Sporting Stories writes: Speedway doesn't feature on our list of sports (those which get you fitter through exercise) but Pat's beautifully written piece really captures the community spirit and sense of well-being which comes through participating in any sport, even as a spectator. If you've ever been to Speedway then you'll find this story wonderfully evocative. And the poems are perfect too...
I was introduced to Speedway by my stepfather who took me and my Mum to the first meeting at Sun Street, Hanley in 1960.We were hooked immediately and went to every match which was usually held on a Saturday night. We were not alone. Thousands of supporters joined us and we soon became like one, big, family. Speedway, for all its noise and dirt was very popular with all ages.
We used to stand in the same place every week, near to the tapes, so it wasn’t long before we got to know the other supporters round about. Stoke’s riders also became like family members: most of them lived locally and were more than happy to chat to the fans who often went round to the pits to see their favourites. The atmosphere during the races was electric. It was always a sad day when the current season ended and we couldn’t wait for the new season to start. One year, they even had a match on Boxing Day. Luckily, there was no snow but it was bitterly cold. However, lots of supporters braved the weather to cheer on The Potters.
The promoters also arranged Speedway Balls at The Crystal in Newcastle and most of the riders attended - to the delight of the many fans. Well-known celebrities would often attend the meetings to present a cup to the most successful rider. That too was a highlight for we fans. One highlight for my Mum was when she was asked to present a cup to the winning rider and he took her round the track on his speedway bike. She was in heaven, particularly as she had a soft spot for the rider in question!
My Mum and I also wrote poems about Stoke Speedway which were printed in the programmes. Two poems are attached to the end of this article. One of the poems mentions looking forward to the next season, but unfortunately, it all came to an end in 1963 when the owners of Sun Street Stadium put it up for sale. Speedway started up again at Loomer Road, Chesterton a few years later but it was never the same for me.
Ah well, all good things have to come to an end I suppose. We had three very happy, enjoyable years from 1960 to 1963, thanks to The Potters Speedway Team and the loyal supporters. Even now, when a motorbike goes past and gives off that distinctive smell from the exhaust-a mixture of alcohol and petrol, I’m transported back to Sun Street.
Oh to be in Hanley
Now that Speedway’s back
And whoever comes to Sun Street
Sees the old familiar track;
When the tapes go up and the engines roar,
That’s the sound the crowd adore
And the Potters’ team each takes a bow
B.Bailey © with apologies to Robert Browning.
ODE TO STOKE SPEEDWAY
Alas! This is the final meeting
And now the season ends,
And what will we do each Saturday
When we leave our Speedway friends?
We’ll miss the roar of the engines,
The noise,the grit,the spills,
The wonderful smell of the exhausts,
The shouts,the mud,the thrills.
We’ve enjoyed every minute of the meetings,
And admired Stoke riders’ skill
We wish them luck next season,
In fact, we always will.
So, till next season commences
We’ll patiently wait once more
For the wonderful sound of the engines-
The good old “POTTERS” roar!
ALL THE VERY BEST TO EVERYONE CONNECTED WITH STOKE SPEEDWAY
Frank, Brenda and Pat.