I first met Eddie Chorlton, the driving force behind Peasenhall Stockcar Racing, whilst I was working for W. Wells & Sons in Saxmundham. Eddie knew of my interest in electronics and PA systems and so, after several lunch time discussions held in the studio over his photographic shop in Saxmundham Market Place, I began using my PA equipment to provide commentary for the racing when it started in the Summer of 1969.
At first a considerable amount of work was involved because all the equipment had to be set-up before each race meeting and taken down afterwards. In addition, as I have said in a previous chapter, my equipment would only run for two or three hours from a fully charged car battery so it was not unknown that my commentary became very distorted and quiet towards the end of a meeting as the battery ran down.
After a few meetings the popularity of the event grew to the extent that the crowd coming through the gates to watch often numbered several hundred. Because of this, and the limited running time of my own system, the committee decided – I think before the start of the second season in 1970 – to install a more powerful, permanent system which could be directly battery operated. The new 30 watt Eagle system considerably reduced the amount of work needed before racing started because the loudspeaker mounting posts along with the microphone and loudspeaker cables were left in place. All we had to do was mount and connect the loudspeakers around the track and then connect up the amplifier in the Race Control and all was ready to go. Also being directly 12V battery powered meant that the system could easily cope with a whole night’s racing without the battery going flat.
The picture to the left is a still taken from a BBC documentary called ‘The English Village is Alive and Well – Peasenhall’. which was filmed when the racing was only a few weeks old and broadcast I believe in December 1969. It shows the original commentary and race management point which was a small raised dais alongside the entrance leading from the pit area to the track itself. This gave quite a good view of the racing, however, as you can see the race control team had no protection against either the weather or objects and vehicles coming off the track! (I do believe yours truly is wearing a tie, must have been dressed up for the filming.)
The new caravan
It was replaced with this small orange and black painted caravan, which, although quite ‘cosy’ in space terms and with a limited view of the track, did mean that all our paperwork and equipment stayed dry! Note also that by now some ‘safety fencing’ has been errected around it! Reading left to right the people in the picture are Jenny Chorlton (Eddie’s wife), myself, a face I don’t recognise, Liz Chorlton (Eddie’s sister) and another face I remember but can’t name. With his back to the camera is Basil Saunders who I believe was the Start Marshall at the time. The car on the left with the water tap on the boot lid was probably sponsored by Basil’s company B. A. Saunders Plumbing and Heating.
By the time Michael Cole and BBC Look East came to film the racing, the caravan had been superseded by a converted Whincops coach. This gave the race management team much more room. It also gave the commentator a clear view of the track and allowed the introduction of a battery driven turntable from which we could play records before and between races. In order to get the records to play I arranged a deal whereby Hubbards TV at Saxmundham would supply me with copies of the latest releases free of charge in return for a few ‘plugs’ during the meeting.
I have been in touch with one of the drivers, Bob Foss, now a driving instructor in the Yarmouth area I believe, who has given me some more names of people who regularly raced at Peasenhall. Particularly Richard Smith – now the Senior Driving Examiner at Lowestoft Test Centre – and Cliff Thrower who was a Driving Examiner at Lowestoft, although Bob thinks that he is now retired. I believe Cliff was the driver of the B. A. Saunders car shown above and he is rumoured to have some cine film of the racing. I have also met up again with an old friend from Stockcar days Adam Collacot, however, I have still not been able to locate any more photographs of the early racing. A number of websites have much later photos available for sale, but, no-one seems to have anything from the early days. If you can help, or you know the name of the photographer who regularly attended the meetings, please e-mail me, or call me on 01394 274935.
I continued to provide the commentary for Peasenhall Stockcar, both at it’s home track in Sibton and at some very interesting demonstration meetings at the Eye Show, until the mid 1970’s. Latterly I was joined by Ernie Rabett, but, more of that in the next chapter.