DVD Review: Memories of Halifax Speedway
Halifax Dukes are the latest club under the spotlight in this popular DVD series from Retro Speedway.
There were short-lived attempts to run speedway in Halifax in 1928-1931 and 1949-1951, but this DVD concentrates on their years in the British League from 1965 until 1985.
Eric Boothroyd was a constant presence during those years, transferring from Middlesbrough and riding as captain until 1968, before hopping over the fence and becoming the club promoter. He's interviewed at his home and is able to expertly guide us through much of what happened during those glorious 21 years at the Shay. His wife Bonnie (who recalls attending the first meeting of the 1949 season), was by his side throughout those years and she's also a contributor on the DVD.
Eric Boocock was the Dukes' top rider for many of their years at The Shay. Like Boothroyd, he joined the club from Middlesbrough and the contrast between the circuits was a shock initially - "it looked enormous". He talks us through his years with the club, including his hatred of Newport, receiving the first testimonial in speedway and the injury that brought a premature end to his career. He also reflects honestly on his short-lived 1983 comeback - "I was crap!".
Both Erics speak at length and are the principal contributors to the DVD. Particularly interesting are their observations on Les Sharpe, a brilliant rider whose impact was seemingly limited by his constant struggle with nerves.
The Retro Speedway budget extended to a visit to Denmark to catch up with Mike and Klaus Lohmann. Fans from the late seventies will fondly recall their efforts in the Dukes' colours - with Mike in particular developing into a reliable heat leader. They explain their sudden departure from the club - laying the blame firmly at the door of the D.M.U.
As they were leaving the club, a cocky youngster by the name of Kenny Carter was beginning to establish himself as one of the world's best riders. It's impossible to tell the story of Halifax without acknowledging his contribution, though off-track events cast an almighty shadow whenever he is discussed.
Eric Boothroyd tells us that Carter held the track shop concession as part of his deal with the club, enabling him to sell his own merchandise as well as profit from club souvenir sales. Eric Boocock believes that Carter would have been World Champion in 1982 had it not been for his infamous exclusion for clashing with Bruce Penhall. The tragic events that led to Kenny's suicide are also touched upon, a sadly necessary part of the Halifax story.
As Carter's careered stuttered due to injuries, another young Englishman emerged as a Halifax hero. Neil Evitts had made his name in the Midlands and was reluctant to move to far-flung Halifax. He reflects now that it was the best thing that happened to him, enjoying a couple of tremendous years with the club and edging towards world class status. Evitts remains a passionate speedway fan and that comes across during his interview.
There's not a huge amount of footage of racing from The Shay on the DVD, the emphasis is on the story telling. We do see a good deal of 'World of Sport' footage of Eric Boocock on the international stage. Other film includes action from the Halifax vs Belle Vue meeting from 1985 that was held on the same day as the World Final just down the road at Bradford. A meeting held in front of a huge crowd and which will have been the last meeting that many attended at The Shay.
That 1985 season marked the end for the Halifax Dukes. New safety regulations required the gap between the safety fence and any outside obstructions to be increased, meaning significant infrastructure changes would be required before racing could continue at The Shay. In the circumstances the obvious choice was to move the club to the refurbished Odsal stadium in Bradford, retaining the Dukes nickname and the bulk of the riding strength to maintain a sense of continuity.
The DVD (split over two discs and running for four hours) is really excellent, offering great insights from those who starred for the club and those who held the promotional reins. It's far from misty-eyed nostalgia, there were both good and bad times at The Shay and this DVD reflects that.
How To Order
By Phone : 01708 734 502
By Post : Send a cheque for £16 (payable to Retro Speedway) (add £3.50 if outside UK) to:
9 Nursery Close
Online : At Retro-Speedway.com
This article was first published on 17th May 2015
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