Belle Vue Ace 1945 - 1954


After the cessation of World War Two, Belle Vue Speedway boss, Miss Alice Hart, began the search for new talent. She already knew, that many of the stars from that golden era, prior to the war, would no longer be available, or be pooled to another track. There were problems at the club, because that old warhorse, Frank Varey, had retired and re-introduced speedway to the Sheffield public in September
1945. The Langton brothers, Eric and Oliver, had also retired.

Therefore, the only way forward, was to develop home made stars for the future. Miss Hart’s training schools were well attended by young men seeking fame and fortune on the cinders. One of the early sensations was Dent Oliver, who took to racing instantly. She must have felt very lucky indeed when another talented racer appeared on the scene. Louis Lawson may not have made the same impact as Oliver, but Alice Hart saw something special in his attitude and application to racing. Lawson still made startling progress, considering his lack of racing experience.

As early as 1946, Louis was knocking at the first team door, that in itself was an almighty achievement and he made his Aces’ debut on the 11th May, when New Cross visited Manchester for league action. A single point was his contribution to a thoroughly abysmal performance from the rest of the home team.

During the course of the season, Lawson rode in a total of 12 league and cup encounters, scoring 12 points. Not an  earth shattering record, but enough to convince Miss Hart, that she had a fine prospect at her door. Perhaps his high-point of the season was participating in the National Trophy Final, against Wimbledon. In the home leg, scoring 2 points, he helped Belle Vue to a 63-45 win, securing the trophy on aggregate.

Louis developed his crouched style, laying the bike very low into the bends and at times appearing to be almost touching the track surface. At one stage, he was riding a very famous frame indeed. It had belonged to Arthur ‘Bluey’ Wilkinson, the 1938 World Champion.

During the 1947 season, Lawson rode in all 42 official league and cup meetings, as did Jim Boyd and Wally Lloyd. The main ambition for the club had been to challenge for the league championship again, Wembley thwarted that dream. However, the National Trophy was retained, with Louis scoring heavily in both legs against Wembley. His progress and ever present record continued throughout the 1948 and 1949 seasons. The real breakthrough to the big time came in 1949, when he qualified for his maiden World Championship Final at Wembley. This being the first official post-war championship held. Lawson astounded the massed Wembley crowd with his gutsy style of riding and claimed a surprise third place. Tommy Price won the event from Jack Parker, but it was Louis’ display that captivated the crowd. At club level, only the master himself, Jack Parker, could better Lawson’s scoring power. The 300 league points gathered capped a fine season for Lawson, who also annexed the Supporters Trophy in August, against a field that would have graced any Wembley spectacle. Further cup success came to Manchester and he played a massive part in the win over West Ham.

Team riding is a forgotten art nowadays, but it was common in Lawson’s era. Over the previous seasons, no doubt under the watchful eye of Parker, Louis developed into an excellent team man. Despite another outstanding year in 1950, he surprisingly failed to make the big night at Wembley. On the plus side, he pushed Parker throughout the season, for the honour of being the Aces’ ‘number one’. This eventually fell to Parker, with the young pretender closing the gap.

In 1951, Lawson’s form dipped by almost 2 points per meeting, an alarming statistic for Alice Hart; that is not to say that he did not do his best for the club. Belle Vue ended the year 11 points adrift of champions Wembley, culminating in another blank season for the trophy cabinet. Louis did however have another World Final and scored a creditable 10 points, to finish in sixth place. This was to be his last appearance for the event.

Gradually, his points gathering dwindled and in 1953; he could only muster 99 race points over the course of the season. However, he was one of the three ever-presents in the side. Although not apparent at the time, Lawson’s last league match for Belle Vue was at Wimbledon on the 5th October, where he scored 3 points. Sadly, Louis took a heavy fall in this meeting, ending his season early. 

His riding days in Manchester finally came to an end in 1954. On the 17th April, after two rides and 1 point, in the opening challenge against Bradford, Louis conceded that he could not go on racing. The upset rider explained to the then manager, Johnnie Hoskins, that it was pointless continuing, as he was letting the side down. Hoskins would not hear of Lawson blaming himself and told him to take some time off and assess the situation in a few months’ time. It appeared that the fall at Wimbledon had affected the riders’ confidence and was preying on his mind.

It was a sad end for a rider who had risen through the ranks and become a much liked and respected figure at Belle Vue.

by Trevor James