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Born in July 1910 a true Londoner, a native of Bow, started his ‘professional Dirt-track’ career in the late 1920’s – well I say profession but it was probably more a case of earning as much prize money as possible. At the end of the 1920’s excellent amounts of money could be won, quite a modest win would see you taking home something like £50 from a meeting and most young men could, at that time, ride at an open meeting on both Saturday and Sunday and with luck that would mean for a weekends successful racing earnings of up to £100 (at today’s prices that is £5,000.)  Remembering the average earnings would have been in the region of £4 per week for a male, you really did not need to win very often to make a good living. There would, of course, have been those who won and those who did not and one assumes that the unsuccessful soon fell but the wayside but those with talent would go from strength to strength.

And the young Phil was one of the successful, riding for the Lea Bridge Saints (East London) in 1929 and becoming the Captain of High Beech track in 1930 where he would be paid a retainer as well as his prize money. In 1932 Phil Bishop moved to Southampton Saints, briefly before the whole Southampton team moved to London to become the Clapton Saints for the rest of 1932 and staying with them until the end of the 1933 season. Still retaining his desire to ride in the London area he joined Harringay Tigers for the years 1934/35 before moving to West Ham Hammers for the years 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1939.

At this point, like everyone else in the UK and most of the World, careers are put on hold and everyone, who could, set about dealing with the threats of World War II.

When Speedway racing began again in 1946, Phil was back in the saddle initially spending a year with New Cross Rangers, before picking up where he left off at the start of the war re-joining the West Ham Hammers for the next two seasons. In 1949 he moved back down to Southampton and rode from them for that season and the next 1950. However Phil could not regain his pre-war success and took himself off to the continent to ride for a number of years only returning to the UK to ride for one meeting for Southampton in 1955 before returning to mainland Europe until 1959 when he returned and rode, again just for one meeting, at Belle Vue.

After this he decided he was not up to regular league racing and chose to do a number of second half Challenges at New Cross in 1963. He rode for England on a few occasions but for all his riding life he was prone to injury gaining the nickname of ‘ King of Crash’. Falling off may entertain the crowds particularly if you are otherwise a good team member but it takes a heavy toll on the body.

1965 he was the President of the Veteran Speedway Riders’ Association and in 1966 he moved over to management becoming the manager for his old team West Ham Hammers

It was as the manager of West Ham that he organised a riding trip to Holland for the team, the trip consisted of two meetings one at Tilburg and the other Amsterdam, after the meetings the team was on its way back to Ostend to catch the ferry when the Mini Bus they were travelling in was involved in an accident of horrific proportions, Phil Bishop was killed along with four others and a number were very badly injured.  This occurred on the 14th July 1970 – Phil was just 60.

Phil Bishop -  President 1965
the fourth in the history of the Association.

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