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. We are now well past the half century.
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 wasn’t available, and it wasn’t until 1948 that a new track was built at Old Meadowbank, home of Leith Athletic FC, 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 way for the Commonwealth Games.
Monarchs spent 1968 and 1969 at Cliftonhill Stadium, Coatbridge, but it was not a good long-term venue.
The sport was back in Edinburgh though in 1977 at Powderhall Greyhound Stadium for a 19-season stay, and many great Friday nights.
The 1981 season was an exceptional one, with Monarchs winning the KO Cup and the Four Team Tournament competition. The ‘Famous Five’ of the lineup, Neil Collins, George Hunter, Dave Trownson, Chris Turner and Ivan Blacka formed a formidable top five.
There was a bad patch in 1984-5 though, with the team finishing at the foot of the League two years running. This signalled the demise of the Tom Cook promotion (he had taken over from Mike Parker in 1982), 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. Sport was banished from the site and Monarchs were forced to race at Shawfield Stadium, Glasgow, for the 1996 season.
This odd situation, with the Edinbrgh 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.
With expectations high for 1998, the Premiership Trophy was won in a 2-leg match with the 1997 League Champions Reading. However various niggling problems sapped the confidence of the side, and even team changes didn’t have the desired effect. An eventual 9th place in the league was disappointing, and the cup defence was also unsuccessful.
However Cup glory was on the menu again in 1999 as Monarchs defeated Arena Essex to regain the trophy. They also reached the final of the Premier Trophy, losing to Newport, and kept up a strong league challenge for much of the season only to slip to third by the end.
In the first season of the new millenium Monarchs were sometimes branded a two-man team as their affairs were dominated by Peter Carr and Robert Eriksson. Both rode superbly but often lacked support. However the team finished closer in points to the champions (4 behind) than any Monarchs side ever had, even though they finished sixth.
2001 will probably be remembered as the year that injuries decimated the side, as everyone missed matches and the full team appeared together only a few times. After all the earlier disappointments, the team stormed to the final of the Young Shield Playoffs before losing out to the Isle of Wight.
In many ways 2002 was a very disappointing season, after a fine start of sunny weather and a successful benefit for Jan Andersen. Things started to go wrong with early injuries to Christian Henry and Rory Schlein, and luck never really improved as injuries and bad weather blighted the season.
Injuries and bad weather were also prevalent early in 2003, although it was clear early on that the team was a very good one. The history books now show that Edinburgh surged forward during the second half of the season, with Frede Schott an inspirational captain, to claim their first ever title. Eventually the Fulfilment Factory Monarchs had 9 points to spare over the second placed team, a monumental achievement in a year no-one will ever forget.