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December 23, 1929 – October 10, 2011

One of the most under-rated of England’s major talents, Ron How, died aged 81 after a long and brave battle with prostate cancer.

From a self-confessed peasant farming family in Little Missenden, Buskinghamshire, he rose to be world class during a speedway career that lasted for 15 years spanning the Fifties and sixties. One of the many tributes to Ron How came from four times World Champion Barry Briggs, a rival while Ron was at Harringay and a team mate of his with Ronnie Moore, at Wimbledon ‘it’s really sad’ said Barry ‘His record doesn’t really show how good he was as a rider. He was hard but fair, an all-round good bloke. ‘I’m sure Ove (Fundin) feared racing Howie more than he did us, he was an out-and-out trier. His ready laugh will be sorely missed’.

Ove says; ‘Barry is right, Ron How was just about the only rider I did fear. Of course I am sad that Ron has left us, I last saw him about five years ago. We had a beer and talked about the old days like any friends.’

Ron’s way to the stars was by the old fashioned’ route. There was a trip to see the Wembley Lions just after the end of the war, and he took to riding on the local grass tracks after watching racing in a field behind the Crown pub where he was later to become landlord.

In 1949 he was invited for a speedway trial by Harringay at Rye House, which the big London tracks then used as a training academy.  Junior outings followed in the second half of meetings at the glamorous Green Lanes stadium in North London, and that was it.

Speedway brought him a completely different way of life. Compared with what speedway riders can earn today, it appears meagre, but to Ron it probably seemed he’d found the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow.

‘When I started I got £1 a point and £1 a start’ he said ‘If you worked you’d get maybe three bob (15p) an hour, £1.20 a day. I’d go to a meeting and earn as much in a night’s racing as some people would be earning in a month. You could be racing in London five nights a week’.

Ron never lost his place in the Harringay side, which included such greats as split Waterman, Jack Biggs, Jeff Lloyd and the young Olle Nygren.

In only his second season he qualified for the first of his eight World Finals – which was remarkable because of his eight of the 16 finalists were also there for the first time; Ron, Arthur Forrest, Derek Close, Bob Oakley, Brian Crutcher, Dick Bradley plus Henry Long, the first South African, and Dan Forsberg, the first Swede, to reach Wembley.

After Harringay closed at the end of the 1950 season he was snapped up by Wimbledon and with Moore and Briggs they became almost invincible, the Dons winning league titles on seven occasions to rival the great Belle Vue and Wembley teams.

When Brian Crutcher decided he’d had enough of Speedway in 1960 Ron became England’s number 2 behind Peter Craven, and his position at the top was justified with an amazingly consistent average of more than nine point a match for seven years between 1958 and 1964.

But his luck ran out in 1060 in the first World Team Cup final. ‘I don’t remember much,’ said Ron, ‘except that I broke my back in the first one at Gothenburg and it cost me my place in that year’ World Final.’

Ron’s best World Championship was in 1964, again at Gothenburh when he was sixth. Above him was the quality of Briggs, Fundin and Knutsson of Sweden and the Russians Igor Plechanow and Boris Samorodov.

At the start of 1964 Ron asked for, and got, a transfer from Wimbledon. He went to Oxford and inspired the team to a unique National League, National Trophy and Britannia Shield treble. He remained one of the world’s best riders until at the age of 35 he crashed in a Test against the Soviet Union at Wimbledon in July 1965 and suffered a serious shoulder injury.

His name first appeared in the World Rankings in 1958 at number 14. And every year since he hovered around the middle of the Top 20 list. Finally, in 1965 he was ranked number 7, again with only other world class names such as Briggs, Fundin, Knutsson, Plechanov, Somorodov and Sweden’s Gote Nordin above him.

Oxford supporter John Fray, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, remembers; ‘Ron was an exceptional rider. His team riding with Jimmy Gooch was a joy to watch’.

Bob Andrews, wrote from New Zealand; ‘I raced with Ron How at Wimbledon. A great mate, always ready to help. A hard rider by fair, He had a lot of bad luck with his motors at one stage. He was a real headache to the likes of Ove Fundin and Peter Craven. As a teenager I watched him progress from a novice while I was a supporter at Harringay. A great man, I wish all riders could have been like him’.

Reg Fearman, former rider and administrator paid this tribute: ‘Ron was a very hard rider and didn’t take prisoners!! He was not serious enough about his speedway or he could have gone a lot further than he did, but he flew the England flag with great pride when called upon to do so’.

Ron was a World Finalist eight times, a World Team Cup Finalist four times, there were seven league championship medals, five National Trophy wins, he appeared 44 time for England scoring 371 points and 12 times for Great Britain scoring 101 points. He was nominated to challenge Ove Fundin twice for the British Golden Helmet Match Race Championship but lost bath times.

Ron How By John Chaplin Back to Riders' Profile

The Mike Kemp Collection

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