Dave ‘Rat’ Rattenberry – RIP
Known and recognised by huge numbers of people throughout the British Speedway community because of his extensive speedway merchandise trackshop empire (as well as being Europewide & further afield for his football ground hopping activities), sadly Dave ‘Rat’ Rattenberry has left us all too suddenly and, at 68, far too soon.
Always happy to meet or briefly encounter people (& then not remember them but recall what made them tick), Dave was an interested, keen and perceptive student of human nature as well as a thoughtful observer. Naturally entrepreneurial (and a keen negotiator or controller of costs), Dave worked hard, knew the value of money, accidental forgetfulness and rewards of success but also really enjoyed life (his and seeing that of others). He had had a close relationship with his mother that made him gregarious and personable as well as left him at home in who he was, wherever he was. Studiously without airs and graces – and proud of it – Dave’s curiosity about people drew many into his orbit. Blessed with an easy fluency with language, Dave always knew more than he let on or how he presented himself to the world. Dave could see foibles but knew discretion and, though very well able to look after and stand up for himself, knew the power of diplomacy and the time for careful words. Dave relished his hobbies and had an understated but effortlessly encyclopedic knowledge (people, places, grounds, stadiums, players, riders, team, merchandise, places to stay, places to eat(!), where he’d been and ways to get there).
The rich tapestry of the speedway community as plays itself out at each and every speedway meeting in Britain is both unique and similar. It is a rich mix of many threads bound together making the whole more than the sum of its parts. The interconnected circles of the Venn Diagram of Dave’s working life in speedway touched many. Dave will be missed and his many threads (not just those he made!) will continue to be remembered affectionately. Rest in Peace Rat.
Dave appeared in all my books. Here are some brief snippets that kinda catch Dave Rat as he was out in the wild:
(from Shale Trek)
Round at the trackshop, Bill, John and Rat stand ready for the turnstiles to open behind their perfectly set out stall. The cornucopia of Wolverhampton speedway merchandise on offer should cater for every need, age group and pocket. Dave Rattenberry even has an impressive display of the mugs with the peculiar colour photo resolution that in many ways is his trademark. On some of them, PK looks like he’s suffered some sort of terrible poisoning that’s caused his skin to go orange while on another his face is so red you could half suspect he’d been horrifically burnt in some form of hushed-up tanning salon accident. Ever the salesman, John Rich concedes, “They shouldn’t be red, they should be gold!”
(from Bouquet of Shale)
Since I know Dave is a football ground hopper, I’m suddenly keen to establish exactly how many grounds he’s been to. The answer is 3,268 grounds! When I jokingly ask, “What? Approximately?” missing the ‘humour’ Dave replies, “No, that’s dead on!”
Dave Rattenberry’s taken a night off from masterminding his extensive and lucrative trackshop empire to savour the thrills of this Monarchs versus Brummies Premier League clash. Some could suspect that he’s been sent under cover as a secret shopper. Thirty minutes before the rider parade, Rat eats a cheeseburger with gusto. He returns to the burger van 15 minutes later to savour-cum-wolf-down the chips that he’d earlier denied himself. It’s not long until Rat joins us on the terracing to eat some fudge.
Dave Rattenberry studies the second 125cc Support Races – once again featuring careful bends and exhilaratingly speedy straights. After the riders finish, Rat enquires, “What age are these?” Since it’s the Under-15 Championships, I can’t resist replying, “I’m guessing – under 15!” It’s news that only confirms Dave’s opinion, “I know! They’re only children, they’re all only children!”
If there was a competition for the most exotic mobile phone call of the afternoon, then Dave Rattenberry wins hands down. “You’ll never guess who that was? [pause] Ivan Mauger – he wants me to sell his book! John Rich rings me up right [from Stoke where he’s on duty in the trackshop] and he says ‘There’s a man here who’s got some Ivan Mauger books – do you want to speak to him?’ He puts him on and the man says ‘It’s Ivan Mauger here!’ John didn’t even know it was Ivan!”
I lose track of the conversation during Dave Rattenberry’s explanation of the best route from Buxton to the M6 motorway. He warns about speed cameras and also the overzealous policing that you can apparently expect in Staffordshire. “George Andrews got done last year for eating a banana in his car! It was front page news in Stoke!”
Bill Gimbeth and Dave Rattenberry are again out and about on yet another speedway tour together to see key meetings (and share a room afterwards). Dave survives the arduous trek from the substantial grassy parking area outside Shielfield Park but continues to clutch his emergency rations of a half-eaten pork pie. He swiftly transfers this to his pocket for later when he spots how short the queue is at the refreshment kiosk. It’s been a hard season to run a trackshop even if you have the array of merchandise Rat displays throughout his empire. “It’s hard, it’s flipping horrendously hard this year! Last night, John [Rich] took £100 at Scunny. I don’t pay any rent for the Conference League but there’s still the petrol and paying John out of that!” Should Dave’s burger come without enough relish, luckily he’s already taken an onion from his pocket.
(from 26 Shades of Shale)
Carefully picking his way back from the catering facility to his trackshop lair via a crowd bottleneck, Dave Rattenberry gets hit by shale as the riders roar into the first corner at the start of heat 7. With the rapidity of eye movement that sets apart predators from prey in the wild, Rat checks his chips for impromptu additional flavour. While he devours his mid-meeting snack with great gusto, Rat asks, “What have you written about me this time?”