Jackie Hart, Jackie lived in Palmerston North until he passed away in 2008. Return to Personalities.
The following is from an interview with
Jackie in May 2005.
Jackie started the second season of Taita on a Rudge road bike. With his brother Bill they purchased the bike which had been converted from a road machine with “minimal cost -- and it was rough!” (Jackie’s words)
They used it for their first meeting and Les Wilkinson, a stranger to them, visited the next morning and picked up the front of the bike by the front wheel. He said, “thought so, the flywheels are too heavy!” He took the bike away to his garage and stripped the motor down. Ted Young, an expert on Rudge motors, then took over and machined the flywheels down and did a few other bits and pieces. It made a world of difference and the brothers rode it for about ¾ of the season. Dick Lawton, the top JAP tuner at Taita was approached by a local butcher who offered to lend the brothers the money to buy a good JAP bike from Bruce Abernethy.
Brother Bill retired at the end of that season and Jackie went on to use the bike for the next season then bought a better bike from Abernethy. “I was just a second stringer at Taita and Gerry Mathieson (manager??) was going crook at Palmerston North because Alf Clarkin had shifted to Taita. I got a telegram—‘place in team, hotel expenses if you ride for us.’ Jack Hunt was manager at Taita and ‘we were all mugs and not getting any better’ so I transferred to Palmerston North and went all right up here.”
“Dick Lawton was doing my JAP motor and I had a superiority with bike performance over others so I made good money up here.”
At the same time as riding at home in Palmerston North he was doing meetings as an Auckland team member and rode meetings at Taita as well. Bob McFarlane complained to the ACU so he was stopped from riding in more than one team.
He rode in England for the Exeter Falcons from 1951 to 1955. “Exeter closed down and I wasn’t going any good then any way. I had done three seasons over there.” “I was there for 4 seasons but broke my leg at the start of the first season.”
In blue are notes from the Exeter web site.
HART, JACKIE - 1953/54/55
Riding alongside Don Hardy was New Zealander Jack, who in his three seasons at Exeter appeared in 74 matches, and scored a total of 391 pts for the Falcons. He was an easily recognisable figure around the County Ground because of his refusal to wear a face mask. He had an unlucky day on his debut for Exeter against the Swedish touring side Smederna when he fell and broke a leg during the second half of the meeting.
This is Jackie on his first JAP at Taita in 1952
the last time I rode in NZ was about 1965 or so down at TeMarua. I had the odd
rides at New Plymouth, Western Springs, Palmerston North and Hastings.”
Jackie still has a fast sense of humour! I suggested at this point that solo bike speedway was dying a bit around that time and he quick as a wink added “--and so was I!” “People would ask me why I gave up speedway and I would say no—speedway gave up me!”
“I only rode on a commercial basis when I returned to New Zealand as I had no backing.”
"I have good memories of Taita. Did you know the first fence was made from Austin car packing cases? They nearly closed the track down once (in the early days) because of opposition from the locals. A Mary Gregg started a support group and got enough support to keep it going"
"They had real traffic jams going there and what was really unfair was that the council made the management pay for traffic control on the grounds that, 'It was a professional sport!', "
Where did your bikes get to? . "I still got 'em. come and have a look" He has his original Rudge and JAP--along with sheds and rooms full of bikes and cars and parts.
Jackie was a real character and although a little eccentric was a pleasure to talk to. Editor.
This photo at right taken at Palmerston North in the late 1950's shows Ronnie Moore leading Peter Pollett and Jackie Hart.
interesting newspaper clipping from November 1948. A lot of the other clippings
suggest Jack had an "all or nothing" attitude to riding in those early days.
"Smallest rider at the meeting was Jack Hart, who won the Junior Scratch race from Spud Murphy. Looking like a jockey on an elephant, Hart had good control of his machine, but, after sweeping through for a spectacular win he crashed about 100 yards past the finishing post and was taken to hospital with concussion. This rider is likely to be one of the prime favorites before the season ends"
Exeter Falcons at right in 1955. Francis Cann, Neil Street, Jackie Hart, Bronco Slade, Goog Hoskins, Jack Geran, Alf Webster and Don Hardy on machine.
This story below about Jackie is from the June issue of The Speedway News 1952 (an NZ newspaper of the time).
Jackie was born on 28th Feb 1928 and his
father had hopes of him having an interest in Soccer as he himself had played
the game regularly and thought that here might be the makings of an
International. His dream of this tiny child being an international has been
fulfilled, but not as a Soccer player, for you see wee Jackie is just the most "tryingest"
Speedway rider New Zealand has seen for a long time.
But before all this came to be, however, there lies, as always, the, story of a child's dream being fulfilled. So if you would like, let's grow up with Jackie Hart.
Jackie had his primary schooling; at the Newtown School, Wellington, and it was at that time Speedway racing commenced at the Kilbirnie Stadium, where Jackie's parents used to attend regularly. After each meeting the youngster used to endeavour to put into practice what he saw the masters doing, by broadsiding on his wee push bike. The mechanical knowledge was starting, too, for his mother would find his room full of old nuts and bolts young Jackie would find on the streets and take home to store away in tins and jars for safe keeping.
He also had an interest in the sea at that time and so joined the Sea Scouts, where his Semaphore prowess was so great that he won a cup two years in succession. The Scoutmaster, to interest the other boys once more in Semaphore, asked Jackie to stop swotting. So Jackie and the Sea Scouts parted. After passing from primary school, Wellington Technical College was to be graced by the presence of young Hart, much to the disappointment of the science instructor for, you see, Jackie's inventions sometimes misfired. His mother will vouch for this, as she vividly recalls how he came home one day with some powder which, he told her, when sprinkled on the fire gave off pretty colours. When she said she would watch he nearly blew the house apart by I emptying it all on the kitchen fire, and it was only solid training for harriers (for which he won a medal) that kept his hide intact. Exit chemistry!
The Air Training Corps banners displaying the adventure of flight attracted Jackie's attention and he joined in the hope of one day becoming a pilot. This hope was not to be, for after passing all the primary exams and attaining the rank of sergeant, he was told his eyesight was against him, and a very disheartened boy had to look elsewhere for an interest.
At this time around his area there was much interest in youngsters Kevin Bock, Kevin Hayden and Peter Dykes who, astride weird-looking machines, were exiting the fans at the Taita Speedway. It so happened that before long elder brother Bill and young Jackie had built themselves a Speedway machine, which they took of to Taita Speedway in search of fame and fortune.
The Hart brothers were confronted by all sorts of setbacks, if when not out with engine trouble, they had to toss to see who would ride in the final after both had won their heats on the one bike. The next season saw Bill purchase a J.A.P. Speedway machine from Bruce Abernethy, and with Jackie on the Rudge and Bill on the J.A.P. they really gave out with the thrills, and they completed a season by winning everything at the Stokes Valley grass track.
The following season saw Bill retire from Speedway and Jackie, on the J.A.P., really started to come to the fore. Jackie was finding, like most young riders, that the J.A.P. motor is very temperamental and although he is himself a mechanic, having served his apprenticeship, etc., he had to find a mechanic who knew how to make the motor go and keep going; so enter the "Maestro" ----Dick Lawton.
At the start of the next season Jackie was transferred in exchange for Alf Clarkin to Palmerston North. This move proved to be the turning point in the Hart career, for from that moment Jackie's improvement was shown each time he rode, for from a throttle-happy novice he was now a force to be treated with much respect and, although over shadowed by the fast riding of Peter Pollett, he became the fans' idol because of his never-say-die, flat-out riding. He ended that season with the scalps of Jack Parker and Split Waterman in the Hart collection, which in itself had reached large proportions.
The season just passed (1951/52) was his greatest, however, and to prove this he earned the reserve berth in the star-studded New Zealand team for the one and only Test. To quote his fine riding, Ronnie Moore says:, he will do a lot to help Kiwi prestige when he gets to Britain. He's pretty good right now and is going to be even better shortly.
That just about sums up Jackie Hart, for the Palmerston North fans readily gave to help Jackie reach England, and he left New Zealand ready to give of his very best. Fate is very queer sometimes, for in his very first meeting for Exeter he "dropped" his bike to avoid a fallen rider, and was hit by another rider coming behind, breaking Jackie's leg. This spelt finish to his first season in England and Jackie, feeling very bad about it, offered to refund the fare paid to him by the Exeter management. They would have none of this, for in Jackie Hart they can see the makings of a true champion, and Jackie (now on his way home per the "Rangitane") will be welcomed back with open arms next year.
Well, that is the Hart story to date, but who knows one day maybe soon we will be able to write more of the story of a great trier, a lad who came up the hard way. The story of Jackie Hart.
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This photo shows Jackie astride a modern (by his standards) Jawa at the recent Palmerston North 75th Jubilee meeting. January 2006. Below a photo taken in June 2007 with his original Rudge bike he raced at Taita in 1948.