How Norwich’s legendary speedway rider ‘Hedgey’ rose to fame
- Credit: Archant
He was the quiet and modest Norfolk skid-kid who rose to become an international speedway star winning, 45 years ago, the Wills Internationale – the most prestigious individual meeting outside the World Final itself.
Thousands of fans cheered on the man dubbed Hedgey or the Hedge-Hopper, the reluctant hero, who said: 'I didn't feel that I had any right to be there. I felt out of place because I didn't feel good enough to win these sort of meetings.'
Trevor, a top-scorer with the crack Wimbledon team, saw off his team-mate Ronnie Moore and Barry Briggs and then came back to beat world champion Ivan Mauger in a controversial no-holds barred run-off decider. Ivan was not a happy man and snubbed the presentation ceremony.
Trevor beat the best riders in the world that night and, as we remember the glory days of Norwich speedway, it is time to pay tribute to a man who always prefers to talk about others rather than himself.
Born at Diss in the summer of 1943 Trevor and his family, mum Edith and dad Jack, moved to Scottow where they ran a smallholding and young Trevor, along with a generation of other Norfolk boys, fell in love with cycle speedway. Bomb sites and waste land were turned into cycle speedway tracks.
'We carved out our own track and would ride around for so long that we put lighted candles in jam jars around the edge,' said Trevor. In those days there were cycle speedway teams across the city and in just about every town and village in Norfolk. And Trevor and his mates were fast and furious. They represented Norfolk and were a match for anyone.
The heroes for the Norfolk skid kids were the speedway stars at The Firs stadium in Norwich. One of the schoolboys in the stands was Trevor who recalled: 'Billy Bales was my idol. He could beat anybody on his day. For me to end up riding in the same Norwich team as him years later, as his riding partner in our last season there, was a dream come true.'
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When Trevor left school he started work for his uncle in his boatyard at Coltishall before taking a job as a mechanic at Wroxham Diaries – Trevor and engines go together like bread and butter.
His mum eventually bought him a bike for £15 and speedway rider Tich Read helped him to get it raceworthy. He would load it on the back of a milk truck... and head to the Firs where he was starting to make a name for himself on the track.
'I didn't want my parents to come and watch me ride and the first time I realised they even went to the speedway was when I was knocked out cold. When I came round in the first aid room at Norwich, I saw my mother standing over me!'
Trevor was a dab hand at crashing as a nervous 17-year-old, but local riders such as Billy, Phil Clarke and the legendary Geoff Pymer took him under their wing and riding alongside the likes of world champion Ove Fundin was awesome.
'When I first signed for Norwich, manager Gordon Parkins gave me eight pounds and 10 shillings a week maintenance money. I thought I was a millionaire. At that time I was only earning two pounds 10 shillings a week as an apprentice engineer at Oliver Cook's garage in Norwich,' he said.
It was at the Firs one night when Trevor asked a young lady if he could buy her a drink. She agreed. Her name was Pam and they went on to get married in 1965 and spend the rest of their lives together. They have a daughter Tracy and son Gavin – also a former speedway rider.
When the Firs closed in 1964 Trevor and Olle Nygren were allocated to Wimbledon. 'It was such a shame what happened at Norwich but Wimbledon were a dream team when I was a kid and it was a great place to ride.'
And Pam adds: 'All the riders' wives got on so well. In Trevor's first year at Wimbledon, four members of the team got married and we all attended each other's weddings.'
In fact within a few hours of getting married in Norwich, Trevor and his team-mates discarded their best bib and tuckers to ride at Wimbledon that night.
Wimbledon got the ten beat seasons of Trevor's career. 'It was the mecca of speedway, a miniature Wembley and it was a great shame when the sport finished there,' his son followed in his footsteps as a member of the Dons in later years.
Trevor made more than 350 appearances for Wimbledon. He also earned 22 caps for England, scoring 123 points, along with 16 caps for Great Britain. Trevor also won the London Riders' Championship in 1969 and 1970; he was a class act.
Thanks to Pam the memory of Norwich speedway lives on. She organises an annual lunch, always a sell-out, for the World Speedway Riders' Association at Bawburgh Golf Club where former riders, not just from Norwich, but many parts of the country, mingle with lifelong fans and riders today.
And now the Stars are shining brightly over King's Lynn where Trevor rode after leaving Wimbledon.
Does he still enjoy speedway? 'I love it,' he grins, 'and it's good to see them doing so well.'