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5.0 out of 5 stars SPEEDWAY STAR REVIEW w/e 21 Dec 2013, 13 Dec 2013
By 
S. Muir (Romford, Essex) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: British Speedway Memories (Paperback)
BOOK REVIEW: BRITISH SPEEDWAY MEMORIES

YOU must have spent evenings down at the pub reminiscing with like-minded mates over a beer about the 'good old days' of speedway.

Well, now you can explore the same delights in the peace and comfort of your own home with the dog at your feet or the cat on your lap, courtesy of this superbly illustrated bible of yesteryears from the king of recollections Tony McDonald.

Tony, and about 200 others, from both sides of the safety fence and from all walks of life, will supply the golden memories; all you have to do is supply the beer (and the cat or dog if desired!), stick the Carpenters' Yesterday Once More CD on the player and imagine it was your first LP on the old Dansette, and just drift back in time.

And if you can't associate with any of the countless stories enthusiastically retold, then I suggest that either your pulse has stopped or you haven't truly got the speedway bug the way the rest of us have...

Memories are strange things - they can be so clear, like it did only happen yesterday, but there is always that lingering doubt, that thought in the back of your mind, that when we look back, it is through rose-coloured spectacles.

Rubbish!

At least it is according to scores of folk who responded to a short questionnaire that Tony distributed, canvassing their views on the present as well as reflections of the past.

Seven chapters of text complimented by wonderful black and white photographs dug from the archives, plus an eighth section of cracking colour from the seventies onwards, make up the 258 pages of unadulterated nostalgia - enough to get you through countless Christmas movies, inane festive chatter with the in-laws and many days subsequently passing time on the train to work too.

So many entries seem so familiar that it could be you, the reader, reminiscing as, even if you weren't there, you can still hear the roar of the crowd, the snarl of the bikes and the smell of the Castrol R.

Tony lays bare the reasons he, and the others, were hooked in the first place: the people, the places, the excitement, the expectation...

Tony's formative days, and mine, go back to the early seventies - a time of significant change for the sport with colour not only taking a grip on photography but also riders' apparel - yet so many fans delve much further back in time, to the fabulous late forties and five-figure crowds, roaring fifties and swinging sixties.

Whatever era, we all had hopes, we all had dreams and we all have memories, surprisingly not so dissimilar.

Tony, and most of the other contributors, could be speaking for almost any one of us when answering questions on the first time you ever witnessed speedway, favourite teams, tracks and riders, the classic meetings and races you'll never forget, comparing then and now and the almost unfathomable 'why is speedway so special?'.

Although chapters inevitably begin to encroach on each other, the eclectic mix of memories is invariably good, as you cannot have too much of a good thing.

Weird and wonderful facts are revealed like the short-lived and relatively little known Romford Supporters' Club once boasting over 1,000 members, more people than most tracks get through the turnstiles in total these days!

In the immediate post-war years, the sport's stars and top meetings were paraded across, and even sponsored by, the national press and even 25 years later, before the immediacy of the internet, fans would wait anxiously for news of their favourites after the ten o'clock news bulletin on BBC Radio.

Dick Bott, one of the few 'national rag' scribes still showing an interest, is asked what he misses most and, in common with many others, retorts: "Rider of the Night competitions in second halves", adding: "Fans are being short-changed these days."

Cornwall-based fan John Brownhill, comparing then with now, insists that promoters used "to run tracks as businesses" whereas currently so many these days are "hobby" promoters who have made their money elsewhere.

Current Sheffield administrator and presenter David Hoggart reflects on experiencing a raw but unforgettable first-ever Division Two Riders' Championship at a packed Hackney in 1968 when, as a child originally brought up on Teesside, he witnessed his hero, Middlesbrough's Graham Plant, take the honours.

"Atmosphere - that's what speedway is all about," he so rightly observes.

The 1981 World Final not surprisingly crops up quite frequently in the book but another devout follower John Murphy accurately points out: "Take away the two stand-out Penhall races and, in all honesty, there have been better meetings. But throw in 92,000, night-time, Wembley as it was and what turned out to be speedway's swansong beneath the twin towers..." and he meanders back to the equally common thread of unrivaled atmosphere.

Even my boss - Speedway Star editor Richard Clark - has a poignant idea of what he misses most - "my innocence," he says, whilst mourning a plethora of sadly gone forever circuits like Hyde Road, the County Ground, Waterden Road and Dudley Wood.

And then there's those pictures...rekindling magical memories better than words can ever do.

This is a fabulous Christmas present (if you haven't yet got me anything!) and brings back in abundance exactly what it says on the tin - memories! Review: KEITH McGHIE
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5.0 out of 5 stars Smell the memories oozing out of the pages., 17 Jan 2014
By 
M. J. Turner "lakes man" (Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: British Speedway Memories (Paperback)
Fantastic trip down memory lane, tales of speedway through the eyes and ears of fans, riders, officials and those who were there. This sport is still valued today by those who recognise the heroes of the track, hurtling around a circuit without gears and brakes! Mainly recollections from the last golden era the 60's, 70's and 80's but goes further back to its introduction in Britain during the 30's. A jolly good read, best picked up and read in small portions so that the memories seep back into your brain and you savour the sounds and smell of this sometimes forgotton form of motorcycle racing. Green light on and tapes up settle down for lap after lap of memories!
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British Speedway Memories
British Speedway Memories by Tony McDonald (Paperback - 29 Nov 2013)
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