By Marilyn Barber
Being a speedway rider is a dangerous pursuit, but local legend Ken Middleditch lived to the age of 95, and his death is being mourned by his many fans.
Born in Lambeth, he lived in Sturminster Marshall and spent the vast majority of his racing career with Poole Pirates.
Inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame, he was for so long recognised as Mr Poole Speedway and was proud when his son Neil became team manager.
He was interviewed by Paul Martin on the BBC TV show Flog It in 2008, when he said about speedway, “I enjoyed it. I loved it. I enjoyed the challenge, the travelling, the whole atmosphere was great.”
His first season at Wimborne Road was during 1949/1950 when he scored 15 maximums in only 32 Division Three outings.
Ken took over as the Pirates’ skipper in 1951 and at the end of that season held aloft both the Third Division championship and the League Riders Championship trophies.
The Pirates were promoted to the Second Division and became league champions for two seasons in a row.
In 1956 Poole went into the top division, but the track was to close that year because of falling crowds and the Entertainment Tax.
He was to return to racing in 1958 and Poole became founder members of the Provincial League two years later.
In 1966 he was team manager for a season, before retiring from speedway.
In all he made 385 official appearances for Poole.
In 1953 he married Bridget Flack and they moved to Dorset opening a greengrocer’s in Wimborne and then a fish and chip shop.
Subsequently they bought Baillie House in Sturminster Marshall, which not only provided an income but a home-from-home for hundreds of speedway fans.
They turned the three storey house into a bed and breakfast and in the 1970s opened a salvage warehouse.
Sadly Ken’s wife Bridget died in 2017 and Ken died peacefully in his sleep on 9 January.
Ken’s son, Neil said, “I was honoured to have him as my father for 64 years. At the start of my career as a rider I was always in awe of the respect he got from people around speedway.”
Ken kept a priceless collection of 30 old bikes and he was never happier than when he was polishing and restoring them.
In addition to Neil, Ken leaves a son Steven and three grandchildren.
Ken’s funeral was held on 25 January when Nicholas O’Hara Funeral Directors Ltd took him on a lap of the speedway track at Wimborne Road.
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