Home About Us Events Museum News Displays Artefacts Machines Rider's Profiles Tracks & Much More
The National Speedway Museum

Born in Halifax, England on the 26 April 1927 – Joined the Army in 1945 as there was a possibility that he would have to go down the mines as a Bevan boy and although in London on VE day he was posted to Germany to serve as a Motorcycle dispatch rider, like many other servicemen after hostilities ceased he rode speedway in Germany on tracks laid down for the purpose by the combined services and set up to entertain the troops; it seems he was a natural and rode for a year before entering the Army Championships, he came third. The reward for winning this Championship was a trial at Wembley, it seemed the young Eric was well on the way to grab this chance as he won the first three of his four heats unfortunately on the forth lap as he led the way out of bend four he hit a large hole and came of his bike and finished the contest with 9 points, the winner, Jimmy Gooch, had 11 points having lost a point because Eric had beaten him in the heat in which they met.

As luck would have it there was a soldier present who thinking the result was unfair offered to contact the promoter at his home track Birmingham, this he did the promoter being Les Marshall who was not only in charge of speedway at Birmingham Alexander Stadium but also Cradley Heath and Tamworth. Not surprisingly Mr Marshall was delighted to be informed about new talent and offered a trial to Eric. Now when riding in Germany they did not use purpose built speedway machines powered at the time by JAP 500cc engines they used whatever bike came to hand stripped down, in Eric’s case a 350cc Triumph, some of the bikes had parts manufactured for redundant army equipment.

The day of the trial dawned in November shortly after his return to the UK and took place at the Alexander venue, he was to ride the track spare machine, a full blown, JAP powered speedway machine, Eric had never ridden anything that powerful before and he took a few laps to get the feel but by the time he took it on to the track for his second go the Birmingham management had seen enough and offered him a contract. Eric now had a problem an exciting new career opening up before him but he still had Army time to serve; Mum to the rescue, a loan of £70 and Eric was able to buy himself out of the services.  

Having extricated himself from the Army, Eric took a winter job working for Mr Marshall and practising every week riding the JAP powered track spare. At the beginning of the 1950 season Eric was told that to start with he would be riding at Tamworth that had a team competing in the third division and known as the hounds and that Les Marshall would buy him a bike and leathers to be paid back by a taking it from his wage packet each week. As matters worked out he did three months with the Hounds before moving for the rest of the season to Cradley Heath, (Division Two)  where riding at 25 meetings for the Heathens he finished the season with a points average of over 6, not bad for your first year. At the end of 1950 Les Marshall said he did not want to continue running three speedway teams and that he was selling Cradley Heath, adding that he, Eric, and the Heathens captain Alan Hunt would be part of the Birmingham team for the 1951 season which meant that both would be riding in Division One and indeed became the close friends.   

Eric Bothroyd and Alan Hunt continued to ride in the same pairing for the Birmingham Brummies as they had at Cradley and it was said by many that they became one of the best partnerships in the league, (for those who are not aware, at the time a speedway team consists of seven members, two are called reserves although they are part of the team and often good riders and have rides assigned to them, three heat leaders, highest points scorers, numbered 1, 3 & 5 and two riders who are scoring a little less partner two of the top riders and have the numbers 2 & 4 - so Eric and Alan would have ridden 1 & 2 and as a pair to if possible win a heat by riding together as part of a team rather than as individuals.) Mind you Eric’s improvement saw him move up to becoming a team leader which would have split the paring but Eric seems to have benefited from his relationship with Alan both in friendship and support.

Birmingham held Eric’s contract for seven years and he rode at the Alexandra Stadium for the last five of these years, Birmingham promoter Les Marshall pulling the plug on racing by his team following a serious disagreement with the Speedway Control Board. During his period with this Birmingham promoter Eric went from fast learning novice to one of England’s best and qualified in 1956 for the Speedway World Final and during the same year was part of the England team riding in South Africa. Following the sad death of his friend and the teams captain Alan Hunt in a track  accident Eric became the team’s captain.

Bradford took over Birmingham’s remaining 1957 league fixtures and Eric meaning that he was working at a track just a short way from his Halifax home. Bradford Tudors had their last league meeting in 1958 when the venue opted for an Open licence for 1960. Eric accepted an offer from Ted Flanagan, promoter at Oxford and became the captain for the Oxford Cheetahs. Although happy at the track it proved a long way from home it taking him five hours each way in his Morris Minor towing the bike on it’s trailer.

Eric let it be known that he would very much like to join Belle Vue but was told they were not in need of another top rider so Eric joined Leicester but things did not go well there and a disagreement about the clubs servicing of his engines lead to his being asked to leave, the management changed their mind and asked that he came back but you just don’t treat a Yorkshire man like that and Eric refused to return. Instead, Eric decided to repairing motorcycles in Halifax initially in his own right and then as a workshop manager seemingly turning his back on riding however when a call came out of the blue from Ted Flanagan explaining to Eric that they were desperate for a rider, Eric said he had a good job he was happy with but had Thursdays off, OK, said Ted, come and ride for me on Thursday – Eric explained that he could not do away meetings so that was the agreement reached.

The following year Leicester said he could not ride for anyone but them, Eric sticking to his Yorkshire man’s principles, said no. That, could well have been the end of Eric’s speedway career but when Middlesbrough re-opened in 1961 he was invited to join the re-launched Bears, Eric said he would be happy to but Leicester wouldn’t release him. Middlesbrough’s Mike Parker said leave it to him and a few days later he told Eric he had bought him for £150, so Eric started to practice and joined the team as captain.  

During his time out of speedway Eric and his partner Bonnie had opened two greengrocery shops so when it was decided to move the Middlesbrough race night from Thursday to Friday this caused a problem for Eric as Friday was the day they delivered the greengroceries – he had a word with promoter Reg Fearman, who also ran Long Eaton so it was arranged that he and Bluey Scott should change places. Both Middlesbrough and Long Eaton were in the Provincial League and Eric says this was the happiest time of his life that is apart from a serious accident he had whilst captaining for England against Scotland at Sheffield in 1964, the incident involved Australian Charlie Monk, riding for Scotland because he rode at Glasgow, who lost control of his machine right in front of Eric who unable to avoid ran straight into the bike and sustained a broken pelvis – serious enough at any stage of life but Eric was approaching 40 years and it is not surprising to hear that retirement was very much an option. Eric paints an interesting picture of him lying in his hospital bed with Reg Fearman on one side saying I am opening the Halifax track and entering a team next year and you simply can’t turn down an opportunity like that and his wife Bonnie on the other insisting that 16 years was enough and it was time to retire. At this stage Eric was 38 years old but it seems the idea of riding for his home team was too strong to resist and he agreed to a month’s trial as captain for the Halifax Dukes in the amalgamated National and Provincial Leagues now called the British League.

The recently repaired Eric was undoubtedly still in very good form and the points averaged over his last four years spent with Halifax was 8.40 peaking in 1966 at 9.25. This year must really be thought of as the pinnacle of Eric’s riding career because it was this year that he captained the Halifax Dukes to the League title and on top of that they won the KO Cup and Northern League Eric Boothroyd truly a team man.

1966 proved an exhausting year for the Boothroyds, Eric captain of the Dukes and acting as promoter of the re-opened Middlesbrough for Mike Parker who had taken an open licence on the track, this left Bonnie running both the shops on her own. They decided something had to give so they sold both shops in 1967.  

Eric retired from riding at the end of the 1968 season at the age of 41 still scoring well and feeling fit, he and his wife Bonnie promptly joined Reg Fearman and his wife Joan in the promotion of Halifax speedway taking over when the Fearmans moved to Berkshire so by the 1970s he and his wife were in total charge of the Dukes and were still there 18 years later when the team and management moved to Bradford ready for the 1986 season. Eric retired from promotion in 1991.

Eric Boothroyd was an out and out speedway man, not just riding and promoting but fully involving himself in the background work required for any sport to run, although it is sometimes an uncomfortable place to be someone has to do it and Eric never shirked when asked to become involved.

1984 he became the Chairman of the British Speedway Promoters Association.

1990 he prepared the track for the World final receiving credit for a good nights racing. Following this he was appointed the BSPA Track Commissioner, his job to ensure that other tracks around the country were up to the standard he had achieved.

1990 President of the World Speedway Riders’ Association (formally the Veteran Speedway Riders’ Association) this highly regarded pasts master is still a member and long may he remain so.

Eric Boothroyd

by Jackie Hodkinson
from information received from Eric Boothroyd

Photographs kindly supplied by John Somerville

Return to Riders' Profile