Bandits greats enjoy Hall of Fame night

Dennis McCleary, Scott Courtney, Mike Hope and John Robertson with the restored plaque which was rescued from Berrington Lough.
Dennis McCleary, Scott Courtney, Mike Hope and John Robertson with the restored plaque which was rescued from Berrington Lough.

Berwick Speedway Supporters’ Club made their latest inductions into the Bandits’ Hall of Fame at the weekend.

The event was held in the Black and Gold at Shielfield Park and proved to be a tremendous success with a near sell-out audience.

Those inducted included three former Bandits’ greats in the shape of Walter Elliot (aka Mark Hall), who was the club’s first captain in 1968, Steve McDermott and Paul ‘Banger’ Bentley.

Elliot, who used the pseudonym as he worked in a bank, described how he had two seasons at Berwick before announcing his shock retirement.

“At the time I simply fell out of love with racing,” he said.

“But I enjoyed my time at Berwick and I would like to thank the committee for my nomination as a member of the club’s Hall of Fame.

McDermott, who for many years was the club’s all-time record points scorer, and a former Riders’ Championship winner, was unable to attend the event, and his award was accepted on his behalf by Mike Caroline, himself a Hall of Fame member.

McDermott, who spent 10 years with the club in the late 70s and 80s, sent a letter in which he described how he came to join the club in 1979.

His inspiration was his then mentor, the late Jack Millen. They had been team-mates at Edinburgh and it was the Australian, who was tragically killed in a car crash on the A1, who persuaded him to move.

“At the time I never realised it was a move which would take up 10 years of my life,” he said.

Bentley, who had two spells with the club, and who was captain in 2002 when the Bandits won the Fours, was described as ‘one of the most professional riders’ of his era, although he missed a large chunk of his early career when he concentrated on swimming.

‘Banger’ said he was honoured and very grateful to accept the nomination as he had enjoyed three successful seasons in the club’s colours.

Also inducted were two husband and wife partnerships in the form of Jim and Lacey Louden and Bob and Davina Johnston.

They have been regular faces around Shielfield and Berrington Lough, and between them they have around 200 years service with the club. Jim, until recently, was clerk of the course and Lacey still works on the turnstiles. Bob is a track raker and Davina works in the ticket kiosk.

A surprise for those attending was the unveiling of a large wall plaque which adorned the bar at Berrington Lough and which had not been seen for nearly 20 years.

The plaque, in bronze effect, which depicts three riders, was rescued, by amongst others, local farmer John Robertson and former promoter Mike Hope, when the club left Berrington.

It had been stored in a barn on Robertson’s farm, and had been forgotten about. “It had survived foot and mouth and when we found it, it was in a terrible state,” said Robertson.

“But we have had it restored, and now it is to be hung in the bar at the Black and Gold.”