When Doddy met the Comets in 1972!
Photo by Wright WoodMon 12 Mar 2018
With the sad passing of legendary comedian Ken Dodd today at the age of 90, we look back at the night 46 years ago when Ken Dodd brought a bit of showbiz to Workington Speedway for their final meeting of the 1972 season!
As the Comets third season drew to a close the then Comets promoter Ian Thomas promised fans a spectacular end to the season when the then traditional end of season fireworks display was not to be the only special event at the last home meeting.
He created a buzz about the place by announcing that top comedian Ken Dodd would be coming to the meeting and that an invited field would be battling it out for the Ken Dodd KO Trophy at Derwent Park on Friday 27th October 1972.
In the build up to the event anticipation grew week on week and the grandstand was completely sold out in advance. However come the big day it rained virtually all day although fortunately it eased off before start time and, although the track was very wet the old adage of 'the show must go on' applied and the meeting went ahead in front of the Comets biggest crowd of the season.
It was a 12-rider, 12-heat event followed by two semi-finals and a sudden death final.
The undoubted star of the show was Crewe Kings rider John Jackson, who topped the score-chart with an unbeaten 12 points from his four qualifying outings, closely followed by Ellesmere Port's Paul Tyrer (10) and local-Comet Mitch Graham (10).
However, for Comet Mal Mackay (pictured above with Ken Dodd on the pre-meeting parade)it was a night to forget as serious machine problems in his opening ride forced him to retire and he took no further part in the meeting.
Following the twelve qualifying heats the semi-finals were won by John Jackson and Barrow's Tom Owen, who finished ahead of Lou Sansom and Mitch Graham respectively.
In the final John Jackson won to maintain his unbeaten record, with home favourite Lou Sansom finishing second while Mitch Graham and Tom Owen both fell in the tricky conditions.
As an indicator as to just how wet it was the Derwent Park track record stood at 73 seconds at the end of 1972 but the fastest time this night was 80.6 in the opening heat, while the the slowest time was 85 seconds – with most times averaging around 82 seconds!
Ken Dodd did a short routine before and during the meeting, undoubtedly slightly curtailed by the weather, and he then presented the trophy to the winner at the end of a very entertaining evening to bring down the curtain on the 1972 season.
Comets Team manager Tony Jackson still remembers the night vividly.
"It really was a fantastic atmosphere and the place was packed with everyone determined not to let the weather spoil things.
"Like many others I watched it from the grandstand, in fact it was the first time I had seen a meeting from the grandstand - and, along with my parents, we were fortunate to have seats on the front row mid-way between the tapes and the exit to turn four.
"The racing was obviously not the best due to the conditions, with riders getting filled in very quickly but no-one seemed to mind as it was just such a great occasion.
"At one stage I remember Ken Dodd marching around the track with a parade of his 'Diddymen' that he had brought with him and he entertained the crowd throughout the night. He was a real showman and the crowd loved it all.
"Many years later I remember Ian Thomas telling me that after the meeting had finished he took Ken Dodd up to the Briery at Stainburn for a meal. But, once there, word soon got out that he was in the building and before long he had virtually abandoned his meal and was mixing with everyone and telling jokes for a very long time - totally in keeping with his reputation that once he got started he simply couldn't stop and hence his shows just went on and on for hours!
"He definitely was the last of his kind and it's great that we can always say that one night he came to Workington Speedway!"
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Last Updated : Tue 13 Mar 2018, 08:04 UK