Speedway fans old and new are enjoying a nostalgic trip down memory lane taking in the sights and sounds of the sport from its Lanarkshire heyday.
Hundreds have flocked to the Cinder Kings exhibition at Summerlee in Coatbridge since it opened a month ago to see vintage bikes and memorabilia dating from the 1950s to 1970s relating to Coatbridge Monarchs, Motherwell Eagles and the Tigers, who were based at both Coatbridge and Blantyre.
It has been organised by members of the museum’s popular Speedway Memories reminiscence group, with contributions of cherished sporting treasures loaned by fans and a host of former star riders.
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Bikes have been loaned for display by ex-Coatbridge Monarchs rider Bert Harkins, Tigers and Monarchs star Brian Collins, Darvel Rockets founder Alister Craig, the family of late Berwick Bandits rider Tom Blackwood, and by Coatbridge fan and collector Alex Weir.
John Houston, who runs the popular Coatbridge Speedway group on Facebook, told how the busy display – which also includes race suits, starting equipment and programmes among its attractions – is accompanied by some especially evocative effects.
He told Lanarkshire Live: “The exhibition includes the sound of bikes revving round the track and even a klaxon – the sounds are what made the atmosphere and really bring it all back.
“There’s footage of old races on the TV screens and interviews with the riders for people to see, and the vintage bikes are brilliant and a big attraction for people.
“It’s been popular and it’s been busy both with families visiting the museum, and with speedway fans who’ve made a special trip to see it, in some cases before going to a fixture at Ashfield.
“Fans have been great in coming forward to lend items to the exhibition and I don’t think I could pick a favourite; there are so many great photos and they’re brilliant to see. I was too young to have gone to speedway in Motherwell but these all really bring it to life.”
Eagles were based at Milton Street stadium in Motherwell during the 1950s and Coatbridge Monarchs at Cliftonhill stadium in the late 1960s.
The now-Glasgow Tigers were then at Cliftonhill from 1973 to 1976, moving to Blantyre’s Greyhound stadium the next year and Craighead Park from 1982-1987, followed by 11 years at Shawfield in Rutherglen from 1988.
John added: “It’s been great seeing people enjoying it, and I’ve seen some faces at the exhibition who I haven’t seen since going to races in the 1970s.
“The former riders are over the moon too with the reaction to people seeing all these items – I’m proud it’s telling the stories of speedway in Lanarkshire, and everybody who goes to the Memories group has played their part in it.”
Museum learning and access officer David McDonald, who helps lead the reminiscence group, told how it was inspired by the successful Football Memories project and has consistently grown the past five years.
He said: “We’d acquired a nice collection of memorabilia and photos so we asked if we could hold an exhibition – and I’m really proud of it because it’s been made by fans, for fans.
“Members of the group and fans from all over Scotland brought us programmes, badges and scarves, and former riders lent us bibs, leathers, helmets and bikes – Bert Harkins travelled up from Hertfordshire to bring us some items.
“You don’t need to know anything about the sport to enjoy it, and the group would actually love it if the exhibition brought some new fans to speedway.
“It’s given the Memories group something to work on during lockdown and I’m really happy with it as it’s bright, colourful and noisy, which I think is what we all need.”
Cinder Kings runs at Summerlee until October 31; admission is free but museum tickets must be pre-booked.
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