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Snapshots of Yesteryear
By Peter Colvin

 

This second bend action shot was taken on 11th July 1969 when Cradley Heath Heathens were the visitors to Hampden in the British League. It shows Charlie Monk, on the inside, looking for a way past Bob Andrews, while Willie Templeton tries the same manoeuvre on Chris Bass. This drawn Heat 6 was won by Bob Andrews to make the score 18-18. By the end of Heat 10, the Heathens were in the lead by six points with only three races remaining. A tactical substitute ride by Oyvind S Berg in Heat 11 helped to bring the Tigers to within two points of the Heathens who then increased their lead to four points with a 4-2 in the penultimate Heat. Berg was out again alongside Jim McMillan in the last Heat and together they grabbed the necessary 5-1 to draw the match.

 

I bought this photograph at Shawfield Stadium in the belief that I knew the identity of the rider shown battling his way through the wet shale at White City in the 1960's. It has an Evening Citizen stamp on the reverse, a newspaper that ceased publication in 1974, but no indication of the rider's identity.

 

I believe that this is the "mystery" rider shown in the photo above. His name is Johny Faafeng, a young Norwegian rider who was brought into the Glasgow team in 1966 as a replacement for Nils Paulsen. I presume that the action photograph was taken during his first meeting at White City which was raced under very wet conditions on 6th May against the Oxford Cheetahs. I remember his first rides very clearly because he rode in the wet without using a peak on the front of his helmet. It looks from the action photograph that the rider might be wearing a yellow & black helmet cover. This ties in with the fact that Johny Faafeng (pronounced Farfeng) wore that helmet cover in the second half of the meeting. He was a popular rider with the Glasgow fans because of his gutsy style of riding and was given the nickname Johny Farthing.

 

 

This photograph shows the Glasgow team that rode for the latter half of the 1969 season. Mike Hiftle, far left, who first rode at Hampden on 17th July against Newport Wasps when he replaced the out of form Alf Wells was a Belle Vue Colts junior who had been unable to get into the Colts line-up in the second division! Mike showed tremendous enthusiasm and despite taking more than his share of tumbles, obtained a 3�41 average from twelve league matches. He failed to appear for a double-header against Hackney and Oxford at the end of the season and did not ride for the Tigers again.

Interestingly, as a result of Mike's non- appearance, Jimmy Gallacher made his Tigers' debut against Hackney, scoring 1 point. The other riders in the picture are, left to right, Oyvind S Berg, Charlie Monk, Bobby Beaton, Willie Templeton, Jim McMillan and Russ Dent.

 

This article was first published on 27th January 2011


 

  • Robert Rogers:

    "Great Pictures of Speedway as it was in the 1960`s. One comment on the photo of the unknown rider. The Handlebars look Russian! The British bars were one piece which run along the top of the forks, whilst the Russian ESO bikes tended to be two seperate bars on either side of the forks. I am sure people more expert than me on bikes may be confirm or destroy this suggestion!"

  • We asked Peter Colvin about this and his thoughts are as follows:

    "After the photograph appeared in last season's Glasgow programme, the most common assertion with regard to his possible identity (probably because of the style of handlebars), was that he is a Russian rider racing at Glasgow. This is not feasible because when Scotland met Russia at White City in 1966, the weather was perfect with some fast times being recorded during the meeting. Another possibility is Johny Faafeng's fellow Norwegian Reidar Eide who began his career in the UK using a similar style of clip-on handlebars and baggy leathers. However the weather conditions when Reider rode at the Ibrox track again preclude this as a possibility."

  • Ross Dow:

    "More memory jerkers from Peter - excellent. Johny was a bit wild but always gave full effort and commitment. He looked as though he had a future in the sport and, along with Jim McMillan gave the Tigers a lively tale. I was told that he had an early form of 'cruise control' on his car - a heavy brick placed on the accelerator on long journeys. Unfortunately, I believe that he was killed in a road accident in Norway a short time after leaving Tigers - I'm unsure of the details."

  • Jim Henry:

    "Peter is correct about the photo of Johnny Faafeng. The other mystery man is on an ESO with the clip on handlebars. This was used by Russian riders who I'm sure rode at White City in 1966 and by Reidar Eide when he rode for Edinburgh, also in 1966. I can't say if Johnny Faafeng used a bike with clip ons."

  • Thomas Lewis:

    "The unknown shale covered rider. Whilst unable to help identify I would think that the handlebar set up would appear to indicate some rider from behind the then Iron Curtain. These from other photos seen would appear to have been popular amongst the Russians. The rest was a pleasure to see and I was present at the Tigers vs Cradley match all those years ago. Keep digging old photos out - wonderful."

  • Ross Dow:

    "Although I was there every Friday and worked in the pits for a while, I have only a vague memory of the stadium outwith the speedway & dog tracks and, unfortunately do not have any photos for reference. Is it definitely White City? The trees in the background would have to be Bellahouston Park so the action would have to be 1st / 2nd bend in front of the pits. I don't recall the building in the photograph."

  • Roger Biggs:

    "The mystery rider could be Rim Malskaitis. He was a New Zealander I think. He came to try his luck in the newly formed British League in 1965 and rode for Long Eaton. He had his picture in the Speedway Star as the only British League rider to use an ESO. He certainly favoured the clip-on style handlebars. The ESO didn't last long and he changed to a JAP. Barry Briggs started using the ESO later in the same year but soon put the motor into a british frame. Briggo also started to use a Bell full-face helmet at much the same time. "

  • Peter Colvin:

    "Here is some feedback regarding the comments made by Ross Dow "is it definitely White City?" and Roger Biggs "The mystery rider could be Rim Malskaitis."

    My reply to Ross is yes, because the photo was taken by a Glasgow evening paper and the rider is shown passing the gate that was presumably used at White City for access to the track by vehicles. I do not recall it being used while a meeting was in progress. The gate appears in other action shots taken at White City.

    My reply to Roger is no, because Rim Malskaitis did not ride at Glasgow either as a Long Eaton Archer or in any of the World Championship qualifying rounds."

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