History of Poole Speedway
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CLUB HISTORY - PRE 1960S
The history books record the year of 1948 as the first that post war year that saw a major new influx of teams into League racing. League racing first began in Great Britain in 1929 but was effectively shelved during the war years until it was re-launched in 1946 with a National League and Northern League, both consisting of 6 clubs. A year later the leagues were restructured to provide a 3-Division National League of 7 Division 1 teams, 8 Division 2 sides and an equal number in the third division.1948 began with over thirty applications for new licences but the Speedway Control Board of that era limited the number of new clubs to Edinburgh in Division Two (with Wigan moving to nearby Fleetwood) and Coventry, Hull, Yarmouth and POOLE all being granted entry into the 3rd Division. That initial year was not a memorable one for the Dorset club with injuries taking their toll with both George Gower and Cyril Quick sustaining broken legs and the season being marred almost from the off with the tragic death of Reg Craven of Yarmouth when the Bloaters were the opposition in an early season Trophy meeting. 17 league wins, including a 45-39 victory at Cradley Heath and 27 defeats left Poole third from the bottom in their inaugural season. A foundation to build upon.
1949 saw Cyril Quick and Fred Pawson head the Poole attack whilst a local lad 'Ticker' James became a household name as Poole climbed the table to finish 6th with their 27 league wins outnumbering the 21 defeats.
The progress continued in 1950 and the runners-up slot was attained behind local rivals Oxford. Strangely enough in each of their first three seasons Poole riders had been involved in dead-heat finishes in a race, a remarkable feat.
Charlie Hayden was the 1950 leveler but there were two names in the line-up that season that were to play a major role in Poole speedway over the years. Ken Middleditch and Tony Lewis were to become synonymous with the Pirates race-bib and family connections were later to extend that link.
Sustaining that heat-sharing sequence fell again to Hayden in 1951 as the Pirate's progress was maintained and the first league title secured, under the new promotional team of Len Matchan and Geoff Bravery. Just six defeats in 36 league encounters ensured that Poole speedway was rapidly becoming the Talk of the Town. Middleditch top scored, Lewis was again a revelation and the name Brian Crutcher, a sixteen year old, was introduced into British speedway in a big way.
That league title witnessed the end of the 3rd Division days for Poole when in 1952 they joined the ranks of Division 2 and the 3rd Division crumbled to be replaced by the Southern League. Crutcher was phenomenal and raced to 379 race points and steered the Pirates to a back-to-back league title winning 31 matches, drawing once and losing just 12 of the 44 league fixtures. They also had an extended foray into the National Trophy and were to be considered as possibly the strongest side in British speedway. One point denied the Pirates a hat-trick of league titles in the Coronation Year when they finished runners-up to Coventry and many felt that the decision to release Crutcher to Wembley had a major impact on that final result. The team that every supporter wanted to see , Poole were to win 18 and draw 2 of their 32 league matches, the 12 defeats all occurring on their travels. Poole were the bridesmaids again in 1954 when Bristol took the 2nd Division title and this year saw no fewer than THREE Poole rides being involved in half-point scores - Middleditch, Jimmy Squibb and newboy Norman Strachan.
The league title was restored to Wimborne Road in 1955 when Poole dominated the 2nd Division with Middleditch scoring over 400 race points as he once again led the way but the celebrations were dampened as they reflected the tragic death of Johnny Thompson that occurred in May of that year. At last, in 1956, Poole joined the echelons of the top league and their first season in Division One was satisfactory by anyone's standard, although five of the 7 strong clubs finished above them. Jackie Biggs took over the role of top scorer (225) , despite him protesting at the SCB's decision to allocate him to Poole, as the Pirates won 9 and drew 2 of their 24 matches. The introduction of petrol rationing left Poole sticking to the threat of not operating in 1957 although league racing was not lost entirely in the town as Rayleigh staged two of their 'home' meetings on the Wimborne Road circuit, losing both of them. This precipitated the move of Rayleigh to ride under Poole banner and guidance of Vic Gooden in 1958 although again it was a struggle for Gooden's side to stay clear of the bottom slot in the National League. Ken Middleditch was 'loaned' back to Poole by his new club Swindon and in a bizarre event he had the misfortune to hit a stray dog. Just 6 wins in 18 meetings left Poole languishing although they did finish a remarkable 9 points clear of fellow strugglers and wooden-spoonists, Ipswich. Things improved somewhat in 1959 with the 16 league fixtures ending in an equal number of wins and losses and a mid-table finish. Ray Cresp was the new 'hero' along with Jack Unstead and pin-up boy Jack Biggs.