CYCLE speedway pioneer Harry James Gale, known as Jim, has died at the age of 86.

Born at Old Wareham Road, Poole, in 1930, Jim grew up and worked on his family farm, and attended Oakdale

School, then Henry Harbin Secondary School.

“At the age of 16 he discovered his passion for cycle speedway. This hobby was started by Jim and his friends copying the newly formed Poole Speedway team but using pushbikes instead of motorbikes. The first track created was straight across the farm and wasn’t your usual cycle speedway track as it was sloping and they rode around the track clockwise which is opposite to the standard speedway,” said his son Gary Gale.

In 1948 they moved the track further down Old Wareham Road to a field owned by the mum of one of Jim’s friends and they started to ride anti-clockwise.

They decided to call themselves the Gem Pirates and regularly rode in front of 3,000 people at home meetings and in the following year were unbeaten.

In 1950 they qualified for the first ever National Team Championships held in the Empress Hall in London.

Sponsored by the News Chronicle newspaper, the support match held in the evening of October 26 was an international race between England and Holland.

“Jim was asked to ride for England but was sadly denied this chance as it would mean an unfair advantage in the National Final as he would of then known the track,” said Gary.

Despite this, the Gem Pirates still won and Jim never did ride for England.

Two of Jim’s sons, Adrian and Martin, followed in his footsteps and rode for Poole Comets Cycle Speedway in the 1980 and 90s and they also went on to win the British Championship of their generation, no less than nine times.

For many years Jim was also known for driving the tractor at Poole Speedway, grading the track between races.

Soon after his cycle speedway career, Jim took to grass track racing and was good enough to represent the Southern Centre in several team finals, always riding under the number 38.

On his retirement from grass tracking he took a role on the committee of the Wimborne Motorcycle Club and was one of the instigators of the Wimborne Whoppa, the first big grass track meeting in the country, which started in 1969 and is still running today.

Jim also built grass track bikes for friends and cycle speedway bikes for Adrian and Martin.

“He always had a keen interest in cycle speedway, travelling with his family and Poole Comets around the country and straightened many cycle wheels that had come off during meetings”, said Gary.

Jim died at Poole Hospital on February 13. His funeral was held at Poole Crematorium on March 6. He is survived by his wife Valarie, daughter Allison and sons Gary and Martin. Sadly his other son Ade passed away 12 years ago.