I remember the first time I saw George Grant's heavy, timber starting gates at Monkchester Road in 1967. I thought 'Crumbs, real starting gates, just like proper Speedway!' but as you can see in the old Fossway track photograph they were nothing new! Here are George's, the Great Man in the black coat referees as Norman Carson (Newcastle Captain, left) and Mike Dobson (South Shields Manager/Captain) face each other in a run-off at "The Rec". The pits area is in the background and through those arches behind is Monkchester Road, just to demonstrate where the track (the second of two here) was situated. This area is now covered by a Nursery School and it's car park.

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Note also the line markers which were made from Fireman's Hose, which George managed to obtain from the local station on the Fossway. George hauled the starting gates, the massive rolls of hose, flags and all the other necessary kit up to the track from his home half a mile away on his 26 inch wheeled cart for every match, a really dedicated follower of Cycle Speedway and Club Secretary in the Sixties. Though George didn't race himself, he took great pride in introducing and nurturing his younger brother Colin to our beloved sport as a junior in 1968. Fortunately George didn't dispose of all his old photographs and although we weren't very good clickers in those days, I'm sure the pics we show here do a great job of showing off our formative years.

1960s Monkchester Rec 600

Monkchester Recreation Park, "The Rec", was also known to locals (me and my dad at least, and probaly Jim Graham and the Murray brothers) as Burnham Park. I can fairly confidently state that I was born nearer to a cycle speedway trck than nayone else in the Club! (or do you know better?).

1960s Monkchester Rec tracks600

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The guts of the racing from 1967 to 1969 was local league and scrap matches interspersed with "friendly" Challenge Matches with teams from Edinburgh and Halifax, with the notable exceptions of a few memorable trips to the far away Midlands, including a right old thrashing at Birmingham which ended with our Transit Van breaking down on the A1 at Doncaster, forcing it's inhabitants to find a bus ride back to Newcastle in the middle of the night, and leaving the bikes down there for later collection, although I do recall some bikes being sent on a grand tour of Britain's railways for a fortnight around the same time!

Most of the away trips were in fact organised by Les Gustafson and Micky Dobson trading as South Shields CSC, but along the way most of the Newcastle riders joined them or the two clubs joined forces. We also took on teams from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Halifax and Sheffield in Challenge matches as we learned the ropes from our much better travelled and better equipped opponents. Also invaluable were the NACSA organised National Individual Championships which gave our riders the opportunity to compete against the best in the North from Greater Manchester to Scotland.

The real "meat" of competition though was local, impromptu muckabout stuff, but in the summer of 1967 there was a move to more organised racing with a local league emerging at Monkchester Road. There were two sets of breastplates available that I remember - Stars and Vikings - and they became the two opposing teams for that year.

Down the road at South Shields, they'd had a couple of teams in the guise of Trow Lea Mariners and Boldon Crusaders with their star riders being Les himself, Mike Dobson and Jim Braney. Hopefully Les will let me know how many teams I've missed, although I've a very vague recollection of Cleadon Archers aswell.

Deserters
Actually, I should say their star "home" riders, because at various times a good chunk of Newcastle's racers either jumped ship or "loaned" themselves to Shields. This was because their up and at 'em attitude became very tempting to the few Geordies who were super keen for more and more away matches against other cities, something that was much less apparent north of the Tyne. And that was largely because the Newcastle Club, although it had a "proper" management structure and even a constitution, was run by adults. The Vikings' inescapable tie-up with Newcastle Speedway Supporters Club, on whom they depended for coach transport and support to away meetings, provided a ready made committee, and to be sure it was loathed by the riders.

Fix!

Loathed so much that in '68 the Newcastle riders installed 18 year old Terry Kirkup, a fairly recent recruit although already a Vikings Heat Leader, as Chairman to represent them at the committee meetings. Purely because none of the established lads fancied sitting amongst the, er, Enemy, so why not dump the New Boy in it! He did that for a year, travelling straight from night school at Newcastle College to the Viaduct Hotel under Byker Bridge every Wednesday night. Now being teetotal wasn't exactly the best state to be in at this place, and in that company, and it was probably a total waste of time. The most popular person there was always the waiter, and he was dumb! The number of times Yours Truly was allowed to express an opinion on behalf of the riders was small, to say the least, and the number of times any notice was taken of him even less. And to cap it all this must have been the only Committee ever NOT to award it's Chairman the Casting Vote! Stitch-up?

1968 ncsc chairman600

What a bonny lad, eh? Incidentally, the Newcastle Chronicle reporter who came to work to interview me for this insisted on the hard hat as a prop! She also made up the story about the match against the Diamonds which obviously never took place.

The photo below shows an away Challenge match at Bridgend, Edinburgh in early 1967 with Keith leading and Jim McBeth ("Black Death") third. I missed this one and also managed to miss the trip to race Woodside Diamonds at Halifax that year and visit the tiny, steeply-banked track at Luddendenfoot in the Yorkshire town.

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The Edinburgh tracks were the ones we became quite familiar with during those initial seasons and fortunately for us, most of them weren't massive like some of the Manchester and more southern English variety where we were nearly always pummelled out of sight. That, we eventually learned, was because we rode titchy things up here, anything from 60 yards to 75 yards (the official "NACSA" measurement being one foot from the inner boundary). Some of our little off-piste training tracks were probably only fifty yards long! ( Benton Fairways, Benton Quarry, Powder Monkey, Hunter's Moor).

*NB "NACSA" - the National Amateur Cycle Speedway Association, which was the governing body of the Sport in those early years.

Late 1968 saw a flurry of activity as the Local League really took off and expanded with teams from Walker, Byker, Fawdon and Benton joining forces. Racing was super-keen and rivalry intense.

See if you can spot the odd on out below!

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New breastplates seemed to appear almost weekly, and one man was mainly responsible for that - Colin Grant. Just a junior of 14 or 15, he sure had an artistic streak that he used to great effect in designing and producing almost all of our race jackets. Team names have been something of a stumbling block since we started having our 2011 get-togethers, but here are a few I distinctly remember. Bear in mind that not every team had its own track to ride on!

Eastfield Lions
Eastfield Eagles
The Vikings
The Stars 
Walkergate Hammers
Benton Flyers
Fawdon Flyers
Willows Lane Whippets
East End Robins
Wallsend Warriors

Here's Middlesborough "Bears" taking on Keith Dyer (far left and riding Ray Turner's bike) and Jim Smith of Newcastle "Diamonds" at Stockton Racecourse circa 1966.

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At various times from '68 to '70 there were league matches consisting of 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8-man teams depending upon availability on the day. The tracks we used over this period were the little black ash one at Fawdon Park Road bus terminus, the "natural earth" one at Monkchester Road and the original member-built black ash circuit at Eastfield Avenue/Stotts Road. Minor excursions were made to Nunn's Moor when the Newcastle Club "signed" Ritchie Dummler and Anthony "Ant" Arrowsmith who lived next to it at Spital Tongues in the West End. Like Mick Hoult and Alan "Ashie" Patterson before them at Fawdon, they'd created their own little oval by just riding around the north east corner of the moor near their homes until it looked like an oval.

Similarly, Terry K had organised the next influx of riders from his pals and their pals from Fairways Estate, Benton, and had developed another earth track from grass in the playing field on Fairways Avenue. A decade later another group led by Fred Mitchell from the far side of the Old Coast Road emerged and did the same yet again at Benton Quarry, just next to Whitley Road in the north east of Newcastle where I believe Roy Clarke's dad had access to the "Tinker's Turn" field for his horses. History did indeed repeat itself all the way through the Club's various incarnations.

Here's another of the earliest shots from the match against Middlesborough at Stockton Racecourse, featuring for Newcastle CSC from the left: Gerry "Ges" Atkinson, Norman "The Storm" Carson, Mike "Chuck" Dobson, Ray "Turnpike" Turner, Gordon Dominy, Keith Dyer, Jimmy Smith and Bruce Hiscock. Photo and others from the 'Boro courtesy of Frank Auffrett.

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Notice only Ray had "proper" handlebars at this time, "Canadian Bends", while his chums were still really playing at Speedway with their "cowhorns". He also had the best gearing, although at 40-24 we all wondered just how he managed to pedal the thing around the bigger tracks. Various anatomical rumours circulated. That was all about to change, however (not the rumours, the machinery!).

1969 cs 015 watkin

George Grant was the brains behind the original black ash track at Eastfield after he and Jackie had buddied up to the local lady Councillor whose name escapes me. The core members, about 8 of us, spent  several weeks ferrying barrow loads of the stuff from behind the Park Keeper's house half way up Eastfield Avenue. We got the council to tip a load of old cobble stones which we used to mark the inside and outside boundaries. Newcastle's first "real" cycle speedway track was thus born and measured about 70 yards.

Floodlights!

We were just about ready for the next exciting Decade to begin! Just before leaving the Sixties though, I'd best mention that we also had floodlit racing at Monkchester Road! Yes, I know they had some in the Fifties in London, but we really had no-one to follow and were making it all up as we went along. Our "floodlights" were four car headlamp shells I got from a local scrapyard, each pair wired to an old car battery and laid on the outside of the bends pointing in and out, with nothing down the straights. Needless to say we never used them in anger and it wasn't long before I got cheesed off humping them to the track and setting them up.

blot Our good friend, Scotsman and ex-rider Alan Douglas who is now domiciled amongst us Sassenachs (and on the verge of becoming a Newcastle Nomad!) found a page in one of his old "Smoke Signals", the Edinburgh Cycle Speedway rag of the day, from 28th August 1964 which states that "In June 1950 Edinburgh lost to Newcastle 49-58. In the same month Newcastle beat Edinburgh 73-52". So Gentlemen, we, like Alan, can assume the first match took place within sight of Arthur's Seat and the second is the one shown here just above Jimmy on his old bike! It's great that odd snippets like these continue to turn up, and we thank Alan for his recent trawling.

He also found another couple of pages of great interest to us, and one to me in particular! >

ADsmokesignals0ct1967b600

I don't remember this very well, as I think I was on one of my six week GPO Apprenticeship courses, ironically at their Muirhouse Training School within spitting distance of the wonderful Davidson's Mains track!

ADsmokesignals0ct1967a600

I'm not sure who penned this, probably Les Gustafson, but whoever it was got the age of the car wrong. It was a 1952 model, and I know because I was driving it! There's a photo of it below. That fog, I can confirm, was proper stuff - impenetrable, and my passengers were pretty scared. In truth, so was I, but young and daft with a very heavy right clog! 

With five of us there, I'd think that they would probably have been Les, Jim Graham, Ray Turner, Frankie Auffret and myself. Why no Micky Dobson? Because we were in my car, and he had a whole fleet to choose from apart from being our main driver so he couldn't have been there. And you should be able to guess which breastplates we were wearing!

I did it the Fairway

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Above - this was my personal training track in 1967!

I've borrowed a photo of 1980's onward NCSC star Michael Parr to demonstrate how me and a few mates (soon to become Benton Flyers) practised our sliding technique. Above you see my old street, Fairhill Close, Benton. We used to start at the top where I've placed a Little Micky and bomb down the path as hard as we could, reaching double figure speeds (!) before hoiking our bikes over to the left in the biggest broadside we could manage. There was a regular contest for who could be the most spectacular, pull off the longest slide, do the fastest entry etc. Of course quite a few times we all ran off the kerb, but fortunately there weren't that many cars around the Close then!

We'd been doing this as kids since about 1960 on our street bikes but things got a little tougher when you had to throw it over without brakes on such a narrow strip of grass. I mean small track. We weren't very popular with the folk in the house immediately to the left, as they liked to see green grass on the verge but we scrubbed most of it off.

Fairways

And this is a mock-up of our real track just around the corner. It was here that the following became Cycle Speedway stars:

Mickey Noutch
Keith Robson
Mickey Varley
Sid Butcher
Cath (A Girl whose surname I've forgotten but she was a cracking footballer aswell!)
One James Bradford (later to become Jimmy Nail!) and a few others who made up the initial squad of Flyers. We didn't have many "meetings" on this one.

As far as I can remember we got through one session of local league racing as a Team at Monkchester Road before Mickey V decided he wanted his own setup as he came from Wallsend (that never happened as there were only two of them down there), and Sid didn't like being beaten so he quit, with the result that the Flyers life was a very short one. years in t

I resisted the thought of calling us the Fairhill or Fairways Flyers as that sounded too localised and we wanted to become a Global outfit! (Actually, we figured sooner or later somebody would call us the Fairies!).{I'm pretty sure someone did anyway!}

As far as Globalisation goes, both Mickey Noutch and I had a spell as South Shields riders and I believe he even did a few meetings for Middlesborough before he packed in early. He palled up with George Taylor when I got sick of record shops and they regularly re-painted their bikes together! Keith lasted the longest, being with me in East End Robins local league team colours at Monkchester and early Eastfield when the fence was up, and he took third place in the 1969 Junior TOC.

We also had a very small "training track" we sometimes used on the old Cowfield, as we called it (coz it had cows in it, see?) half way up Coach Lane, just at the bottom of my street beyond our Scramble Woods. Church Green estate is built on it now. The old Benton Golf Course had left a flat plateau, possible one of the old tees, raised up from the level of the field and about sixty feet square. Bit of a stretch calling it a "track", really, and we hardly ever rode on it as it was always covered in brown stuff.

How we got around

Here's a little gallery of our transport throughout those heady days of the late nineteen sixties, initially there was just Mick Dobson and me providing it until Ges Atkinson passed his test towards the end:

Mike Dobson's Dad's Humber Sceptre

Mick Dobsons Humber Sceptre

and his Mam's (I think!) MGB GT:

and finally his own Fiat 850 Sport:

Mick Dobsons Fiat 850 Sport600

Terry Kirkup's 1952 Triumph Mayflower: this was my first car, given to me by it's loving owner, my Stepfather, when I passed my test just a month after my 17th birthday. We took it everywhere carrying 6 or 7 bodies and their bikes somehow, Jimmy Graham being my constant companion during this phase.

It's all-too-short life in teenage hands came to a very sad end after Jimmy and I had taken his Ma's garden roller over to Temple Park to do some track levelling around November time 1968 as we were both Deserters to Shields at that time. We were on our way home with said roller in the boot when we inexplicably (!) ran out of petrol just 400 yards short of the White Mare Pool at Gateshead. Not really inexplicable - we used to run out of petrol almost every time we went anywhere but usually got away with it. This time we had no petrol can in the boot and can't remember how we eventually got back home that night, about 8 miles for Jimmy (Walker) and 10 for me (Benton).

I can remember we took the roller out of the boot and stashed it in the field so it wouldn't get pinched overnight (yes, really paranoid about the safety of his mam's roller, we were!) and it made the car easier to push as we tried to get it to the garage at WMP. Anyway, to keep a long story longer, it was way too heavy for us this time so we had to leave poor Maxine by the roadside (what? You didn't give your car a name, like?).

When I got my Stepfather to take me over there the next day to recover her, I mean it, we gave it a drink from a gallon can and started it up. Bang! Hiss! The bloody aluminium cylinder head had cracked with the first overnight frost, and of course Teenagers don't know about stuff like antifreeze, do they? End of my first car, sob.

Terrys 1952 Triumph Mayflower Micks MGBGT 600 256

And my Bedford Utilibrake (Dormobile) below, known as the Iced Cream Van: I took my cycle speedway bike up to Edinburgh in this in 1969 while I was up there on a GPO engineering course at their training school in Muirhouse for six weeks. Had a couple of rides at Davidson's Mains in local practice matches and managed to watch a few Edinburgh League meetings as well as discretely cruising around some of their other tracks including Pilrig Park just to say I'd been there!

This thing finally died when I was taking a gentle bend at about 60mph. The steering jammed, so I had to wrench the wheel sideways, it twitched violently, hit the nearside kerb and the body suddenly lifted up off the chassis and the driver's door fell off. I had to hold the thing in place while I limped home steering and changing gear - column change! - with my left hand. When I parked up I noticed the body was overhanging the footpath by a foot while the wheels were still on the road!

terrysbedforddormobile600

and finally his Commer Cob (hand painted by himself and Colin Grant - with BRUSHES!): this had a hole in the floor in the passenger foot well about 3 inches in diameter due to rust. The exhaust pipe ran right underneath the hole and was also split in half. Colin Grant, my permanent co-pilot by now, used to sit there pulling on a wire loop down through the hole to keep the two halves of the exhaust together so it wouldn't attract the Long Arm around town. As soon as we were out of earshot he'd let it drop again and wowee, another half a horse power. It sounded mean but we did, however, suffer badly from exhaust fumes getting into our apertures and always had tears in our eyes.

Terrys 63 Commer Cob

1967 - Secretary: George Grant 1 track

1968 - Secretary: George Grant 3 tracks

1969 - Secretary: George Grant 3 tracks