Poole Speedway History – The Early Years

The 1948 Poole Pirates team shot.
The 1948 Poole Pirates. (l to r) Cliff Brewer (Director), Herby Hayden (Director), George Butler, Alf Elliott, Fred Pawson, Charlie Hayden, Sid Clark, Alan Chambers, Jack Crutcher (Director), Sid Hazzard, Bingley Cree, Ron Bear (Secretary), Joe Bowkis. image copyright Jock Pope.

Poole Speedway – Getting the Green Light

Historically, Poole Speedway started its first season in disappointing fashion, providing only one race winner; going down 21 – 63 in a Division Three league match at Tamworth. The side was desperately in need of strengthening, with the promoters agreeing a loan deal to bring in Joe Bowkis from North London club, Harringay.

The diminutive Bowkis quickly made his mark topping the Poole scorechart in the opening home National Trophy match against Great Yarmouth. Pirates ran out easy winners 74 – 32, but the match will always be remembered for the accident that occurred just after the start of the very first race at Wimborne Road.

Tragic History

The tragedy unfolded just yards from the start with Yarmouth’s Reg Craven and Pirates’ skipper Charlie Hayden crashing heavily on to the track. Hayden suffered severe bruising and took no further part in the meeting, but Craven had sustained head injuries, which included a severe fracture of the skull. Sadly, he never regained consciousness and died eight days later.

The following evening the Pirates won the return leg at Great Yarmouth 66-36 and progressed to the semi-final of the competition. New signing Joe Bowkis showed his liking for the Yarmouth circuit by setting a new track record and scoring 15 well-deserved points, and his form did not desert him in Poole’s next home meeting when he scored a faultless maximum against Hull.

The first home defeat was not long in coming; Pirates going down 57-49 in their National Trophy semi-final first leg against Hanley and the club’s involvement in the competition came to an end when they lost the second leg 54-44 at Hanley to suffer a 111-93 aggregate reverse. However, the visit of Poole Speedway’s neighbouring Southampton provided the biggest crowd so far seen at the stadium, with some fans arriving as early as 3.30pm for a 6.30pm start.  Included in the Saints line-up was Jimmy Squibb, regarded as one of the top riders in the division and who certainly lived up to his reputation by lowering the track record to 81.2 seconds in the opening race.

Poole’s Injuries Mount up

Poole’s first home league defeat came at the hands of Plymouth despite another maximum return from Bowkis. The Pirates were reduced to six men during the match following injuries to both George Butler and Elliott. And the side’s injury list was added to during the following week when George Gower sustained a broken leg in a second-half crash that side-lined him for the remainder of the season.

The beginning of August found the Poole Speedway stadium circuit in excellent condition and much to the liking of Hastings’ Jock Grierson, who became the first rider to break the 80-seconds barrier for four laps of the Wimborne Road circuit. His time of 79.0 seconds was heralded as ‘unbeatable’ but when Southampton visited five days later, it was beaten in the first race. Saints’ Alf Bottoms set a new mark of 78.2 seconds just before rain started to fall and with conditions getting steadily worse the referee was forced to abandon the meeting after the tenth race.

Controversial Speedway Control Board Decision

With Elliott and Hayden injured at Poole Speedway during the match against Stoke, replacements were needed in a hurry and the promoters moved fast to bring Cyril Quick on loan from Bristol. He arrived, not without some controversy, after the Speedway Control Board refused to sanction his full transfer to Great Yarmouth before the August 31 deadline. He took his place in Poole’s line-up against Coventry and scored a well deserved 11 points on his home debut. The match is best remembered for a second-half accident that led to the ACU referee declaring the light too bad for racing to continue.  His decision led to work on installing the track floodlighting to be speeded up.

Poole’s injury crisis deepened further when Quick broke a leg while grass track racing and Bowkis sustained a broken collarbone in a challenge match at Rayleigh. Once again, the Poole speedway promoters were forced to look for a replacement and their choice of Dick Howard brought to the club one of the all-time favourite characters ever to don the skull and crossbones. Howard marked his debut by scoring six points in a match more memorable for being the first at Wimborne Road to be held under floodlights.

Pirates Take a Historic Short Tour of Sweden

With the season nearing its end, Poole embarked on the first overseas visit to be made by a British club side when they undertook a three-match tour of Sweden. Making up the party for the historic trip were Butler, Chambers, Clark, Hayden, Howard and Fred Pawson accompanied by Herby Hayden and Jack Crutcher. Poole won the opening match, easily beating Linkoping, but the injury jinx struck again during their match at Eskilstuna when Butler was hospitalised with concussion after a three-rider crash.

Pirates held off a determined Stockholm side to gain a narrow three-point win in the final match of the tour before flying back to England and the remainder of the National League campaign.  The end of the season found Poole languishing at the lower end of the league table, the only bright spot being the inclusion in the side of local lad, Dennis ‘Ticker’ James.

11,000 Strong Crowd at Poole Speedway

Poole speedway’s last league meeting of the campaign at the stadium saw third-placed Southampton visit for yet another local derby. An estimated crowd of more than 11,000 graced the Poole speedway stadium to complete their inaugural league programme with a 49-35 victory. During the interval, the Pirates riders completed a lap of honour during which they were showered with gifts of fruit and cigarettes by generous supporters, a few of whom even presented their favourites with iced cakes.

To the delight of the crowd, the Poole Speedway promoters announced an extra meeting would be held on the following Saturday afternoon. Riders from Bristol, Exeter and Southampton would take part in an individual meeting along with members of the Poole team. The meeting was won by Roger Wise of Bristol.

Speedway Gets Established in Poole

So, the first season of Poole speedway came to a close; a season in which the Poole Pirates finished a creditable tenth in Division Three of the National League. Alan Chambers was their leading scorer with 375 points from 50 meetings, followed by Bowkis with 351 points from 41 meetings.    Besides Chambers, only Clark and Pawson were ever present during what was an injury-dominated season. However, speedway had been established as the number one sporting attraction in Poole, and as the Pirates’ newly established supporters drifted away from the stadium, all thoughts turned towards the 1949 campaign, and the race for national speedway’s Division Three title.