun’n’games 47 years ago, no ‘Elf’n’Safety police around back then! – he didn’t think it could do much harm.
Well, I can still see that Shielfield scene. The four mechanics involved went to the tapes, up they went and off they wobbled. Pretty slowly. Round a whole lap, and then, and then, and then…….
Coming off the fourth turn, Willie’s helper took a wee bit of a handful of throttle. The bike obeyed his command and shot forward – but the teenage wannabee correspondingly slid back in the saddle, and couldn’t reach far enough forward to turn the twist grip back down again and the bike just accelerated down the straight and, with our hapless helper hanging on for dear life, went straight into, and through the fence. Which wasn’t made of foam.
Think of Spud’s attack on the fence in the Scunthorpe match. That kind of speed, that kind of straight-on impact. Except he had the whole home straight to wind up speed.
Lord, we thought he was dead. But out of the wreckage of the fence, and still hanging on to the remains a very, very second-hand Templeton bike, he was lifted back onto the track, and could even give the shocked crowd a cheery wave as he walked back to the pits!
Thus ended the last night of the 1972 season, with a very inept young teenage tearaway thankfully quite all right – although how he would have been able to pay for Willie T’s extensive repair bill out of his pocket money, I do not know.
I do know we never saw him on a speedway bike ever again.
His name, I recall, was Jimmy McGregor.
I wonder what happened to him in later life?
Want to disagree with Dick (as so many do?). He is always happy to hear from interesting people at firstname.lastname@example.org