Harold Davies RIP
As creatures of habit, we all have favourite places to stand and watch or people to stand with at speedway. One of the great pleasures of traveling to tracks dotted around Britain to research and sell my books was some of the life-affirming lovely people I met doing so. Bristol Bulldogs and Swindon Robins fan and charming man Harold Davies was one of those lovely people I had the great good fortune to meet. A modest friendly observant & gentle man with reassuring accent to match, Harold had a curiosity about people and a love of life to go with his love of speedway. Time passed quickly and enjoyably stood next to Harold at Blunsdon watching the racing. All seemed and felt right with the world in his unassuming easy company.
Sadly, though Harold passed away this month (July 2018) whenever the bikes roar at Blunsdon that small section of the home straight concourse will remain forever his and gently reverberate in his memory, despite his physical absence. Rest in Peace Harold.
From Shale Trek
I set my table up in its traditional position at Blunsdon under the lee of the home-straight grandstand, adjacent to the yellow hash-marked floor that designates the fire escape access-way at the bottom of the steep stairs that lead down from the Legends’ Lounge, grandstand bar and toilets. My appearance invariably causes an outbreak of deep sighs and various small passive-aggressive acts of resistance from the old age pensioners who usually stand in this position every week and, quite rightly, resent the unannounced arrival of an unwanted interloper. Harold Davies (89) is the most personable of these veteran Swindon speedway fans. “My father took me to speedway when I was 10 years old! I worked for the BBC doing the Antiques Roadshow. I used to put the set up. I worked for them for 32 years. I’ve broken me hip when I tripped over a cable in the bedroom.” Harold is pictured in Quantum of Shale but questions my camerawork, “Why didn’t you take a photo of all of me?” Harold’s dad took him to see the speedway in Bristol. “It was the Bristol Bulldogs with Cordy Milne, Jack Milne, Lionel Van Praag – all the lot of them. They used to do leg-trailing, not foot forward like they do now! I watched Billy Hole and Johnny Hole after the war.” I question Harold to find out the secret of how he’s remained so alert and active, “Doing the job I was doing was the best job I ever had. I used to work at the chocolate factory when I was 14.”
From Bouquet of Shale
Over recent years, my book display at Blunsdon wouldn’t be complete without the presence of ex-Antiques Roadshow worker, Harold Davies (90). As usual, he arrives with Anthony Roberts (a.k.a. Rob) shortly before the rider parade and introductions. Because my display table temporarily occupies their regular viewing position we – in the spirit of speedway fans everywhere – amicably rub along together. Harold rummages inside his jacket pocket for his wallet and, for half a moment, I think he’s about to buy a book. Instead, as befits a proud Bristol Bulldogs fan, he takes out a clipping from the Letters page of the February 8th edition of the Bristol Times. “I’ve been keeping lots of clippings by my chair for you but you haven’t been here! When will you next be here? We go to the New Forest on the 17th.”
[ Jeff] “Will you be horse riding?”
Last year Harold needed two sticks to walk but, this year, he’s down to one. “Ho, ho! Not with my hip! It’s been a year now. It’s just getting a little bit better and now it’s the other one. I have some ointment but I don’t know if that will help? They’ve re-laid the track you know.”
[ Jeff] “Yes, I’d heard. Is it any better?”
[Harold] “I dunno! You should’ve seen the crash here last week. We went to Somerset and saw their captain [ Jason Lyons] go straight up in the air and his bike followed him. We saw an England and Australia match once where one rider swallowed his tongue. He never rode from that day till this. I forget his name. What’s this with Poole? It’s a carve-up! I reckon that Žagar wanted to come back here. Poole had pulled the eyes over the Control Bureau and they wouldn’t let us keep Žagar. It’s all wrong! He wanted to stay – he don’t want to ride there [Eastbourne]. They say he has what’s it – hay fever – but I don’t know. What’s this with Poole at Belle Vue? 50-40! Bristol used to do that when they were getting 5-1s all the time. No one wants to see that. They’ll make that up in no time [at Wimborne Road] and get a crowd to see it!”
…. Heat 10 sees Eagles Kling and Dryml surprisingly out-gate the master of Blunsdon, Leigh Adams. Their glory is short-lived since Adams scythes through them both on the back straight of the first lap. Absorbed by the action, Harold also ventures down memory lane, “My wife died in 2006. We emigrated to the US in the 1950s but my wife didn’t like it and we came back. Her sister was over there. New England. We only stayed a month so it was like a long holiday.”
[ Jeff] “When did you get married?”
[Harold] “It was the 12th June [eyes dance] 1947!”
…. Though he lives in Bristol, Harold won’t go to the Cardiff Grand Prix. “I went the first year but it was too noisy. I didn’t have any earplugs and I don’t like the indoor. Speedway should be outside. I didn’t like it so I didn’t go again. When the girl was singing, ugh! It’s better like this!” Harold waves proprietarily at the panoramic vista that is the Abbey Stadium home straight. Harold isn’t happy with the volume levels at Blunsdon either. “The music is too loud here I told them. You can hardly hear or have a conversation. I’d prefer to listen to ‘Red Sails in the Sunset’, bet you don’t know that?” I don’t so Harold gives his West Country accented rendition of the song.
[Jeff] “You should volunteer to sing on the centre green.”
[Harold] “Ha ha ha.”
[Jeff] “I’d come to see that.”
[Harold] “Lots of the old songs would be good.”
[Jeff] “It’s right for the demographic.”
From 26 Shades of Shale
Over recent years, any visit to Blunsdon isn’t complete without the presence of ex-Antiques Roadshow worker Harold Davis (91) and his friend Anthony Roberts (aka Rob) stood by my book display table. Tonight Rob’s here alone. “Harold has had a stroke and he lost the use of his leg and hand. He’s in Frenchay, it happened a couple of weeks ago. He’s gradually using his leg and his hand but, when you’re 91, it takes longer, doesn’t it? Would you like to sign his Get Well card?”