Kentford promoter was speedway legend

Dan McCormick, right with Frankie Dettori. ANL-141114-153702001

Dan McCormick, right with Frankie Dettori. ANL-141114-153702001

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Tributes have been paid to a former speedway promoter who was credited with transforming the fortunes of one of the biggest clubs in the sport.

Dan McCormick, of Kentford, died at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds on Wednesday, aged 85 after a battle with liver cancer. He will be best remembered by speedway fans for his time as promoter with the Cradley Heathens between 1977 and 1980.

His son Barry said: “I am so proud of him especially to think that people still talk about what he did in those three-and-a-half years at Cradley more than 30 years ago. He was a man with great integrity and was a straight as a die.”

Born in Glasgow, Mr McCormick moved to Luton in the late 1930s. On leaving school he joined the Royal Navy, before joining the Merchant Navy, where he spent several years working in New Zealand.

He took up his first post in greyhound racing as racing manager at Coventry Stadium, before moving on to look after three tracks in the north east including Brough Park at Newcastle before moving on to Monmore Green where he stayed until 1976.

“When dad left Monmore he had the chance to work as the general manager of Wembley, but one of his friends had purchased the Cradley stadium,” said Barry. “Although the stadium had seen better days and the money was better at Wembley for dad his word was his bond and he agreed to be general manager there.”

The decision to take over the helm at Dudley Wood would be one that would make Mr McCormick a hero to the fans of the Heathens as he brought top names like Bruce Penhall, Bobby Schwartz, and Erik Gundersen to England, along with Anders Michanek, Alan Grahame and Phil Collins, who he signed for a then world record of £15,000 from Ellesmere Port.

Mr McCormick left Dudley Wood in 1980 to take up a similar role with the Birmingham Brummies where he stayed until 1983, a year which saw him take up the prestigious role of chairman of the British Speedway Promoters’ Association.

He moved to the Newmarket area in 1985, and took up a post as a steward at The National Greyhound Racing Club, the former governing body of greyhound racing, a role he held until 1994.

But according to his son it was golf that was his great love and a sport even closer to his heart than speedway. “He had played since he was a kid and absolutely loved it,” said Barry. He played locally and was a former chairman of Newmarket’s Links Golf Club, His funeral will be at West Suffolk Crematorium, on Friday, November 28, at noon. He also leaves a daughter Angela and five grandchildren.