Every Picture...Paisley Opens
The picture above was taken by Peter Colvin just before the tapes went up on the very first meeting at Paisley. The date was the 5th of April 1975 and the local Lions were taking on the Birmingham Brummies in a challenge fixture.
The photographs shows the home side as they lined up from 1-7 (left to right) - Sid Sheldrick, Mick Sheldrick, Chris Roynon, Mike Fullerton, Stuart Mountford, Bryan Townsend, and the late Tom Davie.
The promotion was a joint venture between Neil Macfarlane and Joe Thurley. Macfarlane had been team manager of Coatbridge Tigers the previous season and Thurley was already promoting Birmingham - hence the slightly surprising choice of opening night opposition.
The Paisley circuit was located in St Mirren Park (Love Street) home of the local football team, who were at that time managed by a young Alex Ferguson. The circuit had a reputation for being narrow and difficult to ride, something that can be seen in pictures on the Defunct Speedway website.
Macfarlane had been keeping a close eye on Paisley for a number of years and had suggested it as a possible new home for the Glasgow Tigers before they decamped to Coatbridge. Despite its close proximity to Coatbridge (a mere 20 miles) the circuit got the go-ahead and Scotland had two rival teams for the first time in 6 years.
Scottish tracks have often struggled to attract riders north of the border and things were no different in 1975. Joe Thurley explained at the time - "I'll be looking at boys in New South Wales, Adelaide and Melbourne and I hope to sign four riders who can go straight into the side at Paisley. It's absolutely impossible to produce English or Scottish riders out of thin air. One could go into the transfer market here at home but right now nobody is selling. We'd hope that in three or four seasons we'd have at least five Scottish boys in the side but as far as filling the line-up with Scottish blood in time for the introduction of speedway well . . . everybody knows it just cannot be done."
This philosophy saw the Lions scour the southern hemisphere for new additions and names like Stuart Mountford, Bob Baker, Ken Berryman, Terry Darwent and Paul Church were all linked to the club, though not all made it to Scotland. New Zealander Mike Fullerton who had ridden for Bradford in 1973 was also recruited. This ANZAC contingent was mixed with a few riders displaced from the defunct Barrow circuit - The Sheldrick brothers and Chris Roynon. The result was an entertaining though under-strength side.
The opening night challenge saw the home side win by 41-37 - Mick Sheldrick and Mike Fullerton leading the home scoring with eight points each.
Top man for the visiting Brummies was Arthur Browning who raced to a 12 point maximum and also claimed the track record with a time of 75.4 in heat one. Next best for the visitors was Keith White with nine.
The opening night crowd was a healthy 6,000 but crowds inevitably dipped in the weeks that followed. The Lions lasted for only two seasons and the club closed at the end of the 1976 season - despite the heroic efforts of the fans to raise funds to keep the track open.
Picture taken by Peter Colvin and supplied by Bill Elliot
This article was first published on 21st October 2010
"Remember going to Love St quite a bit in those days even although I was only 5. Famously of course, Coatbridge Tigers never lost to the Lions!!"
"I was the secretary of the Paisley Speedway Supporters Club. I was 17 at the time and arranged trips around the UK following the Lions! I haven't thought about this for years (I'm now 53). But such great memories - all those names of the riders. "
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