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Jack Parker

Jack Parker was born in Birmingham, England 1907. Like so many young men of the period he was drawn to things mechanical and worked I believe for BSA in their development and research department although I do not know if his work was as an engineer or a test rider or possible both because he was later to be seen riding for BSA at both trials and the Isle of Man TT races.

When dirt track racing began to be seen in England in the late 1920s it seems that Jack was one of those sporting motorcyclists who tried their hand at this up and coming entertaining sport. He is known to have taken part in a meeting at High Beech early in 1928 where he was encouraged by those who were promoting the sport to take it up. At the time if you were any good you could win a considerable amount of money and there is no doubt Jack Parker was good.

As was common at the time the dirt-track riders would ride to the meeting on their bike, strip it down, race and then rebuild to ride it home, so I would think that Jack would be no exception in this but he was soon to be seen riding a ‘special’ dirt-track BSA as his employers quickly caught on to the possibilities of this new motorcycle sport.

During this early period the riders were moving round the county racing as often as possible at open meetings and if they were talented enough to win were able to devote themselves full time to riding which is what Jack seems to have done as in 1929 he joined one of the newly formed teams, Coventry Bees, who raced in the Southern League at the Foleshill Stadium he also changed his BSA for a Douglas. He was the Bees Captain and the team finished third in that year although the team did not do so well in the following years. Jack however moved to Southampton in 1931, whilst there he won the title of British Individual Champion in a challenge with Vic Huxley and during the same year he Captained England and set, for the first time, the British Mile Speed Record. In 1932 Southampton became Clapton relocating to Lea Bridge to be part of the new National League, Jack relocated with them, he also Captained the England team at three test matches during that year.

Despite breaking his leg late on in the 1933 season he topped the league averages. The Clapton team on the move again this time relocated to Harringay in 1934 again along with Captain Jack Parker where he was joined by brother Norman. When World War II ended and league racing began again he joined Belle Vue Aces, he was British Champion in 1947 and although he never managed to win the World Championship he was runner up in 1949 and held the title of Match Race Champion through most of the latter half on the 1940s.

To many, Jack Parker was the archetypal speedway rider, known as the Champion of Champions he was a definitive team captain both for his teams and his country riding in a total of 96 test matches, leading many international tours. In those days teams travelled to the various countries by ship and it was whilst relaxing on those journeys that the laid back, pipe smoking, Jack Parker showed his true character, a fun loving good sport, a side that was never really evident when he was busy concentrating on the job in hand.

Celebrated for his match racing skills he won so many Championship Golden Helmets they became known throughout the sport as ‘Parker’s Pension’. Jack was seriously injured in a car crash that happened in Australia when he was racing over there in the UK closed season of 1951 - 1952 and he never managed to return to his previous form deciding to retire from riding in 1954.

Although he did not ride again, well at least not on the track he remained involved with speedway in many other ways including being a member of the World Speedway Riders’ Association, Jack died in 1990 at the age of 84.

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We are indebted to John Somerville for the photographs and his permission to use them.

By Jackie Hodkinson