Champion speedway rider

Born: 18 June, 1928;

Died: 21 December, 2019.

DOUG Templeton, who has died aged 91, held the record as the longest-serving captain in speedway history. One of the great figures in Scottish speedway and an outstanding rider on any track, he might have achieved considerably more had his career not suffered from a slump in the sport in the mid-1950s.

Doug captained Edinburgh Monarchs for almost a decade, and was the driving force when Monarchs became the leading side in 1960s Scottish speedway. As skipper, he led the Capital side through eight seasons at Meadowbank, plus another two at their temporary home at Coatbridge.

A tough sportsman once likened to “a chunk of granite”, he was a dominant rider. With colleagues and rivals across other clubs including George Hunter, Ivor Brown, Ivan Mauger, Charlie Monk, Jimmy Tannock and Bert Harkins, his displays of thrilling riding drew the crowds and built a popular base for speedway. When lack of a track forced Edinburgh Monarchs out of the sport, he provided sterling work for Glasgow Tigers, Berwick Bandits and Coatbridge Tigers until he retired in 1976.

Douglas Templeton was born in Maybole of Ayrshire farming stock. The lure of motor-cycle racing captivated him from his teenage years. As a 25-year-old in 1953, he was spotted grasstrack racing by Glasgow Tigers rider Larry Lazarus, on whose recommendation he was not only included on the start line of the Glasgow team’s first match by promoter Ian Hoskins months later, but before the year was out, had made his first international debut, scoring a highly creditable six points against New Zealand.

With Glasgow Tigers folding early in 1954, Doug joined Motherwell Eagles before they, too, collapsed. The only speedway he enjoyed over the next five seasons comprised occasional outings to Glasgow, Reading, Newport and Ipswich plus a short spell in 1958 with a reconstituted Motherwell team. He might have ventured south had it not been for family responsibilities and the farm.

When the call came to Edinburgh Monarchs in 1960, he was appointed captain, and made his reputation from the start. He created a record, for no captaincies in the world of speedway matched his stretch of nearly a decade. One of the icons of Sixties speedway at Old Meadowbank, he rode alongside his brother and fellow Monarch, Willie, from 1960-64.

At the age of 40, when he should have been into retirement, he could still grab the inside of a bend and pile up the points, though by then Monarch colleagues such as Bernie Persson and Reidar Eide were taking some of the limelight.

A disagreement with promoter Ian Hoskins caused Doug to depart the Monarchs briefly in 1969. When he returned, captaincy had passed to his great friend and colleague Bert Harkins, though Doug still maintained his record as the longest-serving captain in speedway history.

A tough and uncompromising character on the track, he proved a skilful rider, representing Scotland and Britain many times, and reaching the Provincial Riders’ Championship Final in 1960, 1962 and 1963. He rode with distinction in test matches for Scotland and for Britain v Overseas, as well as reaching the British Final of the World Championship in 1963. Possibly his great achievement was to win the Scottish Open twice, in 1960 and 1962. Bert Harkins, who succeeded him as Monarchs captain, said, “As the title says, it was ‘Open’ - not just for Scottish riders but all the top riders such as Ivan Mauger, Reider Eide and Charlie Monk. So it was a tough one to win even once, never mind twice”.

Doug might have added further glory to his career but for the loss of speedway in Scotland in the 1950s just when he should have been at his peak. His final track outing was an appearance at Edinburgh’s Powderhall in 1995, when one-time world champion Barry Briggs was promoting the Golden Greats series featuring past speedway stars. Though Doug hadn’t ridden speedway for nearly 20 years (he was now 67), he entered three races. At the opener, he crashed at the first bend but successfully completed the remaining two events, showing flashes of the greatness that once wooed his fans.

Speedway was where he made his name, but farming was his lifeblood. In 1951, he departed Maybole for Culross, Fife, to work a joint holding with his brothers Jack, Gibby, and Willie. Come the end of a speedway meeting, he would head for home, no matter where he had been racing, just to get back to work on the farm.

In 1968 came another move, Doug and his family taking on their own farm of Blairsgreen, by Saline. This he worked in tandem with his son Douglas, remaining thoroughly active and still driving a tractor at 80. Though frail in old age, he remained in contact with veteran speedway colleagues. In 2018, by then the oldest surviving Monarch, he was given a joyous welcome by the crowd when he attended the 70th anniversary meeting of Edinburgh Monarchs at their current track in Armadale, West Lothian.

Doug had been predeceased by his wife Margaret née Crichton, and is survived by children Hazel, Heather, and Douglas; and by grandchildren and great-grandchildren.