Stonecliff Speedway, Clergate, NSW
My Father's family came from an area that centered around the Orange area of New South Wales. Our tribe came from within the boundaries of the Fish River, Spring Hill, Blayney, Tarana and westward through Orange out to a place called Clergate.
Clergate had a general store (Garage, Post Office, Store all in one), a railway platform (One carriage in length), a general hall, a school and two visible houses. Yep, oh, and the Clergate Cricket Ground (Only available for use after harvest). That's it, that's town.
Clergate was reached by leaving Orange and travelling along the March Road towards Mullion Creek. A few miles from Orange you had to turn right into the Clergate Road. A dirt road that took you up to a railway crossing. At the railway crossing was my uncle's house, the now non-existing gatehouse. I stayed here for regular vacations.
When the Railway phone rang, it was a signal that a train was on its way. We ran out and closed the old manual pipe framed crossing gates to stop motorists from being mowed down by fast moving freight trains powered by massive Pacific or Garrett Class steam locomotives. Even the daily "Silver City Comet" Railcar would have destroyed a road going automobile.
I must have been about six years old back then. As I clung to the gate and roared back at the passing train, I heard cars pull up behind me. Not just cars, cars with trailers. Not just trailers, but trailers with things on them. Bikes, bikes with funny platforms on the side, and those four wheeled things with numbers on them. (Later I learned that they were solos, sidecars and Formula 500s).
Some 50 years later the memory still sits there in my brain, a lonely memory 'cause everything else in there seemed vanish long ago.
Those cars, with their trailers of strange apparatus, drove across the now opened gates and took off down the dirt road past the Clergate Public School. (Thirteen kids, grades Kindy to 6th grade and only one teacher). A way down past the school I saw them turn left and disappear.
A few days later curiousity got the better of me and I stole my cousin's pushbike and took off down the dirt track in search of the those trailers with funny things.
It wasn't long before I came across a kidney bean shaped track in the middle of a farm paddock. No fences and kinda dipped in the middle. I was never told the name of the venue, if I was, then it's now lost like so many other things.
So about 15 years later I went to see a movie at a theatre in the Sydney Suburb of Ashfield. A shopping Centre now stands on the site. That Theatre was then owned by former Solo rider Johnny Langfield. That I remember, the Movie, well .......... no, I have no idea.
Being the Speedway fruit cake that I am, I saddled up alongside Langfield and started talking about, ..........do I really need to say?
Later the subject began to include Langfield's Short Circuit feats, I told him my memories of clinging to the gate at Clergate and in turn Langfield told me the story of a meeting at that same venue.
It was almost half way through the meeting when a fire broke out in scrub along the back straight. The organisers called for an early intermission and while spectators watched, competitors raced over and beat back the flames anyway they could.
The battle between the Sportsman and the elements was eventually to go in favour of the competitors. Intermission ceased, competitors went back to racing and all were very happy with themselves.
I then eagerly asked Langfield if he could recall the name of the Venue back then.
He thought for a while and then said "No, I have no Idea"
Bugger You Langfield, I thought you were supposed to be a hero ha ha!
It wasn't Towac, that's the other side of Orange, but if anyone knows the name of the Venue PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let me know. You could be a bigger hero than Johnny Langfield.
And this story folks is true, only the needle has been changed to protect the record.
Yes dear, I'll get off the computer now. Grrrrrrrrrr
The response from John Langfield
Quite a story Allan, amazing really.When I was about 10 or 11 years old I used to stay for regular holidays at my uncles place at a railway siding called Crowther which is on the Olympic Highway between Cowra and Young. This consisted of a Post Office store, fuel distrubition shed, a railway platform ( one carriage in length ) two houses which could be seen from a distance and a gate keepers cottage beside the railway line. The road between Cowra and Young was gravel in those days. I too used to run out to help open and Close the gates when the train was coming to watch it roar by.
How's that for coincidence?
I think the movie at Ashfield was Superman.
I don't remember you telling me about Clergate or I would have told you about Crowther.
I do remember the race meeting when the bush fire stopped things for a while. That place was called Stonecliff Speedway. Had to call on my mate Terry Poole to remember that for me. He still has sashes he won there.
Please forward one case of Tooheys for this information.
After speaking with Terry Poole himself, I was informed that the promoter of the venue was a chap named Guss Randall from Orange.
Competitors usually raced at Bathurst on Saturday, stayed overnight and then took the short drive to Clergate the next morning.
This is early 1960's and many competitors of the day are no longer with us. No history of Stonecliff Speedway has been recorded in the past
Some of those who raced at Stonecliff Speedway were...
Allan J Baker
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This article was first published on 15th July 2012
"Brilliant story - really enjoyed digesting it. I hope someone finds a photograph though highly unlikely. "
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