While Tigers 1967 league position was nothing to write home about, they did manage a couple of “firsts” of a different kind. They were the first team to operate a rider pool throughout the season, something that would become popular in Sweden and Poland in later years. Monk, Mattingly, Wells, Templeton, Josefsson, Ringstrom, Dent, both McMillans and Whaley all featured during the season and the lower end were often interchangeable.
I believe Tigers also had the first “supporter promoter” where someone who had no previous active involvement in the sport takes over the running of a team – although I may be wrong. Don’t know anything about the guys who ran Oxford in the early 60s – Rycroft and Melville? It was a real rollercoaster season for Taylor from the early highs of an away draw at Hackney in his first meeting in charge and a sensational win at Old Meadowbank things began to flatten out. Towards the end of the season he began to lose momentum and possibly the desire to promote speedway, or at least to promote speedway in Glasgow. He had handed the team managers job over to Neil McFarlane after the Scottish Cup meeting in Edinburgh, citing the onerous nature of the travelling, particularly for Saturday fixtures. By the time White City was locked up after a Friday night meeting, it was close to midnight. He still had to drive back to his Borders home and had an early start to tend to his farm before setting off for the away meeting. He may have been pleased to had over the team managing duties as in football parlance he may well have “lost the dressing room” after suspending Alf Wells and having a rather arms length relationship with Maury Mattingly and Charlie Monk. Communication with the latter had broken down to the extent that he had no real idea of when Monk would be returning to Australia at the end of the season.
Taylors waning enthusiasm was further evidenced by no attempt being made to restage the rained off Glasgow Open Championship. Certainly there were a number of tracks with open meetings the following Friday but surely it would still have been possible to put together a reasonable field either that night or the following week.
In hindsight, it was no real surprise that Taylor sold his interest in the Tigers to Les Whaley, father of Tigers first season rider, Brian. Indeed from a Tigers perspective it was just as well that Les took over. How so? Well let’s first look at the state of speedway both in Britain and Scotland as the 1967 season ended. The Swedes that came over at the start of 1967 were generally very popular and a welcome addition to the British scene…. When they were here! Like man others, Bo Josefsson was absent for most of August and a fair bit of September. There was a growing feeling that the Swedes should only be welcome if they were allowed to spend the entire season in the UK. So there was a big question mark over Tigers’ Josefsson and Edinburgh’s Persson to the extent that if team plans could be jigged without them then that would be the path to take. Edinburgh had received a bombshell in late autumn, that they would not be allowed to return to the new Commonwealth Games stadium that was to be built on the site of Old Meadowbank. Many venues were examined in the search for a new home for the Monarchs. The most obvious choice was Powderhall but the GRA did not want their neatly manicured lawn and flowerbeds being disturbed by anything as coarse as a speedway track. Other venues were considered. Marine Gardens was long closed. Cowdenbeath now had stockcars and in any case the sport hadn’t flourished there a few years previously. Newtongrange was no doubt considered and rejected as being too far out of Edinburgh. This certainly proved the case a few years later when the non league venture closed after a handful of meetings. Broxburn was considered but the cost of excavation meant it was a non starter. Sites in and around Edinburgh proved even less viable. The quarry at Wester Hailes was just a hole in the ground. Stenhouse stadium was derelict and partly built upon. Saughton Enclosure was simply a football pitch with a running track surrouned by a hedge perimeter. In truth Albion Rovers ground at Cotbridge was the last card in the pack!
If Whaley hadn’t bought Taylors shares, Hoskins as majority shareholder may have been approached to buy them – indeed under the terms of the Company’s Act he probably should have had first refusal. The Tigers certainly weren’t in a robust state as far as the team was concerned. In successive weeks in Cotober, Dave Lanning’s page in the Speedway Star, somewhat gleefully, pointed out that neither Monk nor Wells were likely to ride for the Tigers the following year. In Wells case it was somewhat stronger saying he would never ride for a Scottish team ever again, obviously he was well upset! Mattingly was drifting to retirement and even if he could be coaxed to ride again, it would be for a team far closer to his Southampton home. Dent was on loan from Newcastle, so his future was uncertain too. Brian Whaley had gathered rides and experience but few points during 1967 and was still some way short of team standard. Bill McMillan was still recovering from his badly broken ankle and unsurprisingly had shown little form or confidence in the few meetings in which he rode towards the end of the season. He needed a spell in the second half the following season to regroup. In summary, the Tigers had Jim McMillan and the ever reliable Willie Templeton as certain starters. Two Tigers!!
The Monarchs, discounting Persson and the emigrated Landels, numbered five. It is entirely possible Hoskins would have done the arithmetic “two plus five equals seven” and taken his homeless five Monarchs through to the White City to form a consolidated team. Eide; D Templeton; Hunter; W Templeton; Berg; Harkins; J McMillan with Bill McMillan, Whaley, Collins and Hughson as second halfers. Hoskins had both the personality and the thick skin to succeed where the Scottish Monarchs ill fated experiment of 1996 at Shawfield failed dismally.
Fortunately Hoskins found Coatbridge and Whaley took over the Tigers. Otherwise the history of Scottish speedway could have been quite different, and considerably briefer!!