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Riders to Remember: Wal Morton
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My Beloved Shay
By Andy Daly

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My beloved Shay! I've written at length about my early memories of speedway at Halifax elsewhere (See blog post 'let me take you back to the dirt track' 20/05/2010 on my Weblog 'Sitting Comfortably?') But particular things I recall are:

  • The exciting racing on the big, banked black shale track (I'd never seen red shale till I was about 21!) especially when you had big track specialists in town: the USSR vs. Poland test match in '73 springs to mind. Daredevil stuff or feckless riding?...I think the jury's still out.

  • The force with which the black stuff hit you if you stood, unprotected too near the track. Like nothing else I've ever known.

  • Boocock coming out for heat one in his heyday, when he would leave his opposition in his tyre tracks and ride four laps without once putting his left foot down.

  • The Bank Holiday Monday meetings with Cradley.

  • The patience and friendliness of many of the riders as we hijacked their attempts to load up their cars and get away with requests for autographs etc (Departing via the pits bend exit took you past all the riders cars)

  • One one occasion, someone (an adult) who had come with us, leaping onto the track between heats to pick up a pair of riders' goggles - I think originally they were Army-issue for use in desert conditions, many of the riders used them in those days. Anyway he gave them to me. I was thrilled to bits and treasured them ... though not well enough, because I've no idea where they are now.

  • The 'Boing' sound Jimmy Mac's bike (and possibly Jimmy Mac himself) made against the sturdy steel fence when he came a cropper on the 4th bend - possibly a Dews trophy meeting.

  • A fight in the pits, sometime late '60s: How everyone rushed down to see the action!

    I could go on (... and on) The Shay was one of the best appointed stadiums in which to watch speedway in my opinion. It was always full of atmosphere. Race nights were electric. So thanks to the many many riders, and stadium/ground staff who made such great times and the wonderful memories my Dad, me and my brothers have of them, possible.


     

  • Ross Dow:

    "Andy forgot to mention the really memorable things about The Shay - chip butties and mushy peas. As Scots we were not used to such wholesome, healthy food. Terrific track - some great memories. Talking about the great Jimmy Mac reminds me about a last heat decider at The Shay (unsure of exact year. circa 1970) I forget the Halifax duo but it was Geordie Hunter and Jimmy Mac for Glasgow. My mate was at the pits and overheard Jimmy tell George "You make the gate - I'll pick them off from the back". I seem to recall that is exactly what he did."

  • Emma Somers:

    "The Shay was an awesome venue for speedway and one that'll never be replicated! I think its criminal to now see the Shay all squared off as a boring lower League 'lego set' stadium with no trace of the speedway circuit remaining. The Football club have folded in recent years and no doubt the rent and income from the bars and refreshment outlets from EL or PL speedway at the Shay could of helped them out! Hopefully Halifax Dukes will be back one day but like Exeters County Ground, any new circuit will not be the same! "

  • Allan Caley:

    "My dad took me as a nipper in the late 60s early 70s. Boocock, Boothroyd & Younghusband - fantastic Saturday nights :-) The smell of the fuel the noise and the grit in your face! Always remember a rider flying over the fence and onto the concrete terracing at the north end - he ended up with concussion and a broke thumb!"

  • Paul Kerry:

    "I supported the Dukes from opening day in 1965.The Shay stadium was an absolute rat-hole and remained so whilst speedway was there and for years after...but the actual track and the atmosphere were just brill. The rider Allan mentions going over the fence and only breaking a thumb was Maury Robinson, I was there, I thought he'd be dead!That came only a few weeks after Aussie Bert Kingston had fractured his skull on the same bend, I think Maury may have been replacing him in the side.Best memory for me was vs Coventry 1965, a 12th heat 5-1 by Eric Boocock and Eric Boothroyd to put us 2 up after being behind all match, maybe against Nigel B or at least Ron Mountford, then going on to win 40-38. Bliss! I still go to the Shay to watch Halifax Rugby League who now share with the soccer club. It is a tidy ground now, but could never ever take that super-duper banked track again! Odsal could, only 6 miles up the road, but that's another story."

  • Andrew Gallon:

    "Re: Emma Somers on My Beloved Shay. Given the scale of Halifax Town FC's debts - more than £2m - in 2008 when it folded, I don't think income from sub-letting The Shay to the speedway team would have made all that much difference!

    The football club, re-formed in 2008 as FC Halifax Town, is now living within its means and performing well, with a squad of part-time players, in the fifth tier National League.

    As a schoolboy, I enjoyed visits to The Shay for speedway (and football). Unfortunately, when new safety regulations came in (circa 1985) governing the distance permitted between fixed objects and the safety fence, The Shay's floodlight pylons rendered the venue a speedway non-starter. Bradford Council offered Dukes rent-free use of a refurbished Odsal and, understandably, promoter Eric Boothroyd jumped at the chance.

    Strangely, despite Dukes relocating from a town to a city, speedway was never as popular (or as intimate) at Odsal as it was at The Shay. Given Halifax's hilly topography, I'd say the chances of speedway returning to the town are zero. "

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