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The National Speedway Museum
Reg Trott an interview by
 Darrell Mason

The best part of any interview, is when one gets the opportunity to speak with someone, who over the years, you have long admired as a person, without eve fully utilising that opportunity, that was….until now! Let me explain further to clarify the situation, As a child growing up in the 1950’s, there was a relatively unknown junior speedway rider who was attached to my local club, Wimbledon, who eventually went on to become an England international before he retired from riding, and took to being a referee within the sport in the early seventies. I am therefore pleased to report that these days that very same person lives happily in retirement with his lovely wife Jill in Ewell, Surrey, barely four laps away from his birthplace of Chessington, on January 2nd 1932.

The man in question will be very familiar to many fans and speedway officials alike of that era, as the subject of my interview was none other than Reg Trott, whose looks today are not dissimilar to those of when he was riding. However it is still hard to believe it was over 50 years ago when the then middle-twenties “Trotty”, as he was then called, was wearing the famous red and yellow for the Wimbledon Dons, Strange isn’t it, but how time flies! Reg went on to gain international recognition by riding for England but despite this would be the first to admit he certainly was not one of the sport’s superstars, simply an honest to goodness middle-order rider, but at the same time a very important member to any team. In fact riders of Reg’s ilk were good to have around, especially in a emergency should it be really necessary, for he was often referred to as Mr. Reliable.

My opening question was to ask where and why he began riding speedway, and why, to which he replied, “I started off as a young teenager riding as a novice in 1949 at the old Rye House training track in the pre-Len Silver days”, he said. “My farther used to take me on the train to Hoddesdon, as I was still of an age too young to drive a car, until eventually, Ronnie Greene, the promoter at my local speedway club, Wimbledon, offered me the chance of a few second half rides, until he believed I had progressed sufficiently enough to warrant rides in the Wimbledon side along with the likes of the late Norman Parker and also the late Cyril Brine as well a New Zealander, Ronnie Moore, Geoff Mardon and Barry Briggs, so yes, they were great times back then, and I can count myself very fortunate to have ridden with such great riders, as indeed they were”.

Referring to his early career, Reg gave a beaming smile when replying to my second question as to could he name his favourite rider of all time. “Yes”, he said in an instant, “there can only ever be the one”, he exclaimed. “Mirac!”, naming Ronnie Moore, his Wimbledon captain of that time, for not only was Ronnie his favourite rider out of the countless hundreds, possibly thousands, he rode with, or against, during his 20-odd years riding career. He continued on by adding, “Ronnie was totally unselfish, a great team man, who always put his team mates first, rather than pursue the personal glory of winning all of his races, so much so he was only interested in shepherding a team partner home for a possible 5-1 Wimbledon maximum race win, but that was just typical of him as a person, team mates first, himself second. He was undoubtedly the greatest team-rider this sport has ever witnessed, or is ever likely to see, so I doubt there will ever be anyone better. People talk about legends, well Ronnie is one such who can rightfully be referred to in that vein. He was a real hero of mine, and countless others, and still is to this day. He was quite simply, speedway’s greatest team –rider of all time, and I feel certain that if there was a straw poll taken amongst fans and riders from the past 50 years they too would endorse my words for he was, quite simply, and without question, the sport’s greatest. Ronnie’s name should be up there in lights at the very top, and today if he, as a fellow WSRA member, were to read the report of this interview, I only hope it makes him feel rightfully proud, none more so than me, for not only was he such a great rider, but a fantastic person also, in addition to being the perfect gentleman to know, both on and off the track, so I can honestly say I feel very privileged to call him a great friend to this day”.  (IT WAS MY PLEASURE ALSO, REG, AND TO DO SO!) I must also admit I support every word of what Reg has said about the great man of speedway!

As Reg progressed from the experience he gained thanks to his captain’s tutoring.  Over the next couple of decades, he himself went on to bigger and better things, such as the time when he won the prestigious Irish Open Championship in Dublin at Shelbourne Park, after a run-off with Split Waterman, when they both tied on 13 points apiece, ahead of a field which also included of all people, Ronnie Moore (Oops!), in addition to Barry Briggs and the late Peter Craven. But it wasn’t too long after winning the Irish Open, that racing at Shelbourne Park eventually ceased, never to return, so in effect Reg’s individual success may well have been the last such speedway open meeting to be held at Shelbourne Park, or even in the Emerald Isles, but he wasn’t sure. “I used to ride at Shelbourne Park most Sundays for the Shelbourne Tigers, but usually in team meetings, so I was particularly saddened when speedway stopped and the Tigers were then disbanded”, he added. “Riding for the Shelbourne Tigers made for a great weekend away, not like nowadays with the various British Elite League riders riding in Sweden and Poland as often as two or three times every week. My speedway riding career saw me taking part at meetings in Russia, Denmark and Norway, in addition to Poland, Sweden, and of course Ireland, but, unlike today, when the riders simply fly in and out of countries within 24 hours, in my day it very often involved hundreds of miles of travelling and driving through the night, before boarding the nearest and first available ferry, until many times it got me thinking, until I finally realised I had had enough, so that when I arrived in a country to ride, I was completely worn out after such a long, and often hazardous, journey, but I suppose today ,with the riders flying off to the continent for a meeting in either Sweden or Poland, it is called progress and good luck to them, if that is what they really enjoy, but all that travelling is still very tiring, I guess at the same time they must be earning some very good money”

Reg then told me about his first decision to finish with the sport in a riding capacity in 1966, before being persuaded back to racing after a three year absence to join Eastbourne in 1969 for three more seasons. “Quite simply I had had enough, but that was until Dave Lanning contacted me to ask me to give it another go, so I joined the Eastbourne Eagles and Loved my time at Arlington, as there was always something going on, including yours truly riding around the Eastbourne track on a penny farthing bicycle! Great fun, but also very tiring I also remember, though I don’t actually know, because nobody has told me, but I may still be the penny farthing track record holder there!”  he said, jokingly. Can anyone possibly elaborate on that?

“By the time I finally packed up for the second time, in 1972 I was 40” he said, “so decided to get out whilst I was still in one piece, though I must confess I really enjoyed my time at Arlington riding for the Eagles, but there came a period when I had to look to the future as, injury wise, I was just thankful there didn’t appear to be too many serious wounds or scars from my years of riding” said Reg (he later found out differently to his cost!), “so I though about it long and hard before coming to my decision to quit the sport once and for all. Many things crossed my mind, it got me thinking back to a particular tragedy to that of one of my former Wimbledon team mates, Ernie Roccio, who was killed in a track accident in 1953 at Custom House, home of our East London rivals, West Ham, Ernie paid the ultimate price in his love for the sport, so that is what helped to make up my mind, for I knew there and then I had had enough and that it was time for me to call a halt to active speedway as a rider, only this time permanently. I just know it was time for me to finish, with no going back as I did before and, do you know, it was a decision I never once regretted making even though I did have another challenge up my sleeve, as I still wanted to take up a job within the sport, but this time on the safer side of the fence, as a referee, even though then I had a few anxious moments, when some of the decisions I made, seemed to upset some promoters and riders, so you see referees are not ogres, but human after all!”

As I have already mentioned, Reg looks very well for his 75 years, even though he suffers pain each time he attempts to stand up. “I have arthritis and have had to have a knee joint-replacement, in addition to a hip-replacement”, he said “so I suppose it goes with the territory of having ridden speedway, after all I doubt the sport would survive if it never had rider-replacement, so why not knee and hip-replacements too!”

Reg’s riding career details reads as follows: Wimbledon, 1949-57, until he joined Oxford for a short loan period; Norwich, 1957-64; West Ham 1964-66; Reg then retired in 1969 until he finally hung up his leathers permanently in 1972.

Darrell Mason 2007

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