Pre - war Canadian rider, George Pepper was Newcastle's first top line rider. He was a Newcastle rider in 1938 -39. Unfortunately, the outbreak of war in 1939, stopped speedway in it's "tracks" and Brough did one of it's closing down acts. too. George joined the air force swapping wheels for wings. I believe he was killed in action so he never returned after the war.
Ken Le Breton
The White Ghost
This guy new how to dress for the occasion!
Ken's white leathers earned him his White Ghost nickname. He rode for Newcastle in the late 40's until the end of the 1950 season. The other rider here is West Hams Aub Lawson
Ken Le Breton in the Pits at the Sydney Sports Ground, in February 1948
Ken was one of Australia's finest riders. He took his Diamond race jacket with him back to Australia and didn't it look good against his white leathers?
Ken crashed on the above circuit (Sydney) on 5th January1951 and died from his injuries
I confess to not knowing much about many of the 40's and 50's Newcastle riders, because I started supporting as a young lad in 1961. I am unearthing bits of information and an odd picture here and there so rest assured this site will be constantly updated until my wife tells me to stop playing and take her out more!
|The Men in Black, 1947 team shot. The guy in
the WW2 de-mob suit (Ken Le-Breton), is so dapper apart from the plaster
pot on his right
Left to right: Ken Le Breton , Danny Calder, Doug McLachlan, Johnny Hunt, Peter Lloyd, Pat Smith, John S Hoskins (Promoter), Alec (Farmer) Grant, (Grandfather of Rob Grant Junior), Wilf Jay, Len Gallagher, Bonny Waddell, Norman Evans (Captain).
I remember the track lights throughout the 60's and 70's looking like that and here they are in the 1940's! They must have lasted at least 40 years before an upgrade in the 1980's.
|Left to right, back row: Jack
Hodgson, Ken Thompson, Joe Arthur, Herby King. Front row: Derek Close,
Ern Brecknell, Frank Hodgson (Captain), Son Mitchell.
From the men in black to the men in Bri-Nylon! N stands for Newcastle (What Imagination!) and these were the Newcastle Magpies - 1950, The St. John Ambulance men were better turned out! Ken Le Breton would have found it tough wearing such naff gear!
Newcastle closed at the end of the 1951 season and did not re-open until Australian Promoter, Mike Parker came along in 1961. The 1960's were good for Tyneside Speedway fans, after a shaky start in '61 Parker strengthened the team and Newcastle became an attractive team first in the Provincial League and then in the British League.
1961 onwards: -
Photo's courtesy of Dave Rowland, thanks Dave and keep visiting the site.
Above: 1961 : Maurice Morley (Manager), Slant Payling, George Major, Goldie Mitchell, Norman Redmond, Front: Johnny Green, Don Wilkinson (Capt), Peter Lloyd
1961 after team strengthening: Don Wilkinson (Capt), George Major, Gordie Mitchell, Mike Parker (Promoter), Gil Goldfinch, George Glen, Pat Flanaghan, Maurice Morley (Manager), and kneeling Slant Payling, Anyone know who the mascot was and anyone know why George Glen was wearing a Halloween pumpkin around his neck!
Photo courtesy of Nick Short, thanks Nick and keep visiting the site.
Brian was a Liverpudlian and the older brother of Peter Craven. Double World Champion, Peter was one of England's best ever riders and Brian was one of Newcastle's best ever riders although Brian was a club man who never set the international scene alight like younger brother Peter. Brian joined the Diamonds in 1962. He averaged around 9.5 points in 62 and 63 and held the Brough track record at that time, something like 72 4/5 seconds.
Peter Craven was killed in a track crash in 1963 at Edinburgh's Old Meadowbank, this affected Brian badly and he missed the whole of the 1964 season. He was back at Brough again for the 1965 season and retired for good at the end of '65.
This shot shows the "straight through" pipe, no silencing, no dirt deflector, I can almost smell the fuel. Known to me then as "White Whiskey". Remember that anyone? email@example.com
Photo courtesy of Dave Rowland.
This is the very stylish Gil' Goldfinch 1962 / 63? who appears to be in white helmet so probably not taken at Brough Park.
awaiting a picture worthy of Ivan
Phrases like "living legend"," the greatest ever" and "simply the best" have been used about many riders but they all apply to "Ivan the Great". He was born in Christchurch, New Zealand and first came to England in the late 50's. Wimbledon gave him some rides but didn't spot the potential he had. He was more famous for his mispronounced (Mawger) surname then than his riding and went back to NZ. Mauger (pronounced Major) was brought back to England by Mike Parker and he took his place in the Diamonds side of 1963. Ivan quickly replaced the Diamonds star man Brian Craven as the darling of the Brough Park terraces.
I remember him lodging with the next door neighbour of my cousin who lived in Heaton, Newcastle. Hey Ivan do you remember an 8 year old pestering you over the fence? That was me!
Ivan quickly got to grips with the Provincial League (2nd Division). and by 1964 season he was winning his races by a mile. 1965 saw Newcastle become founder members of the British League and Ivan the Great was one of the reasons why the Diamonds became that years league champions. He was a devotee of the British JAP engine and he broke track records on his JAP everywhere he rode.
Ivan is the only Newcastle rider to actually bring the world title back to Brough Park whilst still a member of the Diamonds he did this in September 1968
His ambitions led him to leave Newcastle at the end of 1968 for a bigger club Belle Vue. Ivan's Career took off again at BV and he won four more world titles the rest is as you say "History" and could fill this page all by itself.
awaiting pictures worthy of Ole
Ole from Vojens Denmark came to Newcastle on the advice of Ivan Mauger in 1967. I remember Ole riding an ESO with the distinctive clip on handlebars and spent many Monday nights in the pits as a 14 year old looking at him (hadn't seen a Dane before) or an ESO up close. I remember his first match, he scored well on a very wet track. Ole took over from Ivan as the crowds favourite when Ivan departed in 1968 for Belle Vue. Ole became a triple world champion but never quite matched up to Ivan (no one did that). Ole is now a well respected figure as an administrator in the Speedway Grand Prix series. He departed to Wolverhampton for 1970 when Mike Parker pulled out of Brough Park.
|1972 World Champion, Ivan Mauger, with Ole Olsen (right) and Bernt Persson.|
Mudlark: Mike Watkin, wearing the NUFC shirt over his leathers
I have included Mike in this section alongside Ivan and Ole. Mike would be the first to ask why he is named alongside two of the all time greats. The answer is obvious. Mike was the backbone of Newcastle's side during the formative years in the 60's. A local man, Mike was ever popular, particularly amongst female fans!
I remember him beating everyone on Monday nights when the track was wet. Barry Briggs was a notable scalp claimed by Mike when Barry was the reigning world champ and Swindon Robins came to visit.
The Rest of the 1960's Riders
Many other riders wore the Diamonds race jacket in the 1960's and some of them were excellent riders too but Brian, Ivan and Ole will always be my main heroes from that era.
|1965 - Peter Kelly||
1964 - Ivan Mauger at Old Meadowbank
|1962? - Vic Lonsdale|
Another 1964 shot from Old Meadowbank in Edinburgh: Diamond Ivan Mauger leads Nigel Boocock, Len Silver and Colin Pratt. I remember standing there in pouring rain in 1965 and "steaming" next to the heater on the train on the way back!