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A Tribute to Ken McKinlay....by Paul Goodwin

Ken McKinlay

I was searching for info about the sixties West Ham speedway team, without much success until I found your site, only to read the sad news about Ken McKinlay. I was a great fan of Ken and was privileged to see him at his best. This guy was a true gent of the track, a great team leader, never selfish, he taught many a young rider the skills of the sport. He coached riders like Norman Hunter, Malcolm "sparky" Simmons, Dave Jessup and Svere Harfeldt, all of whom became some of the top world riders of the sixties, achieving international status along the way.

My best memory of Ken has got to be of a home match between West Ham and Swindon who had the great Barry Briggs in their squad. A great edge of your seat match with the lead going backwards and forwards through the match. It was the last race of the match and we needed just the three points to win. By the time the riders came onto the track the crowd including myself were going ballistic, and who rolled up to the tapes yep, our Ken and Barry "B", a race to behold for the finale.

The noise was deafening as the tapes went up, Briggo made the gate and got to the first bend ahead of Ken who was in hot pursuit. Briggo kept the lead for three laps, we just knew briggo was going to spoil our night as he usually did, but the gods were with us. Briggo came into the last corner with Ken hugging the inside line inches behind. Then it happened, Briggs on this rare occasion drifted wide, just enough to let Ken open up using all his track skills to beat the great Briggs to the line and so give us the result.

As Briggs caught up to Ken he reached out to shake his hand and congratulated him for what was one of, if not the, best races witnesed at the Custom House track.

Thanks for that memory Ken.


This article was first published on 4th September 2004


  • Ralph Waller:

    "I remember Ken from his days at Coventry - he was my idol - even though I lived in and supported Swindon. While autograph seeking in the Swindon pits, I met him and realised my idol was a gentleman as well as a brilliant speedway rider."

  • Ailsa McKinlay:

    "I am Ken's youngest child...Ailsa...33 yrs old...living in Perth, Western Australia...the place where he met my mum...Alexandrena (known as Rena all those years ago)

    Just thought I would do a search on Dad as it was the second anniversary of his death this past week. Came across this article first up and it was quite warming to read.

    Just wanted to say thank you for that."

  • Geoff Langley:

    "I also saw the the great "Hurri-Ken" McKinlay at his best at West Ham. The great thing was he made the job look so easy, almost as if he wasn't trying, yet still turned in double figures week after week. An absolute master of trackcraft and wonderful tactician who could switch his racing line from inside to outside and back again with inch-perfect accuracy. In my opinion he was one of the three most styish riders of all time, along with Jack Young and Leigh Adams. Thank you, thank you, Ken."

  • Robert McKinlay:

    "I would just like to say I am Ken's brother's Grandson and I am very proud of him and I wish him all the best in heaven as he did here. You are the best.

  • Roy Brooks:

    " From the Leicester Hunter days to the Scunthorpe days he was my idol. Fortunately, through Norman Hunter I was able to meet Ken on many occasions including a visit to his house in Leicester. He must have thought that the young guest was a little distant as I scanned his cabinet looking at the many awards he had won over the years. Ken was an utter gentleman and always acknowledged the star struck youngster in his midst. I remember with sorrow running onto the greyhound track during the 1962 World Final to help Ken after his throttle had jammed when chasing Barry Briggs. Had he retained that second place he would have finished third that year. Great, great memories of a great man."

  • Tony Unwin:

    "As a long standing Coventry Bees fan, my abiding memory of the great 'Hurri-Ken'was the way he would always take his hands off the handlebars of his speedway bike and adjust his goggles as he proceeded down the back straight en route to the tapes.The mighty McKinlay didn't need to waste his time with practice back straight starts! He was always ready to sign my autograph book or a photo of him that I had purchased. A truly great speedway rider and a great man. Sadly missed."

  • Trevor Kimberley:

    "Hey talk about the "big five" in late fifties and sixties Speedway, but it should have been six. Ken was one of the few riders in the same league as messrs Briggs, Moore, Fundin, Craven, and Knutsson. Your correspondants are saying Ken was at his best with West Ham, and he was still truely great, but his time at Leicester was his pomp. He was a second division star with the Hunters, but when the two leagues merged, he was able to compete with the best. Ken had little luck in World Finals, but he was good enough to have become World Champ. I feel privilaged to have watched one of the all-time greats at his best at Blackbird Road."

  • Geoff Wilcock:

    "Spent many days watching Ken in his twilight years, racing and teaching the young ones at Quibell Park Scunthorpe. Can still picture him in Black leathers and Pudding basin helmet a sight I will never forget."

  • Dudley Jones:

    "I first saw Ken when he was a Coventry 'Bee'. I realized immediately that he was not just a high scorer, but a class act. Indeed, I cannot think of a more stylish rider. I supported West Ham from 1966 until I moved north in 1968, so saw much of Ken. He really was a great scorer, team rider and captain of the re-born Hammers. He seemed to be a likeable chap too. I saw him ride in a couple of World Championships, and was there hoping that he would win. I am sure that Ken was good enough, but perhaps his will to win was a little less than some other competitors. Nonetheless, he had a distinguished international career, and deserves a place amongst our all time greats."

  • Paul Haylock:

    "Ken Mckinlay, I was always a fan of Ken and always loved the sound from his bikes. They always sounded so crisp and in tune. I support Kings Lynn and Ken cam to three individual meets one year and won the lot!! When pushed off from the pits to start his bike, Ken would always pull both his gloves up to make sure they were on ok and then put both hands each side of his crash helmet to adjust his goggles. I still have a picture of Ken wearing his West Ham race jacket and will always remember him with affection. He was a speedway star!"

  • Graham Fox:

    "I live in Switzerland nowadays and watching Sky Sports, I thought that I would look up one of my childhood heroes, whilst living in Leicester and watching the 'Friday night Speedway'. So sorry to hear of Ken's passing. My own memory is of his full points most weeks and especially the thrill of when he lined up in the outside position. He was so fast at the gate that he just went straight to the corner, from the outside position, and hit the front on the first bend. A thrill to watch. Great days! Graham Fox Once of Mowmacre Hill, Leicester."

  • Ishbel McKinlay-Wilkie:

    "I am the youngest sister of Ken, my beloved brother who was not only a great, if not the greatest speedway rider, that came out of Scotland. He passed away much too soon and I miss him every day of my life. He was a fantastic brother, very loving and very caring and I miss him every day. I loved him so very much. Thank you to everyone who wrote about Ken. Very touching."

  • Richard Waller:

    "Ken McKinlay is one of those that riders that is still talked about by the older generation of fans that remember him in action. That speaks volumes about how great he was."

  • Eamon McDonald:

    "I spent many happy Seasons watching Ken at Leicester. A great 'gater' and had a classic style. He was our top Man for many Years. After retiring he worked near where I live and often saw him....Always with a smile on his Face!!"

  • Scott Jackson:

    "Ken was my great uncle. My gran is his sister. He is a legend in our family. My gran has some wonderful old racing pics. I will try to get posted. "

  • Gary North:

    "My Mum & Dad knew Ken as they were keen Leicester Hunters & then Lions speedway fans, then dad started taking me to Blackbird Rd when it reopened again in 68. I then initially met John (Johnnie Mac) McKinley when we both used to belong to Leicester Monarchs cycle speedway. (Found an old pic of John from when I was taking photos for the club at the british cycle speedway final at Leicester in 1979).

    I then tried my luck at speedway and Ken gave me some very good tips and advice on training days at Long Eaton. Never saw him ride in his glory days, saw him ride at a Golden Greats meeting in the 80's at Coventry that I went to with my parents. I did only meet Ken a couple of times but will always remember him as a knowledgable speedway man who offered a young wannabe like myself advice in a good way that made you listen and appreciate that he knew what he was talking about. I also remember John ended up working at Jordan motors in Leicester and also went on to ride speedway."

  • Ishbel McKinlay Wilkie:

    "As Ken's youngest sister I grew up when Ken was already a Star so you can imagine how proud I was like everyone else in the family. I remember my Dad polishing Ken's leathers when he was home in Scotland for a meeting.........they were absolutely gleaming and then the whole family went to watch him race in Glasgow. Ken always looked fabulous in his gleaming leathers and boots. My old Dad was always beaming with pride for Ken like the rest of the family but Ken was his son and he adored him. Every week in our home Dad would clean every trophy Ken ever won till they too were gleaming and there were tons of trophy's. He was a great brother and left us far too soon. I miss him every day..............RIP xxx :) xxx "

  • Jonathan Oates:

    "I watched Ken at West Ham. He was a fantastic white line rider with a great style. We used to buy Speedway Star & News every week. There was always a mystery rider photo on the front cover. You had to guess who it was. We always got Hurri Ken right because of his style. I remember a World Championship at Wembley. He won his 1st 4 heats for a max 12 points. But something went wrong. His last ride, we thought, was the easiest. There were Russians, Poles and Czechs I think. We all thought our Ken was going to be crowned World Champion. It wasn't to be. He's still my champion and best stylish rider. From an old Hammer."

  • Jimmy Singh Jr.:

    "My dad new Ken like a father. I find it humbling that someone I got to call grandad in my youth was so widely loved. As I grew up I realised just how incredible this man was... A giant in his own right. I see a few of granddads blood relatives have also thanked you all for your kind words. Ishbel it was lovely to meet you finally when I came to see you with dad whilst we were on holiday. I hope you are well. Singhy Jr. "

  • Peter Madden (Butch):

    "When I was young Ken McKinlay, when visiting Perth to race Aussies, he would stay at our house. Tich Madden (my father) was also a speedway rider. My memory of his stays was he always said "You can sit on the bike but don't touch the throttle". I would clean & polish his leathers and Tich would help prepare his bike. In the 1970's I was lucky enough to ride at the same meeting at Claremont Speedway. Also we had a great fishing holiday in Mandurah together. Ken was a nice man and I have many happy memories. Ken had a great style on a bike. God bless him from the Maddens."

  • Ishbel McKinlay-Wilkie:

    "Ken has gone for a good few years now and the pain never goes away. It was sauté foul reading all the comments once again. Ken was so handsome charismatic classy true gentleman and the Best Rider that ever came out of Scotland. He was taken from us too soon. RIP Ken always in my thoughts. love you, Ishbel Xxxx "

  • Dudley Jones:

    "I wrote the Riders to Remember piece about Ken several years ago. He was great, superb and pure class. How I loved very minute he was on track, be it at Coventry, West Ham or Norwich where I first saw speedway. I will always miss Ken. Wear the McKinlay name with pride."

  • Malcolm Bennington:

    "My mate Tony and I used to go to Blackbird Road Leicester every Friday night in the early fifties and of course our hero was hurri-can Mckinlay, could always trust him to win for us along with Len Williams & Reg Fearman. He was always immaculate in his leathers. Many thanks Ken for your brilliant performaces for Leicester Hunters. R.I.P "

  • Peter Bates:

    "Fond memories of Ken at Boulder Oval Speedway in 1962 with a coin insert in left side of handle bar. R.I.P. Ken. "

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