Thanks for your help in speedway who’s who

SIX decades have passed, but memories of Great Yarmouth Speedway remain indelible for readers anxious to help put names to faces in a photograph of a Bloaters team published here recently.

On behalf of Robin Hambling, of Lawn Avenue, Yarmouth, and his friend Colin Hodds, of Hemsby, I thank all who responded. The photograph was a prized possession of Colin’s wife, Dawn, who died earlier this year; they requested identification of the six riders they were unsure about, and a date.

The two friends had already named Tip Mills, Johnny White, Fred Brand, Sid Hipperson and Stan Page, and after I heard the first callers’ suggestions for the others, it looked a straightforward affair... but then became complicated.

Most named the man in the saddle as skipper Reg Morgan. And Bernard Griffin, of Falkland Way, Bradwell, reported: “The rider on the left of the group is Cyril Quick, who packed up riding after only a short time. Next to him is Max Pearce (killed during a meeting at the Caister Road Stadium in July 1948), then comes Tip Mills.”

The man astride the rear mudguard was Bob Baker, Bernard continued, with Vic Ridgeon behind him. On the extreme right was Terry Courtnell – not Bill Codling as suggested.

Confirmation that Bill Codling was not in our published picture came from an impeccable source – his widow, Peggy, now Mrs Cole, of Bradwell. Bill died at the age of 46, she told me.

Martin Dodd e-mailed: “I am not 100pc sure, but here are suggestions for the missing names: far left Ivor Brown, then Ted Rawlinson. Reg Morgan is seated on bike. Bob Baker is on the rear wheel and possibly Terry Courtnell on the far right.”

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Two wrong, three correct. Martin adds: “I had the pleasure of meeting Geoff Pymar, an old Yarmouth rider, in Jersey many years ago. He was caddying for Tony Jacklin on the golf course!”

What a coincidence! Last week’s Through the Porthole included a photograph of Jacklin playing at the Yarmouth and Caister course in 1976.

But a visit from Ian Thurston, home from South Africa to see his parents in The Walk in Gorleston, provoked a dilemma because he contradicted some of those names I had been given and put a question mark over the photograph’s date by identifying the rider second-from-left as George Flower.

Ian was only five when Yarmouth Speedway was launched but attended regularly, taken by his father’s aunt, maintaining his interest long after it was consigned to history.

Therefore that rider was not the unfortunate Max Pearce but almost certainly George Flower, so the photograph was not taken early in the inaugural season in 1948 but probably in 1951.

To check, I visited the website featuring defunct speedway teams to which a major contributor was the late Keith Farman, of Beccles Road, Gorleston, an acknowledged expert on Yarmouth Bloaters. He listed George Flower and Vic Ridgeon as signing for Yarmouth in 1950, with Bob Baker and Cyril Quick arriving a year later; Stan Page came in 1949.

Mr Griffin, an old friend of Keith Farman, recalled driving to collect Yarmouth’s former teenage skid-kid hero Billy Bales from an Acle car park to ferry him to Gorleston to visit the ailing Keith, who died in 2009.

When Bernard was 16, he and his younger brother Colin, 14, bought Reg Morgan’s old machine from him for �40, walking it home because it was not insured. The brothers used to ride it slowly around the oval white line marking the inner limit of the cinder track at the Caister Road Stadium, a thrilling experience for the adventurous youths.

Tom Riches, of Cobbs Place, Yarmouth, added that Reg Morgan’s riding partner, Johnny White, later ran the Blue Boar pub in Oulton Broad.

I was delighted to receive a letter from Joan Gunton (nee Blowers), of Mill Lane, Bradwell, an 86-year-old whose interest in Yarmouth Speedway from its formation led to her following stock-car racing in the 1960s, succeeded now by Formula One motor-sport (“I am glued to the TV for every race”).

She confirms some of those already named in my recent picture, and tells me some of those riders are in her photographs of subsequent Yarmouth teams. One shot she has includes Roy Bowers, a new name to me, and mechanic Sam Chambers

“When I opened the Mercury on Friday, I could once again smell the cinders and knew straight away that it was Reg Morgan in the saddle as he was my idol,” writes Mrs Gunton. “Like yourself, I too was mad on speedway and we would rush home from work, have something to eat and wash and change so we could get to the stadium early and get to the front to see all the action.”

She was present “when Billy Bales hit the perimeter and, in fact, nearly hung his bike on it, but luckily he was unhurt.” Also, she was an eyewitness when Max Pearce was dragged along the cinder track and fatally injured.

In my column about the puzzle picture, I mentioned that during Bales’s National Service in the Royal Air Force he was in Egypt in 1950 when he did some motor-bike racing on sand... and Joan Barker, of Alexandra Avenue, Yarmouth, reminds me that local lad George Thompson – a contemporary of mine at the old Gorleston Rollerdrome – also did his National Service in Egypt and “together they did some speedway riding out there.”

On his return to Civvie Street, George turned professional at Yarmouth’s Wellington Pier rinks and partnered the renowned Jocelyn Taylor.

Finally, from speedway to football. It is not easy to confuse blue with yellow-and-green but I did so recently, my excuse being that I was passing on information from a reader. So, despite what I wrote when listing Alderman Leach School pupils from Gorleston going on to join top football clubs, Graham Willis played for Norwich City and Graham Saunders became a Coventry City professional. Unfortunately I got their clubs the wrong way round. My apologies, gentlemen.

Full-back Graham Willis, now of Sun Lane, Bradwell, was with Arsenal in the early Sixties before heading to Carrow Road. He acknowledges that it was his former Alderman Leach master Barney Gibbon who brought him and other gifted pupils to the attention of league clubs. After his footballing years, Graham trained as an electrician.