The 1948 Poole Pirates

The 1948 Poole Pirates. (l to r) Cliff Brewer (Director), Herby Hayden (Director), George Butler, Alf Elliott, Fred Pawson, Charlie Hayden, Sid Clark, Alan Chambers, Jack Crutcher (Director), Sid Hazzard, Bingley Cree, Ron Bear (Secretary), Joe Bowkis.
image copyright Jock Pope.

IN THE BEGINNING

The origins of Poole Speedway can be traced back to the motor-cycle grass track racing scene in the years following the end of World War Two, when four local racers switched disciplines and joined the Exeter team for the 1947 speedway season. The four were Tommy Crutcher, Charlie Hayden, Alan Chambers and Sid Hazzard and while they enjoyed racing for the Devon club their thoughts turned to opening and running their own club in Bournemouth.

   The end of the 1947 season saw them put together a Bournemouth side which raced a challenge match at Rye House, but when their plans to build a track next to the football stadium in Dean Court came to nothing, a consortium fronted by H.G.’Herby’ Hayden, of Hayden and Chambers Motorcycles, Boscombe, and Ron Bear, from Ensbury Park, Bournemouth, put a proposal before Poole Council to stage racing in Poole.

   This proposal to use the Wimborne Road stadium was turned down at the Council’s October meeting, but the consortium modified their plans which were resubmitted for the first Council meeting of the New Year. This second application received a more positive welcome and while it was being studied, residents in the immediate vicinity of the stadium were canvassed for their views. The resulting three-to-one majority in favour of the proposal helped convince the council that racing should be given the green light with permission given for meetings to be held on one night a week from March to October, with a further two hours on one day a week for practice and novice trials.

   February 5, 1948, saw the Poole and Dorset Herald publish news of the formation of Poole Speedway Limited and with it the names of the first board of directors. They were local builder Clifford Brewer, who was named as the managing director, along with H G Hayden and E J ‘Jack’ Crutcher, who also took the post of team manager. That left Ron Bear to carry out the duties of general manager and club secretary. Jack Crutcher’s brother, Tommy, was to have been the managing director, but he had been killed in a motoring accident before the appointment could be made.

   With the announcement came news the team would be known as the Poole Pirates in recognition of the town’s association with the seafaring buccaneers which dated back to the 14th Century. It was also revealed that the team colours would be blue with a white skull and crossbones. An application was made to the Speedway authorities for the club to join the National League and the stadium was visited by Speedway Control Board secretary Major W W Fearnley to assess the suitability of the arena for racing.

   Work had already started on lifting the tarmac cycle track that ran around the perimeter of the stadium’s football pitch and by the beginning of March the 420-yard cinder surfaced raceway was nearing completion. By the time Major Fearnley made a return visit to check on the work a concrete starting grid had been laid, a steel plate safety fence erected around the track, and a control tower added to the roof of the grandstand.

   Later in the month, it was confirmed that Poole had been accepted into Division Three of the National League and that race meetings would be held on Monday evenings, starting on April 26 with a National Trophy tie against Great Yarmouth. The first team news came in March when it was announced that three Bournemouth-based riders, Sid Hazzard, Alan Chambers and Charlie Hayden, had signed for the club, with Hayden also being appointed Poole’s first club captain. All three had gained considerable experience of grass track racing before deciding to try their hand on the cinders.

   Following in their footsteps were Sid Clark and Fred Pawson who came on loan from Division One side Harringay, former Wimbledon racer, George Butler, and Alf Elliott , who had ridden for Wombwell in 1947. Completing Pirates’ line-up was another local grass ‘cutter’ Bingley Cree, who was looking forward to making his debut on the cinders.

   The opening match at Poole was watched by over 6,000 people, since which time the Pirates have become one of the most successful sides in British speedway, winning 17 League championships and 6 Knockout Cup finals.