"Tiger" Jack Wood, the 6'2" Bolton Broadsider was a real charachter both on and off the track and became something of a continental superstar in 1930, earning huge amounts of appearance money from his base in Hamburg.
In 1928, the 21 year old Jack Wood was a motor mechanic at Gordon's Motor Works on Bridge Street, Bolton. He was a keen bike racer too, often competing in hill climbs with his Harley-Davidson. When dirt track racing made a big impact in the UK, Jack had to have a go and made his debut in the novice races at the speedway track built inside of the greyhound track at Raikes Park on Manchester Road. Soon the Bolton Broadsider was thrilling the crowds and beating some of the established stars, but his all action style often ended in a spectacular fall. One report from Bolton states that although he fell on four occasions his cigarette never left his lips! Jokingly, he referred to himself as a "cinder diver!" Jack also made successful appearances at the White City and Belle Vue tracks in Manchester, Warrington, Leicester 'Super' and at Farringdon Park, Preston.
Programme cover reproduced from speedway swap shop
Jack travelled to Copenhagen with members of the Preston team at the tail end of the 1929 season and the following year he based himself in Hamburg from the off and made a mint from his appearances in front of huge crowds at the tracks in Paris, Munich, Copenhagen and Belgium. The troupe also included American superstar "Sprouts" Elder, fellow Lancashire riders "Ham" Burrill, Tommy Price, Larry Boulton and Harold "Ginger" Lees, plus Scandanavian riders Morian Hansen, and Niels Sorensen. Jack bought a bike from "Sprouts" which really let him perform to his best, breaking the track record at Munich in May 1930. This feat was even more remarkable as Jack had only left hospital a few days earlier where he had lain unconcious for some considerable time following a 90mph crash on a German sand track. On his return to the UK in July 1930, Jack remarked that British riders and promoters could increase their crowds by "concentrating on spectacular riding, as opposed to sheer speed".
Jack made the headlines following a fatal accident at the Audenshaw Racecourse in August 1931. James Kenny from Salford was leading a race when his engine cut out, causing him to fall. Jack was closing in on him and had to lay his bike down to try and avoid a collision, but both bikes flew into the air trapping Kenny underneath. Jack jumped to his feet, lifted the bikes off the fallen rider and carried him onto the centre green for medical attention, but unfortunately the young rider died later in hospital. At the inquiry into his death Jack confirmed that he had tried to avoid the collision and that it was he who had rescued him from the track. The promoter however was found negligent and only another two meetings were held at Audenshaw before the owners evicted the speedway.
Speedway had landed Jack in court on an earlier occasion too. He had been trying to repair his bike as it would not start and in an attempt to get it going Jack pushed it out on to Dorset Street, where he lived. Suddenly it burst into life and Jack had no alternative but to jump aboard and ride the bike until the fuel in the carburettor ran out. The incident was about to get worse though as Jack unwittingly rode the bike speedway style right past the police station in Castle Street and was apprehended as soon as he stopped. Jack was charged with riding a bike with no brakes, no licence, and not having any personal identification or documents relating to the bike. Neither did he have silencers, mudguards or protective gear of any sort... Poor Jack really didn't have any defence so he admitted his guilt and pushed the bike back home, still smoking his cigarette of course.
In 1932 Jack gained cult hero status at the narrow Lonsdale Park track in Workington. He somehow managed to wreck his bike on his debut and finished the programme by borrowing bikes from his rivals. In subsequent weeks he would crash and damage his bike on several occasions from his over exhuberant riding and had to borrow bikes regularly. The crowd gave an enormous cheer when Jack eventually won a race on his own machine, but it took until August 13th when he beat Aussie Vic Ctercteko in the final of the Golden Helmet event.
Jack later opened his own garage just off Bury Old Road back in his home town and died in 1988, aged 80. There are more pictures and clippings from Jack's career at http://www.tigerjack.co.uk/
Jack "Tiger" Wood... a true "Bolton Broadsider" and another unsung hero from the early days of British Speedway