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It's a Domestic II: Thomson vs Barrie

'Mad Martin' McKinna
Picture by Ian Adam

Here's another example of a speedway argument that may have been better kept behind closed doors, but which somehow ended up in the match programme.

This one takes us back to the end of the 1986 season and Craighead Park in Glasgow. The Tigers were coming to the end of a generally unhappy five season stay at the extremely basic venue and tensions behind the scenes were becoming very apparent.

Meeting presenter Dick Barrie had his regular 'Straight Talking' column in the programme and turned his attention to the youngest of the three McKinna brothers. In particular the nickname that Dick himself had bestowed upon him after some recent enthusiastic racing:

"Martin has been at me again - still doesn't like the nickname of 'Mad Martin'. What do we do? Keep him 'Mad' until he gives us real proof of a more-mature, level-headed McKinna (were there ever such a creature?) or do we find a new nickname now? Myself, I've promised him that, once he's scored a maximum away from home, I'll consider him sane enough for a new name - but maybe you disagree? Drop me a line and give me your opinion. Is he to be 'Mad Martin' for a while yet, or have you got a better, brighter, nickname to pin on his proud wee chest? Over to youse....."

That draw the ire of promoter Dave Thomson, who used his own column in the programme to hit back. Dave's column appears earlier than Dick's in the programme, so there were some confused readers struggling for context initially:

Dave said:

"Let me start this week by doing some 'Straight Talking' of my own and I am only sorry that I must raise the next two points in public but I feel I must make my views known.

First I will deal with the title that has been given to Martin over the last few weeks of 'Mad Martin'. There have been times in his career when it perhaps would have been appropriate but certainly not recently. Martin himself is very disturbed about it and I was present recently when he asked Dick Barrie not to use it: by doing so it seems the campaign has been stepped up and it appears everywhere including once again in Dick's column tonight.

Martin feels that whenever there is an incident in which he is involved he is being excluded because of the tag and even referees are referring to him as Mad Martin! So for his sake, please drop the name once and for all.

The other subject I must raise is one that Jimmy Beaton and I are very concerned about. We have tried hard to keep speedway alive in the west with the help of sponsors and supporters and although attendances are still very poor, we are still racing.

During this season we have not had one complaint from visiting riders or officials regarding our racing strip and experienced men like Malcolm Simmons, Les Collins. Dave Jessup, Tom Owen, Martin Dixon and Nigel Crabtree have praised it as have track preparation experts John Dews and Peter Thorogood. Therefore, when we come in for criticism in the speedway national press in recent weeks regarding shape. dust, falls, etc I am amazed.

Even more so to find it is written by our own public relations officer. Taking the matter up with Dick Barrie is to no avail which is why I have to make the Promotions views public. I fully appreciate we have problems with track alterations but what do we do, close down? That is the only alternative at the moment.

I also appreciate Dick's value on the centre green on race nights. An asset he uses at a number of stadiums, some with problems at times he NEVER mentions or would dare to. So, let's be fair, we are all trying to promote speedway here and we need every last person we can get through the gates. Don't put others off by stories that are unwarranted. Even Wendy Fisher (or is it Dick again) who rarely visits Glasgow has got on the band-wagon on both these points last week."

Wendy Fisher was Dick's wife and had a weekly column in Speedway Mail magazine. The strong suspicion at the time was that Dick wrote much or all of the column.

Things changed very quickly after that 1986 season. Glasgow were evicted from Craighead Park and made a temporary move to Workington the following year, before being expelled from the league in September. Dave Thomson left the promotion at that point and the situation looked very bleak.

Ironically, the saviour of the Tigers proved to be Dick Barrie who revitalised the club in an amazing successfully relaunch at Shawfield Stadium. One of the riders that Dick included in his side was none other than 'Mad Martin' McKinna.


This article was first published on 16th October 2016

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