Speedway veteran recalls his Sanders’ memories

SPEEDWAY: Thirty years after hanging up his leathers, 55-year-old Phil Herne insists he is still making a living as a professional motorcyclist.

He is now a postman just outside Sydney, Australia and does his round every day on a motor bike.

“I don’t even get off the bike as all the houses have letter boxes that you can reach from the road,” said Herne, who lived in Ipswich for four years but did not ride for the Witches.

Currently in the middle of a 10-week stay in England accompanied by his Ipswich-born wife Debra and daughter Ella, Herne rode for Birmingham for two years from 1973 and then moved on to Newport, Bristol, back to Birmingham, Leicester and then Swindon.

He was a big mate of legendary former Witches and fellow countryman Billy Sanders and they shared digs for a while in Ipswich.

You may also want to watch:

“Along with my brother John, who was a mechanic, I lived with Billy in Belstead Hills and then Rushmere,” recalled Phil.

“Billy and I used to water ski together as well as ride speedway, and it was such a shame that he did not win the world title.

Most Read

“He certainly had the talent to do so, and it was a tragedy when he decided to take his own life.

“Billy could be a fiery little so and so, and my wife and I both knew of his marital troubles before he left for England in 1985.

“We both had a chat with him and Debs took him to one side just before he jetted off and told him not to do anything silly.”

Herne moved from Ipswich to live just outside Bristol in 1977 before returning to Australia once his speedway days were over.

“It was a great shame that I didn’t get to ride for Ipswich,” he added. “At the time Birmingham was their sister club and I enjoyed it there although my move to Newport was not the smartest decision I have ever made.

“My son Jay has taken up the sport although he is currently injured having broken his back last March. Hopefully he’ll be riding again soon for Somerset and Bournemouth.

“I’m not thrilled that he’s riding speedway as he has a good trade behind his as a boilermaker. I’d be all for him as it’s a great sport if you could guarantee not getting hurt.”

Herne, who met up with some former mates at Perry Bar, Birmingham last Wednesday and went to Somerset on Friday and was at the British Grand Prix at Cardiff on Saturday, was at Foxhall on Thursday for the home Ipswich meeting with Wolverhampton.

His Foxhall career is best remembered by many for one titanic race with former Witches Mike Lanham when it is said they swapped places on every bend for four circuits.

“Yeah I can recall it, and Mike never knew when he was beaten,” said Herne, who drove a truck for 10 years before switching to get up at 6am each morning and deliver the mail.

“And like my speedway I just love it,” he said.


MICK Banthorpe and his pregnant wife Diane were expecting to have Billy Sanders as a lodger in 1973.

The Ipswich barber and schoolboy coach for Ipswich Town recalls: “It was typical Billy to ring and ask if he could bring a pal.

“Phil and his brother John turned up and we ended up putting up all three.

“We were moving and I was on a football coaching course.

“With Diane pregnant, the three Aussies helped with the moving and our new neighbour looked over the fence and asked first Billy, then Phil then John if they were her husband.

“All said no one after the other, and I think he wondered what he was going to expect from next door!”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus