The latest in our series of occasional articles paying tribute to men and women who have graced the Warrington sporting scene and put the town on the map in their era. This week we induct Sydney Crabtree into our Hall of Heroes

THIS month it will be 100 years since one of Warrington’s forgotten sporting heroes and the town’s greatest ever rider fell in love with motorcycling.

Sydney Alfred Crabtree, who was born in 1903, was the youngest son of Mr F A Crabtree, who had a garage in Arpley Road, Bridge Foot. Sydney later carried on the business at 84 Bridge Street.

As a boy he attended Boteler Grammar School but it was while watching the TT races on the Isle of Man in 1920 that he became so enthralled with the sport that he decided to compete himself.

In 1923, he won a senior TT race on the Isle of Man and the French Junior Grand Prix at Strasbourg. In September 1926, he won the Ulster Grand Prix, covering the circuit in three hours, 23 minutes, 31 seconds at an average speed of 60.44mph.

READ: Check out all the other members of our Hall of Heroes

In July 1927, he won the 250cc class race at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. He rode for three hours, 13 minutes, 28 seconds – at an average speed of 57.4mph – to claim one of 12 grands prix victories.

In 1928, he enjoyed a remarkable summer, winning the French, Belgian, Dutch and German Grands Prix and also the 350cc sidecar class in the Grand Prix de Europe.

In 1929, he achieved his crowning glory when he won the Lightweight Tourist Trophy race on the Isle of Man. He wrested victory from the favourite, Pietro Ghersi, of Genoa, covering the tortuous and hilly course at an average speed of 63.87mph.

He was the first Warrington rider to be placed in the race, which was regarded as the blue riband event of the motorcycling world.

At the time, Crabtree was a director of the Warrington Dirt Track and was occasionally seen astride his machine competing in events at Arpley.

In 1929, he was seriously injured in the Ulster Motor Cycle Grand Prix but recovered and started racing cars. The following year, while taking part in the International Touring Trophy race of the Royal Automobile Club at Belfast he set a new lap record for his class of car.

But motorcycling remained his first love and, in June 1934, he lined up – aged 30 – in the lightweight tourist trophy race on the Isle of Man. The course was misty and, soon after the race began in Douglas, Crabtree was reported missing. A doctor and race officials found his body by the roadside at Ramsey.

He had apparently crashed head-on into a gate and sustained a fractured skull which would have killed him instantly.

Gary Slater