GRAHAM DRURY (1952-2024)
Graham’s life was deeply rooted in speedway as he served the sport for nearly half a century, initially as a rider and then as a promoter.
And he achieved success throughout, being a member of Long Eaton’s Second Division championship winning side in 1984 and then leading several clubs to silverware when he retired to the other side of the fence.
Always something of a pioneer, he was one of only a handful of British riders of his era who plied their trade on the Continent, racing regularly and exclusively for West German league side Brokstedt for the whole of the 1980 season before returning to this country.
Born in Chester on February 13, 1952, Graham was an accomplished athlete at school winning the Shropshire Under 16, 110 yards hurdles championship but motorcycling became his main competitive love.
He won the first of his multiple Cheshire 250cc grass track titles before attending a 1971 speedway practice session at Belle Vue where former World Finalist Dent Oliver spotted his potential and offered him a team place at the Aces’ nursery team, Second Division Rochdale.
He went on to ride for a further five clubs, Ellesmere Port, Crewe, Hull, Oxford and Long Eaton in the second tier, as well as Halifax and, after they had been promoted to the top-flight in 1976, Hull.
He stayed with the Vikings for five seasons before returning to Division Two with Oxford and then Long Eaton again before retiring at the end of 1985 in controversial circumstances.
He ventured into promoting the following year, but not at a conventional venue as he and partner Ian Thomas launched what became an annual ice speedway meeting at Telford, close to his Shropshire home.
His entrepreneurial promotional skills saw him return in a management role at Station Road in 1995 and he went on to become a successful co-promoter/team boss at Stoke, Mildenhall, Workington and Birmingham, enjoying considerable success, including steering the Fen Tigers to back to back league titles in 2003 and 2004. In two separate spells with the Brummies, he took them to the top of the Elite League regular season standings in 2013 (they lost in the Grand Final to Poole) and later to successive National League victories in 2015 and 2016.
He also served on the British Speedway Promoters’ Association Management Committee but stepped away from promoting at the end of 2017 when club owner Tony Mole, with whom Graham had a lengthy partnership, sold the club to father and son duo Peter and David Mason.
Away from speedway, Graham was a highly respected figure in his local community, serving as a magistrate for some 20 years, a role that earnt him the nickname of ‘The Judge’ within speedway circles, and he was also an avid Wrexham FC supporter, holding a season ticket and rarely missing a match until he became too ill to attend late last year.
Married in 1975 to his teenage sweetheart Denise, who was fully supportive of his speedway involvement and a familiar figure at every track he ran, Graham would have been 72 next month.
His family have asked for privacy.
Words: PETER OAKES