F he hadn’t been born at the wrong time (and possibly in the wrong place) Doug Templeton could so easily have been one of speedway’s all-time greats.
As it was, he was a legend in Scotland but he was unfortunate to have possibly missed what would have been the best years of his career because he was robbed of five seasons of racing because of the fifties’ slump when fans deserted the sport and tracks closed down.
Having broken into league racing at Glasgow in 1953, Doug was stranded in the Scottish wilderness with, within a couple of years, both the Tigers and his second club Motherwell closing down.
Doug was born of proud farming stock, one of five brothers – Jack, Jim, Gilbert and Willie – and three sisters, Lottie, Agnes and Jean, in the tiny farming village of Maybole some nine miles south of Ayr and 100 miles inside the Scottish border but still 50 miles from Glasgow and 90 miles from the capital Edinburgh).
Between 1955 and 1959 there was no league activity at all north of the border (even in England there were only nine clubs in operation in 1959), and when the entire family moved further north to farms in Fifeshire their nearest track was Belle Vue, a 460-odd mile round trip.
Like many who lived on the land, two of the brothers, Dougie and Willie (who died in 2008), took up grasstrack racing, no doubt seeking ways of competitive thrills after riding around their farms on a motorbike.
DOUG TEMPLETON 1928-2019 I
There was little between them although Dougie, the senior by a couple of years, always looked to have the most potential.
Motherwell closed down and so did his only other Scottish option Edinburgh.
They seemed totally content to have their fun and action on the grass and
Doug was still a total unknown to speedway fans as Glasgow White City planned and plotted their 1953 team.
He didn’t feature in promoter Johnnie Hoskins’ plans until he was tipped off about his potential by Tigers’ team member Larry Lazarus who had seen him on the grass.
Rarely it was actually quite easy to pinpoint the day when he was first recognised as a potential performer on cinders or shale, shining while winning a grasstrack meeting on Saturday, March 21 that year.
Larry was quick off the mark to spot a potential team-mate in the stripes, telling his promoter: “That boy has superb throttle control, he’s natural.”
He was left with nowhere to ride regularly, at least not in league competition and between the end of 1954 and the beginning of 1960, the only real action he saw was in open meetings at Glasgow White City and a couple of matches for Ipswich, back to back legs of the National Trophy against Leicester in 1956.
He did though revert to his first motorcycling love, grasstrack racing and, with a background in farming, he kept himself supremely fit and that ensured when Edinburgh re-opened at the launch of the Provincial League in 1960, he was able to slot straight into a heat leader role with the Monarchs.
The family crossed borders from Ayrshire to a new home at Culross, Fife, in 1955 and, by then, Doug’s sister Agnes (better known as Nan) had left to get married and went to live in Glasgow.
In those days that was enough to have a club waving a contract but Hoskins, who quickly recognised that it would make quite a story for both the speedway and local press, that he was about to sign the next Jack Young (who had been the first second tier rider to win the world championship while racing for Edinburgh in 1951).
And the canny Hoskins made it known that he had never met Doug until the day he put his signature on a Glasgow contract, beating Scottish rivals Edinburgh and Motherwell who had also been tipped off about his potential.
But she never lost touch with the family and her son Jim McMillan would spend all his school holidays with his grandparents.
He recalled: “When they moved up there they bought two farms close together and Dougie bought another farm, all very close to each other.”
At first they all operated as dairy farms initially but as Dougie and Willie’s careers blossomed with the formation of first the Provincial League and then, in 1965, the British League, they invested their earnings in farm machinery, buying a combine harvester that allowed them to spread their agricultural wings by doing contract work for other farmers not only Fifeshire but even as far afield as Aberdeen.
Jim said: “I’d probably have been six or seven when I first saw them race on the grass and having uncles who raced motorbikes was exciting. In those days we never went to speedway, the first time I saw it was when uncle Dougie signed for Glasgow in 1953. Dougie took to speedway first and Larry Lazarus said he looked a good prospect and it turned out to be true.
“Like uncle Willie, Dougie never stopped farming. They would always go home after a meeting because they had to be up early the next day on the farm. Although my uncle
Gilbert was the head dairyman, Doug had to be back to help look after the cattle and the only time he would ever stay away was when the Monarchs went on a southern tour.
“They got into combining, racing they could afford to buy a combine harvester which they started taking out
They were pretty successful and, between them, swept up most of the honours up and down Scotland’s east coast.
It was a story that guaranteed Glasgow column inches and was one of those occasions when he didn’t need to embellish the story to attract attention.
Fortunately for everyone, this was also one of those occasions when the tale had substance and while he never scaled Young’s exalted heights, Doug did become, some seven years later, a headline-stealer for his performances.
He made his public speedway debut in White City’s opening night of the 1953 season, drafted into the seven for the 41-43 defeat against visitors Coventry.
Doug didn’t score a point in his first two races but won a second half race and retained his place for the trip, two days later, to Liverpool where he opened his account with a third place and after that became a regular in the Tigers’ septet.
Within weeks he was being, extravagantly perhaps, described as the ‘find of the season’ and it was only the crippling entertainment tax that forced clubs to put up the shutters that denied him regular league racing.
Glasgow closed down so Doug moved on to Motherwell.
January 4, 2020 speedway star 3