Okeford Otters Cycle Speedway Team
The Western Gazette announced in May 1952:
“Child Okeford Cycle Speedway.
The new cycle speedway track on the playing field was officially opened on the occasion of the first home match of the season, a Shaftesbury and District league match the visitors being Woodcutts “Woodpeckers”. The first race was then started by Mrs ? M. Cousins, wife of the Club President using the new mechanical starting gate. The match ended in a draw, Okeford Otters 41 points, Woodcutts ”Woodpeckers” 41 points.”
We are indebted to Cyril White for his comprehensive articles about “Okeford Otters” which were first published in “The Hill” in September and October 2016 and are reproduced here.
“At the end of the 1940s to the beginning of the 1950s, Child Okeford formed a cycle speedway club, some two years from conception; this was because so many objected to our track being sited in the playing field. One of our biggest supporters was Mr Adams of the Union Arms. He had a lot of sway regarding the playing field. I have some recollection this was because he had given to the village one of the fields that made up the playing field – before it was two fields with a hedge running through the centre.
Our track was in the far right corner. Any further down it would have been in the next field. We had to dig it out down to the hard standing, back filling with ash to form the track. The cinders came from the brickworks in Okeford Fitzpaine.
We needed a starting gate – this was two tapes that ran from side to side. The secret was to release both sides at the same time. Blandford Bats had theirs made by the cooper in Blandford Brewery so they were favourite to make ours. It was powered by catapult elastic. We were never going to run out of this as Mr Moon sold it in his shop. Yes, you’ve guessed it – for making catapults!
Before we could start everyone’s bicycles had to have the same gear ratio. This was 47 to 48 teeth on the pedal sprocket, 24 on the back wheel, knobbly tyres front and back. Sounds easy now but mountain bicycles hadn’t been thought of in the 1950s. The name of our team was Okeford Otters, each bike painted light blue – Reg Pride sold the paint in small tins.
Each meeting had a programme printed by a Mr Clark in Sturminster Newton. I have three, all dating around 1952. They all make for interesting reading, quite a few participants no longer with us, most of the rest into their 80s like me.
Hard to believe now, but cycle speedway only lasted less than 10 years, so many have fond memories going back to the start. The secret to the excitement was each meeting had 25-30 heats all making a winner every time. Not many sports have this.
The club needed marshals and many helpers. Mr Pride ran the starting gate, his wife selling the programmes. Mrs Curtis from the shop and Mrs Martin went around the spectators with collecting tins. We had two self-appointed medics – Sam, and his brother Clarence, White-Rogers. They would station themselves each end of the track, almost running out before you fell off. Ray Wingrove supplied the electricity from his home to run all four floodlights so you can see what a well run speedway club Okeford Otters was.
Most weeks we had a match away needing a 52 seater bus to take the team plus our spectators. This would be about 20 riders, the rest were young girls of our age – they came from Okeford Fitzpaine, Child Okeford, Shroton, in fact all around.
Nigel Curtis was like a candle attracting moths and had a girl in every village. By this time I had bought a motorbike to go to work on – a BSA Bantam – so off we went to Blandford Carnival and spent most of the time hiding from or other girl.
The club’s demise came with National Service. Every young man between 17-18 got called to serve for two years. Both Nigel and me had a five year apprenticeship to complete so we both got deferred.”
The parish council minutes for December 1958 records:
“In reply to a question about the Speedway Club, Mr. Pride replied that there was now no interest in this Club’s activities.”