Speedway “Atomic Tommy” Miller

1952-tommy-miller-wmMr. Thomas Miller the speedway star more commonly known as Tommy. Born and bred in Blantyre, he is regarded as one of the all time greats of speedway racing in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. As a youth he raced at Bothwell racing track.

Right at the end of the 1949 season the name of Tommy Miller had begun to appear in the Consolation Scurry at White City, holding his own with fellow juniors such as Gordon Mitchell, Red Monteith and Niven McCreadie. He had only taken up the sport in September of that year. His nickname was “Atomic Tommy” due to his meterioc rise from novice to top points scorer in one season with Glasgow Tigers at White City. He moved from reserve team member in 1949 to competing properly in 1950 making his debut on 5th April 1950 in a Northern cup match against Newcastle.

By the start of the 1950 season, after a winter of training with the Bothwell Bulls team, 21-year old Tommy, from High Blantyre had made the Tigers’ team- just. He rode as second reserve in the opening meeting, and Ian Hoskins in listing the newcomers that season, put Tommy fifth behind Gundy Harris, Peter Dykes, Johnny Green and Willie Gordon. He scored 1 from 3 rides against Newcastle on 5th April. But his rate of improvement was incredible. Literally, there has never been anything like it. Peter Collins, Michael Lee, Joe Screen…. their progress was snail-like compared to the man who became known as ‘Atomic Tommy’. Racing against top riders in the country improved Tommy’s abilities and he was soon recognised as one of the top riders in the sport.

This was astonishing, and in recognition of the mark he was making he was appointed captain of the Scotland team for the first 1950 Test v England at his home track, in a fixture staged on an unusual Monday night. Brilliant Aussies Jack Young and Ken Le Breton were amongst his team mates, and the English knowing they had a battle on their hands, included World no. 2 of the previous year, Jack Parker, World no. 3 Louis Lawson, and the superb young Halifax rider Arthur Forrest. Few could have many doubts, given his form, that Miller would give the English a run for their money, but he managed to exceed expectations. In fact, it was a very wet night after rain all day, but it made no difference to Tommy.

He beat Jack Parker in heat one, in easily the fastest time of the night. He won a re-run heat 6 from Louis Lawson. He beat Arthur Forrest to take heat 8 – nine points at the interval. Heat 10 topped everything. Here is Ian Hoskins’ description from a later Tigers’ programme. “Tommy’s ride in heat 10, when he came from last to defeat Jack Parker on the third lap, and the dash half the length of the back straight, to catch and pass Vic Emms on the last corner, was the highlight of the meeting. Hats were literally thrown onto the air. What greater achievement could a Scottish born lad achieve in his first season than this?”

After that, he could’nt lose. The last two heat wins were a formality as Tommy Miller completed a historic 18-point score in his first season, an achievement that can never be beaten. In 1951 he scored over 300 points and broke a number of track records in the process. In 1951 season he gained his first ever trophy when he won the Hamilton Cup, the first of many. He was the first Tiger to be nominated to ride in the prestigious Silver Helmet Race Championship, which he won.

For the next three seasons, Tommy was the league’s brightest star, succeeding Jack Young and Ken LeBreton by the end of 1951. His mastery was total, it seemed – if he dropped a point, it was big news.

In 1952, during a Scotland v England International match, his 76.0 seconds was the fastest ever recorded at the White City Stadium. Tommy achieved the magical 1,000 points for Tigers in only his third season.

However, after being sold on by Tigers (to Motherwell Eagles, the club of his choice) in 1954 for the sum of £15,000, his descent was as sudden as his coming. It was such a thrill for Motherwell to receive this player, it kept the fans coming and there was a high standard of riding.. However, never accepted by the Eagles’ fans, he moved to Coventry, then Oxford – but the new tyre regulations, and failing finances within the sport, saw Tommy out of racing by 1956. Tommy also had a motorcycle and car dealerships in Motherwell, Hamilton and Glasgow. In 1964 he served one year as a referee, during the “black” PL administration’s year of glory.

Plagued by ill health following a heart attack that year, his health-deteriorated year on year. He died on 12th June 1975 at Hairmyres Hospital, East Kilbride.

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On social media:

Jimmy Hislop He was a pal of my dad’s and spent a few good nights in our house having a wee sensation or two!

Margaret Elma Griffin Tommy was my uncle his motorcycle dealership was in Glasgow it was his car dealership and showroom that was in Hamilton Almada Street

Denise Harris Tommy was my great Uncle

Jean Orr Funny we were talking about the speedway only last night – does anyone know what happened to the Beaton brothers?

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