Riders to Remember....Keith Harvey
I became interested in Keith Harvey in May 1946, the year that I discovered speedway. He was signed by New Cross and the item by Jim Stenner in the London 'Evening News' surprised me. It said Harvey, the pre-war captain of the 1939 Crystal Palace team, was to make a come-back for New Cross at the aged of 50 years. I was then 13 years old and my father was just 44 - I could not believe there was a speedway rider anywhere older than that!
Harvey was a South African who started riding speedway when he arrived in England in 1928. He was a well-known motorcycle rider in his homeland - he took part in a 500-mile race sometime in the early 1920s and was among the finishers in a snowstorm.
I next read an item on Harvey in a book by Eric Linden. This said he did not get on to a speedway bike until he was 32 years old, but in the sport's early days had been 'one of the showmen legtrailers' at Stamford Bridge. Pre-war he also rode for teams including West Ham, Wimbledon and Birmingham.
In 1939 he rode for Crystal Palace in their brief spell in the National League Division Two. When they closed in mid-season he signed for Norwich, to whom he was allocated in the post-war rider pooling in 1946 but never rode for the Stars. In 1946, as a New Cross rider Harvey varied between being the first reserve and sometimes in the full-team, where most times he was partner to Ron Johnson. Harvey started the 1947 season as a New Cross rider, but the advent of younger riders like Ray Moore, Jeff Lloyd, Ken le Breton, saw him drop down to the second-half. He made his last appearance before retiring in June that year.
Eventually, Harvey returned to South Africa and lived in Durban, where he was a frequent visitor to the pits of the famous Durban Hornets. In pre-war years he was probably South Africa's best known speedway rider. Ironically, Harvey never raced on a speedway in his homeland.
Keith Harvey died in 1972 and was buried in his home town at Verulaam.
This article was first published on 3rd July 2008
"I saw Keith Harvey in action pre-war and he was a really exicting all action rider, especially with his style of leg-trailing around the boards. I remember reading of his retirement in one of my regular speedway mags, it was either the "Speedway News" or dear old Basil Storey's "Speedway Gazette". It supplied the information that he was "going back to South Africe to get married". I also seem to recall that they quoted his age as 54."
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