Arguably the sport of Speedway in the UK was once far more popular than football — at least until the sixties — with spectator gates much higher than some football clubs would achieve today. In the thirties Tom Farndon, who some regard as the greatest speedway rider ever, had achieved the level of public stardom that it took a certain David Beckham to emulate many decades later.
Over the years it has produced many world champions from the UK and still does even through its popularity has regrettably waned. Amongst the list of notables is a certain Freddie Williams, who was not only youngest ever winner in 1950, but the first rider to win it twice, repeating the feat in 1953 having been runner up in 1952.
It would take Peter Craven to equal the feat in 1962 and Tai Woffinden to eclipse the number in 2018 when he took his third world title.
Williams’ first win was at Wembley Stadium, a fitting track given that he was a member of the world famous Wembley Lions and the team he stayed with throughout his professional career, until retiring in 1956. He would return as manager when the Wembley team returned to the famous twin towers stadium in 1970 and 1971, having disbanded in 1957 following the sudden death of Sir Arthur Elvin, Wembley Stadium’s MD and supporter of speedway at the venue.
During Williams’ career the team won the National League five times, the National Trophy twice and the London Cup five times; he also turned out for the England team in 39 international matches.
Behind the headlines of course is the true story of the dedication, the ups and downs of a career that started in Port Talbot, Wales, riding grass track and developing the skills that would lead him to be a major force on the speedway tracks of the world as well as the UK. Williams died in 2013 aged 86, having never been bestowed a royal honour, despite receiving may other accolades, probably due to his modesty.
In his 150 page soft-back biography written by Peter Lush of the London League Publications Company Ltd, the story of his life is told with many references to period publications of the time and, of course, memories from his family; all of whom have gone onto to achieve sporting success at the highest level in different fields. Needless to say life after speedway in business is also covered.
His two speedway riding brothers Eric (a Wembley Lions team member) and Ian are also profiled within the well laid out pages – complete with period black and white images. It makes a fascinating read, especially if you have read the firms previous tome ‘When the Lions Roared’ all about the most famous and dominant speedway team of the period which Williams played a major part in.
As you might expect, the last few pages list the riding statistics at home and abroad with a useful bibliography.
Whilst I must confess to being a speedway fan who attended the latter years of the Wembley Lions, before supporting Wimbledon after their demise, the book makes a fascinating read into motorcycle sport after the war and in the fifties. It is also about someone who has achieved success through hard work and dedication, rather than five minutes on a TV reality show!
It is a really good and inspiring read and sits well with other publications from this publishing house and well worth the £13.95 cover price.
Available from Amazon and all good bookshops or direct from London League Publications Ltd at www.llpshop.co.uk
ISBN 978- 1- 909885-21-9
Author of this article: Ian Kerr MBE
#freddiewilliams #speedway #motorcyclespeedway #speedwayhistory #peterlush #motogusto