IN MEMORY OF JIMMY ELSDON
SPEEDWAY on Teesside lost one it its true stalwarts last week as news broke of Jimmy Elsdon’s passing. Jimmy was the brother of former office manageress Julie Lewis who served the club at Middlesbrough’s Cleveland Park Stadium, initially under promoter Ron Wilson’s tenure and others that followed. An individual meeting is still staged every season in her memory. Jimmy helped sixties favourite Clive Hitch in the pits during the Provincial League era. He also worked on the pits gate both at Cleveland Park and at Redcar too. If you weren’t supposed to be in the pits no amount of persuasion would change Jimmy’s mind and fair play to him for that. Away from speedway Jimmy was employed as a porter who worked at Middlesbrough General Hospital and James Cook Hospital. Maybe less known is that he sung with the Apollo Male Voice Choir.
My favourite memory of him was at Cleveland Park one night in 1987 against Peterborough Panthers. There had been a racing accident coming out of the fourth bend involving Middlesbrough’s Buzz (Mark) Burrows and Peterborough’s Pete Chapman. The two riders managed to get their handlebars caught up with one another and the officials at the start / finish line had to take evasive action to avoid being caught up in it. After the meeting had finished me and a colleague (Martin Hughes) would often pop round to have a chat with Geoff Pusey. As we were making our way round Chapman and his mechanic were still positively seething and seeking retribution and went to have a go at ‘Buzz’ who in his defence did not rise to the bait. Next minute Jimmy Elsdon walks over and tells Chapman & co in no uncertain terms it was an accident, so get you gear packed up and sling your bloody hook ! That was the end of it.
Other people who expressed an opinion on Jimmy’s passing include former Teesside, Leicester & Hull rider Frank Auffret who recollects: “He was a good friend back in the day when I started at Cleveland Park. He used to drive the Saltersgill cycle speedway team bus and sometimes took us to away meetings in his own car. He taught me to drive, he was a great guy. RIP Jimmy”.
Supporter Trevor Williams said: “He was a proper gentleman. Had plenty of tales to tell and plenty of tall stories but a genuinely nice fella. RIP Jimmy”.
Andy Brighty, one of our exiled fans who now lives in Hampshire, said he always had stories to tell about former promoter Ron Wilson. Ron said ‘never win the league but be close to winning it then the fans will keep coming back’. If we were racing down at Rye House he would always get out at Hoddesdon and go and meet up with Clive Hitch who lives close by.
Former nomadic Middlesbrough Bears/Cleveland Bays and Redcar Cubs co-ordinator Jason Pipe said he first met Jimmy in 1985. He had started going to away meetings with lads older than himself in self-drive buses organised by the late Jake Brudenell. Jimmy was the main driver but shared this duty with a lad called Harry who still attends at Redcar. On his first trip with them they were racing down at Eastbourne in the Knockout Cup (August 1985) and Jimmy got as far as London but kept getting lost so Jason’s Dad, who only came on the trip to make sure he was OK with the older lads looking after me, took over the wheel from Jimmy and wouldn’t let him take to the wheel again for the rest of the trip !
Terry Wilson fondly remembers if it was raining and the meeting had been called off Jimmy would be shaking his head and waving his arms to notify everyone it was off.
We will leave the last words to Antoni Joli, Jason Pipe & Mark Wilson who all remember if they were having fun in the minibus and started to take the mick out of Jimmy he would turn round and say: “Calm down you’ve had a good day, you’ve had your fun”. Jason added we used to have fun and push him so far so that we could hear him say those words.
Jimmy’s funeral will take place on Thursday, 9th June, 12.30pm at St Martins Church on Acklam Road, then on to the Crematorium. The Wake will take place at the Bluebell pub. All the people who remember him are welcome to attend.
Words by Stephen Harland