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Riders to Remember....Jack Ormston
By John Hyam

Jack Ormston

When Jack Ormston died at his home on June 22, 2007, aged 97 years, it ended one of the sport's links with the 1928 pioneer days. Ormston was also the last surviving starter from the first World Championship in 1936.

John Glaholme Ormston was born in West Cornforth, County Durham, on Saturday October 30, 1909. When he was 14 years old, Ormston developed an interest in cars and motorcycles. The passion often brought him reprimands from the local police - especially when they caught him driving the family's American Buick car.

In 1926, 17 year old Ormston took up grass track racing. It was good grounding for when speedway arrived in Midlesbrough in 1928. Ormston's reputation reached the south and he started to race at Wembley.

When league racing began in 1929, Ormston was an influential member of the Lions' squad. He won the first London Riders Championship at Crystal Palace in 1930 and that season was also selected for England in the first ever test match against Australia who won 35-17 at Wimbledon on June 30.

After touring Australia in 1932-33, Ormston went to the USA as partner to Australian star Frank Arthur in a bid to establish speedway at the Madison Square Gardens in New York. They also recruited Johnnie Hoskins as their racing manager. The venture collapsed when Ormston withdrew financial support to return to England when his father died.

Ormston sat out the 1933 campaign to manage the family butchery business but returned in 1934 at Birmingham (Hall Green), then joined Harringay in 1935 where he stayed until his retirement at the end of the 1938 season.

Ormston was a prominent challenger in the Star Championship, the foreunner of the World Championship. His best performance was in 1935 as runner-up to Frank Charles, and ahead of Max Grosskreutz.

At the first World Championship at Wembley in 1936, Ormston was joint fifth in a meeting won by Lionel Van Praag. Ormston's other world final appearance was in 1938 when Bluey Wilkinson took the crown. Ormston rode for England against Australia in six domestic test series and went down-under with England sides in 1936-37 and 1937-38.

At the top of his career, Ormston earned £15,000 a year and lived at the Park Lane Hotel. This was when professional footballers earned a £6-a-week and the man-in-the-street £190 a year.

Ormston took up flying in 1929, using a bright red Westland Widgeon monoplane which he kept in a shed near his northern home. To the delight of local villagers, he gave unauthorised displays of skimming the rooftops and looping-the-loop. His best feat as a serious flier in the mid-1930s was to finish second in the Grosvenor Cup. He also twice finished in the King's Cup air race.

In pre-war years, Ormston was a respected amateur steeplechase jockey. He became a trainer in 1940 and had 400 winners to his credit when he retired in 1976. His most famous horse was Le Garcon d'Or with a record 34 flat race wins.

In 1983, Ormston and his wife went to live in Spain, but returned to England in 1994.


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This article was first published on 8th September 2011


  • Steve Harland:

    "Nice article on Jack. He was living in a nursing home in the picturesque village of Gainford near Darlington in County Durham. One of our sponsors at Redcar used to deliver cars to Jack's home there. He was a right character and was reluctant to talk about his pre-war dirt track career. The sponsor has been to Redcar on several occasions and only discovered shortly before Jack died he had been an international speedway rider. Jack had a taste for top of the range cars being driven at high speed even in advancing years. "

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