The charming and friendly Irene Best has sadly passed away. Proud to be from Newcastle and even prouder of Newcastle Speedway, Irene typified the warm welcome you receive in the speedway office portacabin at Newcastle Stadium (aka Brough Park). Even more importantly, her love and dedication to the sport typifies the unassuming modesty of so many speedway fans who genuinely respect the handlebar heroes who thrill them and enjoy to the full the sense of belonging and community that the sport engenders. She’ll be sadly missed by many people.
From Concrete for Breakfast
In the passageway outside the speedway office is the small kitchen manned by volunteer Mrs Irene Best who looks after one of the key tasks at the club – making the tea and coffee! Traditionally, you’ve barely arrived in the building before she kindly enquires if you’d like any refreshment. “I’m a lifelong supporter of Newcastle Speedway. I came along as a child before the War – I can’t really remember it. It must be raining the way that phone keeps ringing off the hook! I just took to it – I lived locally at the bottom of Fosse Way. There was the war in 1939 and in 1946-47 we had Ken Le Breton – the White Ghost. My husband was more into grass tracking. I’ve never followed any other sport. Of course, our only child has come all his life and doesn’t know any other. He’s a man of 46-47 now, Robbie – he’s the Track Manager. Of course a lot of people give him a lot of help, I mean my son works full time as well as doing that. Monday was always our race night. The promoter I remember the most was Johnny Hoskins in the 1940s and 50s. I’ve seen some good riders come and go over the years. In the 60s there was Mauger. Of course we had the young Kenny Carter – we had Ole Olsen and Anders Michanek. All told we’ve had six or seven World Champions. Apart from my family, it’s my one and only love! And I’ve made some good friendships over the years. And the Owen family – Tom Owen, not Joe, is my favourite all-time rider. He’s a gentleman – and still keeping in touch with me!” At that moment we’re interrupted from our brief trip down memory lane by the arrival of one part of the club presentation team (and club Finance Director), Andrew Dalby, and also by George English who happens to open the door of his office at that moment. “Ee, George, the place is crawling with Sunderland fans! What’s happening here?” George rolls with the punches in life and speedway, so a few more Sunderland fans is just something you have to take in your stride, “I can’t blame him he doesn’t live here but this one [Andrew] does!”
From Quantum of Shale
In the small kitchen directly outside the door of the speedway office, Irene Best is notable by her absence, not least because she oils the wheels of a successful meeting with an endless supply of cups of tea and coffee. Her son Robbie is the track curator at the club and rejoices in the grandiose title of Circuit Manager in the club programme. Later, I bump into Irene who, for the first time as long as she can remember, has had to miss some Diamonds meetings at Brough Park because of a bad back, “I can’t remember when I last missed two meetings! We’ve had some great riders here…..[pause] Did you see the World Team Cup? It was like seeing the Danish Diamonds – Kenneth Bjerre, Bjarne Pedersen and Nicki Pedersen all started here!”