nThe  HENRY LONG  Collection
- South African Speedway
in post-war years,
     as seen through the eyes of the S.A. Press  -

Edited by David Austin & Colin Jewes, for Speedway-SA.com




    Speedway-SA has been charged with archiving the extensive collection of press scrapbooks plus photo albums and notebooks accumulated by Henry Long, the most successful dirt track speedway rider of the Union. Comprising some personal reflections from 1946 onward, over 2,000 press articles ranging from 1949 to 1956, and almost 500 photographs, professional and home snaps, of racing both in the Union of South Africa and from his time in the U.K, the collection gives an insight as seen by the Johannesburg press, - primarily the Rand Daily Mail and the Johannesburg Star - , into the developments of the sport post-war at Old Barn Speedway, initially hatched in Italy when Buddy Fuller and Doug Serrurier met up again whilst in the forces. The Long items, hyperlinked above by season, are supplemented by a Laurie Zeeman photo collection which encompasses them both at Old Barn Speedway, through to Zeeman's more successful rally and road-race period.

     Henry Long's father was Alf Long who, along with his brothers, had numerous successes in the first period of motorcycle competitions in Africa, including the classic 'DJ Run', - the Durban to Johannesburg Rally - , where he was the 1924 winner and was also placed in '22, '25 and '26, (seen rt. in the 1926 Run on a 350cc Indian. Alf Long's riding and racing exploits warrant their own tribute, though much can be found within the 'djrun.co.za' website.) So it was natural that Henry, born July 1927, and his cousins, growing up with motorbikes, would take up competitive riding himself, and the three cousins, Ken, Aubrey and Henry Long, can be seen together in a Wembley Lions team shot of 1956.

     Henry had his first rides on a dirt track at age 18 when the Old Barn track at Alberton was dug out and re-opened after the war, competing in club competitions organized by the nationally-affiliated Speedway Racing Association, against the likes of Buddy Fuller, Doug Serrurier and Fred Wills, who'd each ridden the old venue before enlisting. His machine was a 350cc Levis, (as right,) a marque noted for TT and off-road successes: at this point in time equipment was in short supply, - only the aforementioned trio owned JAPs; there was still the odd Douglas and Rudge dirt bike being used, but otherwise the new young enthusiasts had to resort to stripped-down pre-war road bikes, - BSA, Enfield, AJS, Norton, etc, of both 500cc and 350cc, competing together, (see L.Zeeman's Triumph, before and after conversion, in the composite photo on Slideshow 1,) Not withstanding, the programme notes of Dec. 7th 1946 said of No.25, Henry Long: “A desperate young rider with great ability and courage, …. one of the most popular riders today. A great future may be in store for him.”.

    For the 1947/48 racing season, with the arrival of more JAP speedway bikes into the country and the riders' club transferring to a new venue in central Johannesburg under a commercial promotion, Wembley stadium was to become the Mecca of speedway in the Union, hosting international Test matches and national championships. Henry was a regular competitor there from the onset, and became a Pretoria Buffaloes team member when league racing as a 4-team competition was established, - all 4 teams, Johannesburg, East Rand, West Rand plus the Buffaloes, staged their matches at Wembley. With Buddy Fuller gaining a team spot in the Hastings side for the UK summer, Henry ventured abroad too and had a dozen matches for Division 2 side Sheffield, impressing enough to be given outings with the famous Belle Vue Aces of Manchester in the following 1949 British season, the offer having been strengthened by his outstanding performances in the first post-war SA v. England Test series, when he top-scored (across both teams) with 51 points in the 5-match series.

    At home Henry Long proceeded to dominate Friday nights at the Wembley circuit throughout the 'fifties, having settled his dispute with the SA.SRA, (now the Speedway Riders Association,) and having replaced Buddy Fuller as captain of Wembley Lions, - as the Jo'burg team had come to be re-named - , in 1953. The exception to that was his penultimate season, when he skippered the Durban Hornets under the sport's re-structured body, the NSU (National Speedway Union,) formed following South Africa's most disruptive speedway dispute in '56/'57. In Test matches during this period he invariably topped the Union's score sheet with double figures, (seen below dicing with Barry Briggs in the 1st S.Africa v. British Commonwealth Test of December 1954: full details to be found on the 'SA Test Match' pages,) and in 1952 he achieved the ambition of all speedway riders by reaching the Final of the World Championship held annually at Wembley Stadium, London. Only one other S.African rider, Doug Davies in 1956, can lay claim to having emulated the feat. Along the way Henry Long won 7 SA national championships, (including the SA Open and the SA Handicap Championships) and was End-of-Season Golden Helmet Match Race Champion 5 times, going undefeated throughout the 1955/'56 and 1956/'57 seasons. Details of these events can be followed up HERE. After control body disputes in the late 'fifties and South Africa's withdrawl from the Commonwealth in 1961 international speedway in the new Republic was minimal and so were Henry's appearances, he finally retired in 1962.

    The hyperlinked chapters and slideshows above give more detail, season by season, of the South African speedway scene, as seen through the eyes of the speedway press. Each section comprises a summary article with the season's Roll of Honour, pertinent photographs, and selective press cuttings of relevance, - for the initial seasons of the late 1940s, where HL's cuttings are limited in number, use has additionally been made of other publications and UK press reports of speedway in the Union. Further photos are included as slide-shows: use the 'Expand screen' button for optimum effect. (The cuttings are too great in number to transpose or even include all 'as is', hence the summary: the resolution of those included allows readability via the use of your reader's .pdf +/- buttons. Some files are, of necessity large and so download time on the first occasion will be dependent on your broadband speed, hence tolerance of this should be allowed for.)

         D.Austin & C.Jewes,    May 2014.
         © www.speedway-sa.com

Whilst cuttings in the above constitute news reports, other magazine type articles
and interviews have been collated in this Panorama, supplemented with others
covering speedway in both the Union and the Republic from 1930 to the present day.

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