Thursday November 04, 2021
Birmingham supporters and speedway enthusiasts everywhere, will have been shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden death of former Brummies rider and team manager Chris Harrison last Sunday October 31st.

Chris was 77, and although in apparently robust health, he collapsed whilst out walking his dog last Sunday morning.

As a rider, Birmingham born Chris was something of a journeyman, appearing in the colours of eight different British clubs, most of them for fairly short periods, and two of these, Newport and Peterborough for just a single meeting each. He had been involved in grass track racing during his teenage years, but his initial public appearances came in second half races at Wolverhampton in the mid-1960’s where he impressed the Wolves promoter Bill Bridgett sufficiently to sign him on.

After a few appearances in the Wolves team in 1965, Chris moved on to Coventry staying at Brandon for three seasons – his longest spell at any of his tracks – before moving down a division to join Crayford in 1969 where he achieved a useful average of 6.51 in a season in which he also raced in a single match for Newport, but probably his most consistent campaign came in 1970 after he had moved up north to join Doncaster and was able to up his average to 6.82 as well as making an immediate impact by scoring a 12 point maximum in his first meeting for his new club.

When it became clear that the Doncaster operation was not going to survive, Chris began to badger the promoter there Joe Thurley, with the suggestion that Birmingham was a City more than ripe for the re-introduction of speedway – if only a venue to stage it could be found! Thurley began to listen, and eventually an agreement was reached to bring the sport back to Brum at the old Perry Barr Greyhound Stadium in 1971, with Chris and the rest of the former Doncaster riders forming the new Brummies team.

A year later though, Chris was on the move again, linking up with Long Eaton and later racing in a few matches for Peterborough before finally giving up racing – but this wasn’t to be the end of Chris Harrison’s speedway involvement. In a surprise move, Joe Thurley brought him back to Perry Barr as Team Manager and it was in this position that he discovered his true calling, his always bubbly personality enabling him to engender a happy atmosphere in the pits. He got on with the riders, with the management and with the supporters, and very many old Brummies fans will remember how he led the club to the league and cup double in that glorious 1974 season. It had been through Chris’s persistence that speedway had come back to Birmingham and one of his best moves as a Team Manager was to persuade his old friend John Hart to sign on for the Brummies in August 1973 – a move that many will have seen as crucial to securing the championship and cup double in the following season.

Away from the track Chris Harrison was always a warm honest and generous man, ever willing to engage with supporters, and never turning down a request to attend a supporters’ club function. To the great regret of many Birmingham fans, he was later allowed to move on to take a similar managerial post at Wolverhampton before returning to Perry Barr after the Brummies had moved up to the First Division for a second spell which proved to be not quite successful.

In recent years Chris has been identified as a spectator at both Perry Barr and Monmore and has always been royally received by the fans who remember him. In his private life, he and his wife Dawn have become foster parents to numerous youngsters and only recently, the couple have purchased a larger property with a view to extending their fostering.

His untimely passing has come as an enormous blow, and all of us at Birmingham Speedway send our sincere condolences to Dawn and the rest of his family and as one who has known him well for many years, the best thing I can say about Chris Harrison is that everyone liked him, and how much he will be missed.

He has left behind 3 loving children, Liz Harrison-O’Connor, James Harrison and Kathryn Edkins and 12 loving grandchildren.

May he rest in the peace of the Lord.

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