Bryn Williams -- a man of many parts
and a great guy. A tribute from a mate
When Len Silver relinquished the reins at Hackney at the conclusion of the 1983 season I decided to walk away from my speedway involvement.
I went to Hackney from the word go in 1963 and from the following season until Len departed had run the souvenir shops at Waterden Road.
Perhaps to the surprise of many I was an avid West Ham fan from 1946 until The Hammers closed at the end of the 1955 season.
Apart from the two seasons, 1963 and 1964, when The Hawks were members of the Provincial League, I had always watched top flight speedway and didn't fancy the prospect of following the sport's second tier in 1984.
My old mate Hawkeye had also decided to throw in the towel, so I thought I was in good company. Bryn tried hard to get Hawkeye to continue, but without success. It was then that he turned his attentions to me.
He telephoned me (reversing the charges of course) and said Hawkeye had told him that I might have a rethink.
I told Bryn that I couldn't possibly follow Hawkeye, but he insisted we meet up. It transpired we both worked near London Bridge (at a time when the trains used to run regularly and on time) and had a couple of beers (I paid) in the Market Porter.
I really did want to give speedway a rest, but I found Bryn to be full of enthusiasm and he assured me that Terry Russell and Dave Pavitt would be very nice to work with -- something I've never forgiven him for.
Bryn had played a major role in the development of the Crayford Kestrels and he assured me that my involvement would be nothing arduous or stressful.
He said: "All you've got to do is write a chatty column, get to know the riders, poke fun at a few people, be serious when the situation calls for it and try not get Russell and Pavitt into hot water with the BSPA."
I told him I would give it a go and said I couldn't promise it would be long-term. I didn't realise it at the time, but it was the start of seven wonderful years working with Bryn.
We then had to come up with a name for the column. The Kestrels moved out of Crayford to the home of The Hawks, so it was the merging of two birds. The thoughts of Birdbrain seemed an appropriate title.
Bryn's sense of humour was similar to mine and this made writing the column relatively easy. He was the programme editor (although at one stage one of the Lannings thought it was me).
The Hawkeye column had its ‘stars’ which included Professor Barnard, Robi Robins CDM, Mick Dye the rotund pusher with the fruity language, Bossy Vi Langston, Phyllis (Bloomers) Fowler and so on.
All the above were destined to play a part in the Birdbrain era, but many new characters were introduced. Bryn became known as Old Williamson and there was Chris Goldberg, the Punk Rocker girl, lovely little Linda Aspro, Alf (Established 1947) Weedon, Tadpole & Flashem, Dave (motor mouth) Bennett and the Hackney Speedway Supporters’ Club.
Bryn loved this knockabout stuff and was never happier than when I was having a dig at the HSSC committee. Mind you, the committee had the last laugh because, at an end-of-season dinner and dance, they presented me with a toilet seat.
One of his favourites was when Birdbrain announced in his column there was to be a Best Legs competition, with odds on the winner changing almost weekly. At one stage there was, according to Birdie, a rush of betting on Bert Busch. Although an outsider in the early betting charts, I seem to remember the winner being the pencil slim Jane Pavitt.
Others in his position may have put the red pen through some of what I had written, but Bryn enjoyed a bit of controversy and allowed it through -- and to the best of my knowledge neither Russell nor Pavitt were put on fizzers.
When Dave Pavitt took the decision to move Hackney up to the British League in 1987 he (possibly with the aid of team manager Little Legs John Louis) decided to invite some dignitary to perform the opening announcements for the match against Kings Lynn.
I didn’t know who that bloke was, but didn’t think much of his efforts. In a subsequent programme I let my feelings be known (see bomburst below) and Old Williamson allowed it through.
All hell broke loose and Williamson and I were taken to task by Pavitt and Little Legs, because the geezer was most put out by what I had written. I seem to remember it was somebody named Denis Yorke, but the name still means nothing to me.
There is little doubt that Bryn’s most famous – or perhaps that should be infamous – contribution to the Hackney programme came in 1988, when Wimbledon were the visitors to Waterden Road.
Under the heading of Tonight’s Visitors he claimed there was not much to say about them, so he left a blank space. He also included a photograph of a very young looking Russell Lanning. The caption read: Talking of Russell, he loves to put old photos of people in the Wimbledon programme under ‘Cringe of the Week’ – well here’s a picture of him when he had hair!
The Dons’ management were not best pleased and their fickle supporters (who remembers Fickle Vickle?) went berserk.
I seem to remember that the Hackney promotional team were called before the BSPA to answer for this apparent indiscretion.
Bryn was fiercely protective of the Crayford and Hackney riders. He was an accomplished journalist who wrote for the speedway and local press; he produced the Kestrel News house magazine; and he contributed to numerous programmes. He was a top-notch announcer, meeting presenter, team manager – in fact, you name it and he did it.
Bryn was a speedway enthusiast. He wasn’t a car driver and relied on friends to get him to meetings throughout the UK. When that wasn’t possible he used public transport.
He watched all levels of racing and was a true news hound. When he went to a meeting it was not only to enjoy the racing, but to sniff out what was happening behind the scenes, after which he would return home, burn the midnight oil and type the story so it was hot off the press.
Bryn did not enjoy good health for many years, but he battled on to the very end. Most people who are given the legend accolade in speedway are former riders. I’m not sure if Bryn ever rode a speedway bike – but he gained legendary status in his own inimitable way.
RIP mate – I was privileged to have known you.
Chris Goldberg with Bryn at the 2008 end of season bash at Kings Lynn. Several people have commented they’ve never seen Chris looking so smart! Picture by kind permission of Steve Hone Photography
Bryn interviewing former Crayford and Hackney star at the 2005 Hackney Speedway reunion with organiser Chris Fenn looking on.
Lord Morton of Hackney, Bryn and Ted Hubbard, no doubt chatting about the good old times of speedway at the 2005 Hackney Speedway reunion.
On arrival at the aptly named crematorium in Falconwood [Kestrel & Hawks] the first person I bumped into was the cool looking debonair former Hackney Speedway administration officer Tony Hurren who had used public transport to get to Falconwood Station from his east London residence. He claimed he didn’t know what all the problems were with Southern Rail. He also said with his first class freedom pass ticket, he was treated like royalty by the staff.
The weather was kind, although rather brisk, in fact it was freezing! But the brave folk who attended without a coat were certainly shivering but claimed it was quite mild!
The hearse duly arrived on time at 3:30, with a lot of people waiting outside for the end of Bryn’s final journey. It seemed so strange that Bryn himself wasn’t amongst the mourners as it was predominantly a speedway crowd and all of course all paying their final respects.
The Celebration of Bryn’s life hosted by Nicole Whitehead a Life Celebrant told us all that as we all suspected, Bryn was born in a corner of south east London and not in the Welsh valleys, which certainly made the large crowd laugh.
Alan Sargent from Lakeside Speedway spoke fondly of a man he had got to know well over the years while Bryn’s son-in-law Andy and his daughter Carys told us about the Bryn at home!
It was certainly a fantastic send off for Bryn. The mourners included former riders Laurie Etheridge, Pete Wigley and Steve Verge, former Kestrels promoters Dave Pavitt &Terry Russell plus Terry’s former secretary John Gray [still think he’s Birdbrain and or possibly Hawkeye], Dave Robinson and Tony Steel who I believe are now both former ACU officials, former HSSC coach coordinator Chris Golding, Lakeside’s press officer Alan Sargent, the man who reintroduced speedway at both Rye House and Wimbledon Steve Ribbons, Hackney Stalwart Tony Hurren, plus the ‘Crayford mob’ who like me try to keep the name of their club remembered, plus a whole host of fans and probably other speedway faces that I didn’t know.
Hackney fans may remember the blind man Mike Geary who was an avid Hackney Speedway fan. Mike passed away several years ago but his son would always commentate to his dad. Well Mike’s son was there, unfortunately I’ve forgotten his name, but great to see you and attending ‘Bryn’s celebration of life’
After the ceremony, many looked at the small floral tributes outside.
Leeks where a lovely tribute amongst the few floral tributes, very fitting and mildly [which it most certainly wasn’t, ask those who had decided to attend with thin jackets it was even colder now] amusing.
As floral tributes were restricted instead it was requested that donations in Bryn’s memory to his favourite charity, the speedway riders benevolent fund, making cheques payable to
Speedway Riders Benevolent Fund
c/o W Uden & Sons
6 Townley Road
Many moved on to The Jolly Fenman and into the warm to carrying on celebrating Bryn’s life!
Certainly a speedway themed day, Bryn would have loved it. I’m sure Bryn will be spoken about for many years to come and hopefully the sport he loved will in some way remember the Welshman born and bred in London, who loved music, rugby and of course speedway. RIP Bryn……..
Floral Tributes to Bryn
Chris Golding, renamed Chris Goldberg by Hackney's Birdbrain and named BFC by Bryn, no guessing what BFC stands for!
Former Kestrels promoter Dave Pavitt and the delightful Jane Pavitt
Bryn's friends from Crayford in full discussion remembering Bryn's life