My Top Ten Edinburgh Monarchs
As a preface to any Top Ten I'm setting out in this website, I do have to explain that I have discounted Monarchs, however famously talented, who only wore the colours for two years or less. Had their service in blue-and-gold been longer, I feel sure a place would have had to be found for the likes of ROY BESTER, BENGT JANSSON, BERNIE PERSSON, OYVIND BERG, NEIL COLLINS and/or MIKE FARIA.
However, to be included in a true Top Ten, there has to be a longer period of dedicated service, so I elect (after great thought):
1. JACK YOUNG: When you become World Champion, while racing for a Second Division club at a point in time when competition was arguably at one of the highest standards of post-war speedway - and remain an easy-going, lazy-smiling, slow-talking all-around good guy to boot, you get to be Number One in anybody's book, not just mine. I only met Youngie years later, in the pits at Rowley Park in Adelaide - John Boulger introduced us - and Jack was every bit as affable as his legend decreed. The greatest Monarch of all time, every time.
2. DICK CAMPBELL: A Kiwi who could have achieved more, had the inclination been there. In his first spell at Old Meadowbank "Auld Dick" (he was never young, it seemed to many of us!) arrived from Belle Vue - lured north, I think by Frank Varey - sat and rode comfortably in Youngie's shadow. He loved a challenge, and seemed to ride hardest and best against local opposition! When he returned in the 'sixties, before poor health intervened, Dick was an absolute giant at Provincial League level for an all-too short period of time.
3. DOUGIE TEMPLETON: For so many early-sixties true believers, Doug was Edinburgh speedway! He never gave less than his best, both as a rider or in terms of true entertainment. From sit-ins at the starting-gate to all-in wrestling (having first hauled his opponent from the saddle while in full flight) at Rayleigh in his later years, Dougie is the type of character so sadly lacking in present-day speedway.
4. GEORGE HUNTER: Maybe the most-gifted Scottish rider of all, and most certainly the finest team-rider I ever saw. Nervy, stuttering and looking beaten before he left the pits, when the tapes went up (often with Geordie having ducked under them!) he became as one with his always-immaculate machine. A rider who could have achieved more, yet perhaps enjoyed his lengthy racing life all the more not so doing. A good friend.
5. BERT HARKINS A guy I have known for (gulp!) at least 45 years! And in that time, I cannot recall anyone, anywhere in the world, with a bad word to say about him. A cycle-speedway World Finalist, his speedway career took a long time to gather momentum on the hard-to-break into Scottish scene of the early 'sixties. I first entered the pits with Bert, as his fuel-and-oil (sometimes even in the correct tanks) gopher. We travelled the tracks of the Provincial, and later British, League together. And oh, how we laughed! In 1967, he went off to Australia a reserve-cum-second string, and came back five months later a star! The final skipper of the club (at Coatbridge) in 1969, he resumed the captain's role with dignity when Powderhall opened in '77.
6. REIDAR EIDE: A sensation on arrival from Norway, but from his first season, when he upped and offed home on a point of principle (Reidar's principles always involved his wanting more money) a bit of an enigma, too. On track, deserving of high placing in any blue-and-gold Top Ten, but too often the behind-the-scenes cause of rifts in team spirit. An absolute idol to fans, he had less going for him in the dressing-room and speedway office. Reidar's demands were a prime cause of the eventual decision to allow the move to Wembley in 1970. Quiet and polite away from the sport, his early death caused deep regret for all of us who knew him.
7. DAVE TROWNSON: Have we really forgotten how much the club owed to "Diddy David" for the 1977/87 decade? As others came and went, "Troutie" was there, scoring points at home and away. In the darker mid-eighties, I recall a night he won five rides, but dropped a single point in the last race to leave the Monarchs on the wrong end of two-point home defeat. He was barracked all the way back to the pits! 17 out of the team's score of 44, yet poor wee Dave got the boos - but he never wavered, never complained and led an often weak side with real class.
8. LES COLLINS: Well, we're back to entertainment, aren't we? Pure dead brilliant as a rider, of course - he really could have been World Champion in 1982 - his decision to move north (along with Doug Wyer) in the mid-eighties lifted more than a few eyebrows. How many last-bend overtakes did Lester really achieve at Powderhall - I doubt we'll ever know, but it seemed like a ratio of at least two, each and every meeting! Amazingly, given his stature in the sport, and longevity as a rider, Les was a Monarch longer than he rode for any other club. Very high on anybody's list of Top Ten Monarchs - and of course, as I write, still going strong!
9. KENNY McKINNA: Anything I say will be biased, 'cos - like Bert Harkins above - this one's a real mate! I must have known him since he was at Woodfarm Primary. One of the best, and what a fantastic ambassador for Scottish speedway. I never had the slightest worry about setting up TV interviews or the like for this guy - he'd be there, spot on time, scrubbed up and articulate. Almost handed to the club on a plate in 1982, few suspected his career would blossom as it did. The final Indian summer at Armadale, complete with The Gathering, set the seal on an unforgettable spell as a Monarch - and that after more than a dozen as "Scotland's Number 1" in the big-time at Belle Vue and the good days at Glasgow!
10. PETER CARR: The odds one could have got against Peter extending his career as successfully as he has since joining Edinburgh would have been lengthy, to say the least. I first met PC as a kid (him, not me) in his Ellesmere Port days, and learned to like him even more when we were at Belle Vue together in the mid-eighties. I remember John Campbell telling me he'd persuaded Peter to come out of retirement a short way into the first season at Armadale, and asking me what I thought he's do for the club. I recall saying that I reckoned he'd "certainly do a turn 'til the end of the year". Well, I was right - but as to the time he's be turning, and how fast, I was also dead wrong, wasn't I?
Setting out Top Tens in anything is never easy, especially at the lower end. If consolations are required, I'd say that a "mention in dispatches" must also be given to the likes of DON CUPPLEDITCH, WAYNE BRIGGS, WILLIE TEMPLETON, DOUGIE WYER, BRETT SAUNDERS and, more recently, ROBERT ERIKSSON.. They came awfully close to getting in .
DICK BARRIE - 12.2.01