Scottish farmer and longest-serving captain in speedway history

Doug Templeton with teammates
Doug Templeton with teammates
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Doug Templeton, champion speedway rider. Born: 18 June 1928 in Maybole, Ayrshire; Died: 21 December 2019 in Larbert, Stirlingshire, aged 91.

Doug Templeton 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 Coatbridge, temporary home of Monarchs after they were forced out of Old Meadowbank in 1968 to make way for redevelopment of the stadium for the 1970 Commonwealth Games.

A tough sportsman once likened to “a chunk of granite”, Dougie was a dominant rider. With colleagues and rivals across other clubs including George Hunter, Ivor Brown, Ivan Mauger, Charlie Monk, Jimmy Tannock and Bert Har kins, Doug’s 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, Doug 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. But motorcycle 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. Solely on the recommendation of Lazarus, Doug 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, Dougie 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, Templeton 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 age 40, when he should have been into retirement, Doug 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 Hoskins caused Doug to depart the Monarchs briefly in 1969. When he returned, captaincy had passed to his great friend 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 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 outing on the track was an appearance at Edinburgh’s Powderhall track in 1995, when one-time world champion Barry Briggs was promoting the Golden Greats series featuring past speedway stars. Though Dougie hadn’t ridden speedway for 20 years (he was now 67), he entered three races. At the opener, he crashed at the first bend. But he successfully completed the remaining two events, showing flashes of the greatness that once wowed the fans.

Templeton enjoyed a happy and satisfying double life. Speedway was where he made his name, but farming was his lifeblood. In 1951, he departed Maybole for Culross in Fife to work a joint holding with his brothers Jack, Gibby, and Willie. Come the end of a speedway meeting, Dougie 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, this time with 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, Dougie remained in contact with veteran speedway colleagues, for he was as friendly off the track as he had been competitive on it. In 2018, by then the oldest surviving Monarch, he was given a joyous welcome by the crowd when he attended the 70th anniversary meeting at their current track in Armadale, West Lothian.

Doug was predeceased by his wife Margaret, and is survived by children Hazel, Heather and Douglas; grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

GORDON CASELY