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DATE OF BIRTH: 28 August 1948, Hampstead, North-West London.
BRITISH CAREER: (1968) Weymouth; (1969) Romford, Swindon; (1970) Swindon; (1971) Swindon, Cradley Heath, West Ham; (1972) Newport; (1974) Stoke; (1975) Swindon, Rye House.
NOTE: In 1969, Duke completed two away league matches for Rochester, before they relocated to Romford and changed their name.
CAREER RECORD WITH SWINDON:
Meetings: 95 (77 League; 5 Knock-Out Cup; 6 Midland Cup; 6 Challenge; 1 Four-Team Championship)
Maximums: 1 (1 paid)
CLUB DEBUT: 22 March 1969 versus Coventry (Away) Shires Challenge Cup; 1 point (3 rides).
AS A YOUNGSTER, Barry Francis Duke moved with his family to Swindon, prior to joining a training school run by Robins' stalwart Mike Broadbank in the winter months of 1967/68. A number of riders were subsequently signed up and, happily, Barry was one of the chosen few taken on by then club promoter Ted Nelson. It was second-halves only for him at Blunsdon in 1968, but his progress was such that he was to gain valuable experience with Weymouth in the Second Division, riding in thirteen league matches for 102 points and an impressive 7.71 average.
In 1969, Duke set his own personal record, when he was never beaten for his club and posted an immaculate 12.00 average! To explain this feat, one has to mention Rochester, who were going to open as a Division Two track under the promotion of future Swindon boss Wally Mawdsley. Although the City Council passed the application for the proposed circuit, Kent County Council then turned it down. Whilst that situation was being ironed out, Rochester started their season with two away fixtures, winning at both Ipswich and Long Eaton, with Barry going through the card unbeaten in each.
Prior to that, he had actually made his debut for the Robins, when notching a single point from three starts in a challenge match at Coventry on 22 March. Instantly recognizable due to his shoulder-length hair, Duke took his senior bow at Blunsdon in a league encounter versus Halifax the following Saturday - in a rare afternoon meeting - and he did very well, too. Riding from the No. 7 berth, he sprinted to victory in the reserves' race, before brilliantly following partner Clive Hitch across the line for maximum points in heat eight. Although he ran a last in his third and final ride, he had done more than enough to convince the Swindon public that the club was on to a real winner.
More good performances followed as Barry showed just why Mr. Nelson wasn't keen on letting him join Romford, who had taken over the licence and fixtures of Rochester. In fact, the Blunsdon supremo wanted him as a full-time Robin, and that is exactly what happened. Duke was to make many fine contributions to the Swindon cause thereafter, the undoubted highlight occurring in the final league match of the season, when he romped to 9+2 points against West Ham at Blunsdon. For a rider in his first year of top-flight activity, his record was pretty impressive, since he had accumulated 102 points from thirty-two league matches for an average of 4.64.
If 1969 had been good, then 1970 was to prove even better. More often than not, he would notch a useful amount of points. Then came 4 July, and the visit of Exeter on First Division business. Swindon took the unfortunate Falcons to the cleaners by 57 points to 21, with Barry helping himself to a paid full-house of 11+1 points. It was no surprise when he won a place in the Junior Championship of the British Isles at Blunsdon on 19 August, but the meeting fell victim to the weather and when it was re-run on 2 September, he unluckily sustained a collarbone injury in a heat two crash. Despite the discomfort, Duke kept on riding to end the season, finishing with an improved league average of 5.37, having gleaned a total of 155 points.
During the winter, he raced in Rhodesia, where he unfortunately suffered serious arm and knee injuries, which were to hamper the rest of his career. He returned to the Swindon line-up for a home league encounter against Coventry on 9 April, but was far from fit and only managed a couple of points. After two further difficult matches for the Robins, he was to work hard on his fitness, even trying his luck with spells at both Cradley Heath and West Ham. He didn't do too badly either, especially with the Hammers, for whom he averaged 4.44 from ten league meetings, although some of his old sparkle was clearly missing.
The 1972 season was spent with Newport, and although he managed to ride in thirty-three league fixtures, his scoring fell backwards to leave him with a final average of just 3.50. Duke then had to miss the whole of 1973, while the plates were taken out of his arm, and he also had a cartilage removed in an effort to correct a troublesome knee.
Finally returning to the track, he linked with Stoke in 1974, but was to only represent the Potters in a couple of Knock-Out Cup fixtures. The 1975 season turned out to be his last in the saddle and, aside from appearing in just six league matches and a four-team championship event when required by the Robins, he also represented Rye House in seven National League meetings.
Unable to get bikes out of his system, in 2000, Barry joined his son, Kristian, in the ‘Over the Top' stunt motorcycle team and has regularly appeared in shows ever since, with his forte being to ride his machine through a ring of fire. Aside from that, he was inducted into the popular Legends' Lounge on 3 August 2006, when Swindon took on - and beat - Oxford 52-38 in an Elite League encounter.
On 23 July 2009, Swindon Speedway celebrated its 60th birthday - to the day - when they entertained Belle Vue in the Elite League. Prior to the action, Duke rode around the Abbey raceway on a vintage JAP speedway machine that had been used in the first-ever meeting at the track in 1949. The bike had been ridden in the grand opener by Tom Wilson - who raced to a well-acquired paid 7-point haul - and was displayed by Barry, who had lovingly restored the motorcycle.
On an evening of nostalgia, there were several milestones; team manager Alun Rossiter reached the ripe old age of 44 and, on track, Leigh Adams made his 500th appearance for the club, topping it off with a paid maximum - his 114th in the Robins' colours (52 full and 62 paid). Meanwhile, Slovenian ace Matej Zagar also went through the card unbeaten to register his first home maximum for Swindon. Finally, as far as the stat-fest is concerned, the meeting was the 1,658th to be staged at Blunsdon by Swindon Speedway.
Duke remains a regular visitor on race-nights at Blunsdon, where he continues to enjoy his speedway from the other side of the fence.