Thursday, 29 July 2010

Ommer Um!

The first live speedway I ever saw was in about 1975 at Dudley Wood stadium, home to the Cradley Heathens from 1947 till 1995.

Cradley was a great team operating in the heart of England's Black Country, an area to the west and north of Birmingham so-named because of its long tradition in the relatively mucky industries of iron, steel and coal mining. The town itself is called Cradley Heath (not to be confused with nearby Cradley, the towns having a decided but 'amicable' rivalry) and was especially famous for chain and nail-making, much of which was carried out into the early 20th century by women in their own back yards. This history of forge-work in the area inspired the team's oft-used hammer logo and the war cry 'Ommer Um' (hammer them).

The Heathens were hugely successful and had ardent supporters who'd turn out to what was a pretty basic stadium to cheer on superstars such as Billy Hamill, Greg Hancock, Jan O Pedersen, Erik Gundersen, Anders Michanek and Californian glamour boy Bruce Penhall (see Sideburn #4). The list could go on...

However, at the end of the 1995 season the Heathens were forced to leave their home of almost 50 years thanks to the owners wanting to sell the land for housing. They struggled on for a year as an itinerant club, but it had to end. The good news is that this season the club has been revived under the name Dudley Heathens who entered the National League, where they're currently sitting in second place. It's great news, but the fight goes on to find a new home and in the meantime, 'home' fixtures are run alternately at Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Not ideal, but a start.

The club deserves all the support it can get and I'd love to see the Heathens racing again back where they belong. It's a team with a great history in an area of the country that truly loves its speedway. MP


Sideburn Magazine said...

Mick I'm sure our readers would appreciate an archive photo of what you looked like in 1975; big wooden rattle and tea thermos in hand.

grant said...

im from long eaton....and they are just starting to build houses on our track now!

BlackCountryBiker said...

Hey Mick, we probably stood in the pork sandwich queue together! I'll never forget the toilets at Cradley Heath speedway, there was no roof so when you went for a piss in the rain it just looked like you wet yourself when you came outagain! Bizzare fact... Cradley Heath speedway was actually in Dudley Wood, so back in 1975 the stadium was even in a different county as Cradley was in Staffordshire and Dudley was in Worcestershire.

Anonymous said...

fingers crossed they can find a track.
boston are in the same boat.
fuck the mewling, hand wringing, nimbies, lets make some fucking noise!!!.

Tom said...

I use to work in Dudley dealing with derelict land and there are plenty of sites that aren't suitable for housing. But I suppose the biggest problem is nimby neighbour nuisance when building a new speedway track.
The sound of a speedway meeting echoing across town is something I miss about living in Wolverhampton!

PS Chain makers were considered to be quite skilled and far superior to lowly nail makers. When they cleared the chain and nail making slums and built new council housing the two estates built were the Wrens Nest for the nail makers and the Priory for the chain makers and they are worlds apart and the difference is startling.