KATHY POPE a knight in shining armour to so many riders has sadly passed away.
Tony Hurren, writes a tribute to Mrs Pope.
In speedway racing it's the riders who are the heroes – and rightly so. They risk their lives every time they line up at the tapes. However, behind the scenes and largely unknown to the paying public, are people without whom the sport would be much poorer.
It saddens me to learn that one of those heroes, or maybe I should say heroines, passed away on April 4. I am referring to Kathy Pope, who became a legend in her own lifetime at Hackney Speedway, although programme columnists Hawkeye and Birdbrain always referred to her simply as Mrs Pope.
During Len Silver's long reign as Hackney promoter Mrs Pope always stood in for T-urn Rose Willsher when she was on holiday, providing that vital interval beverage to both riders and track staff. However, it could be that her greatest years at The Wick were when Terry Russell and Dave Pavitt acquired the promoting rights at Waterden Road and Mrs Pope opened her pitside cafeteria – but more about that in a moment.
For countless years there was a regular Saturday training school run at The Wick and the youngsters were prone to coming off their machines and ripping their leathers. They couldn't afford a new set so, what did they do? They went to see Mrs Pope who painstakingly repaired them to make them look like new. Having said that there were many experienced riders at Hackney, Arena Essex, Rye House and other tracks who used Mrs Pope's services.
I remember that, back in 1977 when I weighed 15.5 stone I decided that enough was enough and went on a strict diet. It was successful so much so that I lost four stone and none of my clothes fitted me.
I had a couple of quality suits – nothing but the best for me – that absolutely drowned me so, what did I do? I went to see Mrs Pope and she altered them so they fitted perfectly.
I mentioned previously that Mrs Pope ran the pitside cafe at Hackney from 1984 onwards. How she managed to provide ham rolls, cheese rolls, sausage rolls, pasties, custard tarts and the like at such knocked down prices will forever be a mystery. There were plenty of records broken over the years at The Wick, but one that is not generally known came when promoter Dave Pavitt knocked back a dozen of Mrs Pope's custard tarts in about half-an-hour.
When my mate Birdbrain, with whom I am still in touch, used to spread the gossip, Mrs Pope was often featured. I will show below a few examples from the 1989 and 1990 seasons.
July 22, 1989: IT'S A FACT (2): The bread rolls in Mrs Pope's canteen were extremely well done last week – rather black on top. When musical director Gordon Lawless – the bloke who plays the records – walked in, Mrs Pope said: “We've got burnt offerings this evening.” Lawless replied: “Have we signed a Swedish rider?”
August 28, 1989: IT'S A FACT (4): Mrs Pope's pitside canteen is clean and hygienic but, I'm sure she'll agree, provides one with only basic requirements, eg, ham rolls or cheese rolls, or cheese rolls or ham rolls (someone explain it to Dave Pavitt). Mrs P seemed rather put out a fortnight ago when Old Williamson put on all his city slicker airs and graces and asked for a 'prawn and lettuce sandwich on brown bread with Hellmann's mayonnaise. He also wanted the sandwich cut into triangles with the crusts taken off. Pompous fart.
September 7, 1990: IT'S A FACT (4): Mrs Pope has been on holiday and deputising for her in the pitside canteen has been Rye House beverage executive Rose Willsher. Our head of security, Terry Donovan, doesn't like Rose's tea and has been to The Wick for the last few weeks armed with four flasks.
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