Book Review: Where Eagles Dared
Another gap in speedway history has been plugged with the publication of "Where Eagles Dared - Speedway in Motherwell". Jim Henry is the author and London League Publications have helped him bring it to the market. Jim is well known as one of the founders of the Speedway Researcher magazine as well as being Clerk of the Course at many of the Scottish circuits over the years.
The Motherwell Eagles first appeared on track in 1950, cashing in on the success of the sport in the post-war boom years and (incredibly) becoming the fourth track operating in the Scottish central belt. Jim tell us about their origins and that first season where they operated on an open licence, including the usual frustrations of piecing together a team on a meeting-by-meeting basis.
They were welcomed into the National League the following year, which is when their story starts in earnest, including the acquisition of Bluey Scott, perhaps the rider most fondly remembered by those who followed the club.
The book dedicates a chapter to each season, broken down into monthly sections that cover the meetings and happenings as they occurred. The summaries include plenty of detail about individual races, indicating the in-depth level of research that has been performed. It's well written and it never feels repetitive, it also doesn't rely on simply reproducing quotes from the magazines of the time.
In the years that followed many of the most famous names in Scottish speedway history turned out for the Eagles - Gordon McGregor, Tommy Miller, Dougie Templeton and the "terrible twins" of Crowther and Lowther.
The club's initial existence was, even by speedway standards, very short, lasting only from 1950 until the end of 1954. The sport as a whole was really struggling by that time, with the dreaded entertainment tax making it unviable to continue. It's a pity there's not a little more on the track's closure within the book, there may have been more to explore there.
That wasn't quite the end of the story as the track re-opened briefly in 1958, under the management of Ian Hoskins. It wasn't a success, though many of the riders who featured became stalwarts of Edinburgh's golden era at Old Meadowbank throughout the sixties.
A further brief revival occurred in 1972, when some longtrack meetings were staged on a trotting track and a smaller speedway track was built in the centre. From all accounts viewing was abysmal and bad luck with the weather meant the promotion soon gave up.
There are a couple of pages each on those short 1958 and 1972 seasons.
As well as Jim's written history of the club, there are detailed statistical records covering meeting results, league tables and riders' averages, always of interest to speedway fans with a liking for history.
There's also a section of short biographies of all the riders who pulled on the black and white Eagles bib. These were provided by Matt Jackson, very much part of the Speedway Researcher team these days.
Jim has also had access to the incredible photo archives of the John Somerville Collection, so a good number of portrait and action photographs appear throughout the book.
Obviously a history of a track that operated nearly 70 years ago will not be for everyone. It's most likely to be of interest to those with a deep love of speedway history, or those based in Scotland who will find much of local interest. It's a good read and well produced, definitely one to consider adding to your collection.
You can order your copy from London League Publications.
This article was first published on 14th November 2021
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