THE MONARCHS 1999
WHO ARE THE MONARCHS?
Speedway has a long history in Edinburgh, going back to 1928, though strictly speaking the Monarchs weren't founded until 1948. That made 1998 Monarchs' fiftieth birthday.
The first venue in the Scottish Capital was at Marine Gardens, Portobello, where an entertainment complex included a speedway track from 1928. Speedway continued there until 1931, returning for a couple of seasons 1938-9 until war broke out.
After the war the Marine Gardens track was not available, and it wasn't until 1948 that a new track was built at Old Meadowbank, home of Leith Athletic Football Club, then a Scottish League side. The first match ridden by Monarchs was on 26th March 1948 at Bristol.
Pre-war crowds often topped 10,000; now crowds were often over 20,000 as the sport enjoyed an unprecedented boom.
The greatest Monarch of all, Australian Jack Young, joined the club in 1949 and for 3 glorious seasons fans watched deliriously as Jack shot to the top of speedway, winning the World Championship in 1951 at Wembley Stadium.
Young was then transferred to First Division West Ham, and with Scottish Speedway in decline, the Monarchs closed in 1954.
They were back in 1960 for Provincial League racing, still at Old Meadowbank, and the names of Doug and Willie Templeton and George Hunter formed a Scottish backbone to a side which still had a strong Australasian flavour.
Monarchs enjoyed 8 excellent seasons under Ian Hoskins' promotion before being unfairly turfed out of the stadium to make was for the Commonwealth Games.
Monarchs spent 1968 and 1969 at Cliftonhill Stadium, Coatbridge, the home of Albion Rovers Football Club. This was not a good long-term venue. The franchise was sold to Wembley and the Monarchs were out of business for eight years.
The sport was back in Edinburgh though in 1977 at Powderhall Greyhound Stadium for a 19-season stay, and many great Friday nights. Powderhall itself had a rich sporting history as the sometime home of Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian Football Clubs. Rugby internationals have been staged at Powderhall and it hosted the world famous professional Powderhall Sprint.
The 1981 season was an exceptional one, with Monarchs winning the KO Cup and the Four Team Tournament competitions. The Famous Five' of the line-up, Neil Collins, George Hunter, Dave Trownson, Chris Turner and Ivan Blacka formed a formidable top end.
There was a bad patch in 1984-5 though, with the team finishing at the foot of the League two years running. This signaled the demise of the existing promotion, and the arrival of the current promoting company Edinburgh Speedway (1986) Limited.
The first action of the new bosses was to bring ex-World no.2 Les Collins to Edinburgh, for a decade of stunning achievement and entertainment. Les became the highest scoring Monarch ever, as well as perhaps the most exciting.
Powderhall saw many great events, including the Ivan Mauger Farewell to Scotland, Testimonials to Dr Carlo Biagi, George Hunter, Dave Trownson, Brett Saunders, Michael Coles and, in 1995, Les Collins. Barry Briggs Golden Greats was also staged in 1995 and drew the biggest crowd for years to the Stadium.
Unfortunately the greyhound side of things at Powderhall had run into trouble, and the track was sold to a development company. They have not yet gained permission to build on the site but they are still trying, and this meant that Monarchs had to move to Shawfield (Glasgow) for the 1996 season.
This odd situation, with the Edinburgh team racing at the former home of their biggest rivals, was not a success and Monarchs were delighted to be given permission to come to Armadale for the 1997 season.
This proved to be one of the club's happiest years with many supporters travelling from Edinburgh, and many new fans coming from West Lothian. The team won a thrilling Cup semi-final against eventual league winners Reading, and went on to lift the Trophy by beating Oxford in the final.
They were in contention for the League for much of the year, eventually finishing third, and also came second in the Fours behind Long Eaton.
In the Premier League Riders' Championship there was further joy, with Peter Carr winning and Robert Eriksson coming third on a great night at Coventry. A 4-2 to Monarchs!
The second year at Armadale proved to be less successful. In a season severely affected by rain, the team failed to live up to the early promise shown by winning the Spring Trophy over Glasgow and the Premiership against Reading. Apart from that, Monarchs failure to qualify for the Cup semi-finals and the Young Shield added to an indifferent season in the Premier League.
Monarchs did qualify for the finals of the Four Team Tournament after winning the Northern Group. After winning through a hard fought semi-final at Peterborough, Monarchs finished joint second with Hull behind the home team and favourites, Peterborough Panthers.
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