Maureen Schooling is well known in the sport as the talent that run "Maureen's Helmet Colours", but she's also turned her hand to speedway related tapestries over the years. Maureen takes up the story:
I have always made tapestries, but never tackled a speedway bike before. It all started with a bet, our Polish friend Wally bet I could not do a speedway bike. He was one of the starting marshals at our North Arm track, in Adelaide, South Australia. He was going over to Poland to visit family. I took up the bet and told him I would have a Sam Ermolenko tapestry finished by the time he came home in six weeks. He phoned me from the departure lounge to tell me to take my time, as it was going to be hanging on a wall a long time and he thought I needed to take my time.
I started work on it straight away and did some work on it every night and at weekends. I thought I was inventive with all the chrome and decided to do all in silver thread, instead of plain grey or white effect, somehow in my mind it would not look right. I bought some silver thread made in West Germany from a haberdashery shop.
All the stitching for the bike and rider is worked in Petite point stitch .The background is Bax stitch which is pure wool. Most of the other threads were from France. I based it on a photograph of Sam that my husband Dave (track photographer) had taken that summer. We had a selection of photos to chose from, but since Sam is so very good at doing wheelies we chose that one.
I did complete the tapestry in 6 weeks, got it framed and when Wally returned home he was ecstatic. Then when Sam came over again, recovering from injuries sustained in a Long Track crash in Germany, I showed him it and said it was awesome. When the tour wound up in Adelaide, I presented Sam with the tapestry, to take home to England.
I made a tapestry for Erik Gundersen to raise money for Pinderfields Hospital. When Billy Hamill gave the parcel to him he chose to keep it and he has it in his office back in Demark.
The third tapestry was of Shane Parker. We have known Shane a long time and he was a crowd favourite at all the speedway tracks near us. He started at Sidewinders junior track in Adelaide and when he turned 16 progressed to our local senior track North Arm. He was always in all green colours & everything was green, green socks & undies - he even drank green cordial . A real entertainer & character that was for sure.
After I had finished Erik's tapestry, I thought I would make one of Shane. The hardest thing to do on his was the Aussie flag, I redid it many times and nearly threw it out the window, with much frustration of sewing and unpicking it, time and time again. I persevered and got it right in the end. I never realized until I started sewing the flag, the union jack was going to be so difficult to sew. The lines on the union jack are different widths, never needed to take any notice until then, the design was intricate. With the canvas being lots of small squares, it was then it showed up. Lots of people look at it and think the engine or wheels were the hardest to do, when they first look into the detail of the stitches. I took my time in doing this one, no hurry. I had it framed and all finished now. Shane knew I was doing the tapestry and wanted always to see how I was going with it, but he did not get to see it or take it home until he got married.
The fourth and final tapestry was of David Walsh. David had been out a couple of times to race our summer season. He was a nice lad and at the time was racing for the Berwick team. We saw a lot of him and got to know him quite well, we travelled the same tracks all summer and I decided one winter to start doing a tapestry of him. I had heard he was coming over, for maybe his last visit. Again I took my time and we had taken so many photos of him racing. I thought I would include the Berwick Bandits logo as he was still racing for them.
Once it was all finished he was due to leave for England to go home and I travelled up to where he was staying and told him we had come to say cheerio. We had coffee and a chat and then I gave him the Tapestry all wrapped up, he unwrapped it and the look of amazement on his face was priceless, he did get a bit emotional and when he spoke, he said "why me?, I am not a world champion or anything special". But we thought he was, he was a great ambassador for English speedway. He then hugged and thanked me, some months later he sent me a thank you card, which I still have to this day.
So, why tapestries and not paintings? I simply do not paint, but love tapestry. I have never done any more speedway bike ones. I am working on one of six race horses, an all action packed picture to the finish line. I started that some years ago. Broken shoulder, broken wrist and lots of shoulder/neck problems have hampered me finishing this one so far, but I will one day.
I have all my tapestries except the four speedway bikes one - Sam Ermolenko, Erik Gundersen, Shane Parker and David Walsh, I gave them as gifts to keep are hopefully they are with their trophies and other memories of their racing days.
This article was first published on 18th March 2012
"Brilliant work and display as usual Maureen. Keep up the good work."
"Excellent, something totally different and original. You are a very talanted Lady. Congratulations"
"Maureen you are so talented they are brilliant.And unique."
"A good story by Maureen and I know the good that Maureen and her husband Dave have done for speedway and the riders only for a thank you."
"I'd never have thought that you could put tapestry and speedway in the same sentence, let alone combine the two like that. They must have been super fine pieces of work to catch that sense of movement. Let's hope that you don't have to put quite so much effort into customising the helmet colors that you make! Well done Maureen!"
"Gday speedway ppl. Glad to see my mum on here with good old Sam."
"Very interesting story about Maureen's tapestries. She's done more than make helmet colours. She and husband Dave were tireless workers for Speedway in South Australia for decades, starting at Sidewinders Junior Speedway in the 1980s, then onto North Arm and Gillman. They helped untold overseas riders on their visits to Adelaide. Two of the people in the background that do so much but never get any recognition. Without these type of volunteer workers Speedway in Australia would be a lot poorer. Sadly no longer involved."
"The piece by Maureen Schooling (Tapestry, 18th March), with the relevant accompanying photograph, certainly brings back happy, if somewhat blurred, memories.
Maureen did indeed present me with that fine tapestry just prior to my departure from Australia in the early 1990s. However, the previous night I'd been at an all-night party in Adelaide and so I'm afraid the euphemism 'tired and emotional' probably best describes my disposition at the time rather than simply 'emotional'. See that empty crate behind us? That symbolically equates to a lot of rum down the 'hatch,' probably from a distillery not a million miles from the Queensland town of Bundaberg, as it happens, and there'll be plenty of Aussies who can verify what the old 57% vol. O.P. can do to the unaccustomed 'POHM' (i.e. me) even when mixed with a crateful of coke!
Nevertheless, despite the state I was in, the amount of work and high level of craft that Maureen must have put into making the tapestry was still immediately apparent and I do remember that what little wind was left in my sails following the previous night's 'jolly' was very quickly taken right out of them. I was, in effect, left speechless. Whatever I did muster to say in response was no doubt inadequate in conveying my sense of gratitude at being the surprised recipient of such a fine memento. Not, incidentally, a memento of the time I spent as a Bandit, though it does certainly serve as such, but of the time and friendship granted me by Maureen, husband Dave and so many other people I met while racing Down Under, principally in Adelaide. I trust I made a better job of thanking Maureen in the card I sent from England, er... some months later (!), when presumably I'd finally sobered up, though of that, like so many things these days, I really can't be sure of.
Therefore I'd like to take the opportunity here to thank Maureen for the memory of that particular February morning, represented as it is in the photo, and for all those other memories from more clear-headed excursions with her family throughout South Australia. Needless to say, I still have the tapestry: it is beautifully made, I will not part with it and, for the reasons explained, still hold it in high regard with real personal value.
Some values change, however, and, digressing ever so slightly, looking back at that photo of Maureen and myself on SpeedwayPlus, no matter how hard I tried to remain focussed on the things that matter to us both, I just couldn't help but recall a line from a song by legendary punk group from Leeds, the Mekons (still going strong), who once sang words to the effect of:
Look, coke [non specified brand] is not good for you. Don't drink it!
The words in question are from Insignificance, a song on the album Retreat From Memphis (1994), which, as a matter of fact, contributed as inspiration for the thesis subject I pursued for an MLitt in American Studies. Subsequently, a lot of time was spent not thinking about speedway but writing about US corporations, dead 'cowboys' and perhaps the most enlightened of former British punk rock groups - and that is what you call an education! Oh yes.
So, rather than the two of us (Maureen and me) appearing to be unwitting participants in an advert for an American sugary drinks conglomerate, and especially if there are any kids logging-on to this blog, I more than happily repeat those paraphrased words of infinite Mekons wisdom:
Look, coke [non specified brand] is not good for you. Don't drink it!
Rum, on the other hand, ideally from La Habana and held by a drinking mug filled to the brim with sweet, sweet irony, would be absolutely fine - only in moderation, mind, and distilled to a relatively more humane % volume. You see, you mustn't O.D. with 'Queensland O.P.'! Ahem...I'll say no more on that one!!
If, however, any of you kids reading this aspire to be a good professional speedway rider or, alternatively, simply plain healthy and sensible, or even all three (eh?), there's no need whatsoever to take any advice from me. Just you stick to the orange juice! And no, that doesn't include 'finta,' as any of our self-respecting friends from New Zealand might say. After all, that particular 'brew' is Fa...Fa...Fa...far from pure...(how should I put this?)... 'orange juice!'
And yes, I more than happily repeat those last words again, too, and they ought to be as music to the ears of both young and old alike...
Ok, ever so slight digression over.
Maureen, despite those various injuries you mentioned in your piece, I sincerely hope all's well with you and Dave half-a-world away at your relatively new place in Tasmania. Thanks again for what you did for me all those years ago (now twenty-plus...brrrr, shiver me timbers!) and, as ever, my very best wishes to you both.
Your grateful friend,
"You only create work like this if you love the sport. Very generous of Maureen to present them to the riders."
"Thank you for publishing my story on my tapestries. Thanks to Ivan Blacka in the first place, for pushing me to do the story about them, without him it would never have come about. Blown away with the comments from Graham Frost & Mick Hargraves & David Walsh for their comments.Thanks guys, it made me cry, you made me feel very proud. But thanks to every one who took the time to comment. I enjoyed making them & best of all giving them as gifts to the said riders who deserved to own them."
"These are stunning. A true talent Mrs Schooling, thank you for sharing these."
"I've known Maureen since my school days in south Essex UK. I settled in Adelaide Australia in 1969 and in the early 70s found Maureen had arrived as well. Bit of a turn up for the books to find a school friend landing in the same place as I so long ago. Maureen has been a part of the speedway scene for longer than I can remember and probably a bit longer than she can remember. I remember seeing some of her work on visits to her home, her hubby Dave does the same thing in timber veneer. Wonderful to see her on here displaying her talents to all. Thanks to Speedway plus for featuring Maureen's work. "
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