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TOM Farndon was the idol of both the Crystal Palace and New Cross teams in the early 1930s.

He was undoubtedly the best rider of speedway's early days, although there is conjecture in some quarters as to the overall qualification with the passage of another 75 seasons since his death after a track accident at New Cross on Wednesday August 26 1935.

Farndon was just 24 years old and hailed as the best in the sport at that time. He was an established England international, the holder of the British Individual Championship and the leading rider in the New Cross team.

As a rider, Farndon achieved the peak from the obscurity of riding for Coventry in 1929 to being a superstar for the Palace between 1930-33, then at New Cross when the Palace team moved across south London.

Farndon's fatal crash came in the second-half of a match against Harringay, who won with Farndon scoring nine points. In the race, Farndon was out with team mates Stan Greatrex and Ron Johnson, and the West Ham star Bluey Wilkinson.

Journalist Cyril May wrote: "More than a little halfway down the back straight on the third lap, the New Cross skipper (Johnson) touched the fence and fell. So close was Tom that there was never the slightest possibility of his avoiding the crash or laying down his machine.

"Tom and his machine were thrown into the air, and he was flung an incredible distance before falling on his head. It looked from the terraces as if Tom deliberately turned, to try and hit the fallen machine instead of the man."

Farndon was rushed to the Miller Hospital at Greenwich where he died two days later without recovering consciousness. Speedway supporters crowded the road outside the hospital to read the notices about Farndon's condition. There were so many of them that bus and tram services were halted.

The book is an absorbing read, written by two of the sport's leading historians, John Chaplin and Norman Jacobs. I recommend it as an essential addition to any speedway library.

 Book Review By John Hyam

Of
Tom Farndon: The Greatest Speedway Rider of Them All

By John Chaplin & Norman Jacobs

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