Thursday October 07, 2021
Speedway fans throughout the world and in the West Midlands in particular will have been shocked and saddened to read of the events which have led to the untimely death of former Brummie Alan Grahame last weekend.

Alan was taking part in a recent practice session for a sidecar event at a grass track meeting when the machine, on which he was acting as a passenger, careered out of control and led to several serious injuries which saw him pass away at a later date in hospital.

Alan William Grahame was born in Kingstanding – close enough to Perry Barr for him to be able to hear the roar of the bikes on race nights – on February 5th 1954 and as the eldest son of Archie Grahame who was himself a well known local competitor in grasstrack and sidecar racing, it was perhaps inevitable that Alan and his younger brothers Andrew and John, would follow their father’s lead, with Alan taking part in scrambling events as soon as he reached the age of 12.

Speedway had been absent from Birmingham for eleven years from 1960, but when it resumed in the City in 1971, it was not long before Alan who was then 17, made up his mind to give the sport a go himself, and his name first began to appear in the Birmingham programme as a second halfer in 1973 where he made an almost immediate impact and was soon pushing for a place in the Brummies team.

Any serious aspirations to be a full time professional were initially put on hold until Alan completed his apprenticeship but his chance came mid-way through the following season when he quickly established himself as a formidable force in the Birmingham line-up. By the end of the season he had made remarkable progress and was playing a major role in the Brummies annexation of the Second Division Championship. A year later, he was recognised as Birmingham’s best rider, leading the team to another League title and to promotion to Speedway’s First Division – emphatically marking his first appearance in the top league by scoring a flawless 12 point maximum in Birmingham’s opening fixture at Wolverhampton, and then raising eyebrows by taking first place in a World Championship Qualifying Round at Belle Vue.

It seemed that nothing could halt young Alan’s progress, until an unpleasant incident at Perry Barr mid way through the 1976 season when he suffered a badly broken leg following a reckless ride by Belle Vue’s Chris Morton – an injury when kept him on crutches for the remainder of the season, and when he did resume riding in the following campaign, he struggled to rediscover his old form.

These struggles resulted in his Promoter Joe Thurley leaving him out of the Birmingham team for a spell, with Alan taking exception to this and asking for a transfer. Most supporters expected the spat between Thurley and Alan to be resolved but neither a pair of equally stubborn characters would back down. A proposal to exchange him for former Birmingham rider Phil Herne who was unhappy at Bristol came to naught, and although Swindon, where he had impressed in some second half rides, were the early favourites to sign him, Alan refused to be hustled and seeing no reason why he should have to travel long distances just for home matches, set his heart on joining Cradley Heath, eventually completing the transfer which was to make him.

With Cradley, Alan progressed in leaps and bounds, rubbing Joe Thurley’s nose in it by coming back to Perry Barr in his first match in his new colours to score a 12 point maximum, and soon becoming a regular in the England Test Team, competing on level terms with all of the leading riders of the day, finishing runner up to his younger brother Andy in the 1982 British Final, and scoring five points from two rides as reserve at Wembley in the World Championship Final, being two of his finest achievements.

After a lengthy spell with Cradley where he was every bit as popular with the crowd as were the Heathens International Stars Bruce Penhall and Erik Gundersen, Alan enjoyed a successful spell at Hull before finishing his career at Stoke, but although the years had caught up with him as a speedway rider, he was far from finished with motorcycle racing, competing successfully for many years, as a rider and passenger combination with his brother Andy on the grass tracks.

Although his passing and the circumstances which led to it, are infinitely sad, Alan can be said to have died doing the thing that he most loved – racing motorcycles, and in sending our sincere condolences to his family and close friends, we can only hope that the huge number of messages which supporters everywhere had written about him, will give a degree of comfort to them in their sadness.

Rest in peace Alan Grahame.

Words: Brian Buck

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