NEWS Monday 21st September 2020, 5:52pm
All Monarchs supporters, especially those who watched speedway in the sixties and seventies, will be saddened by the news today that Swede Bernie Persson has passed away at the age of 74.
Bernie is one of our greatest riders, twice qualifying for the World Championship Final whilst a Monarch and going on in 1972 to finish second after a run-off for the title with Ivan Mauger at Wembley.
As a club we last saw him in 2008 when we had our 60th birthday celebrations, and he came over for the meeting we staged followed by the party the following day. The first thing he said on his arrival was "Where's Tommy?" meaning team manager Tommy Hughson, and although we had booked a hotel for him he actually spent the weekend with Tommy!
He became a Monarch in 1965 after having been successful on a tour of the UK with Vargarna, and doing well in the Brandonapolis in which he beat Barry Briggs. It was reputed that Charles Ochiltree assisted Ian Hoskins in signing Bernie as a Monarch, joining a team which had been struggling.
He made his debut for us on 17th September at home to Belle Vue, and scored 9 points. He followed that with 10 in the Scottish Open and 8 against Swindon, including winning the final heat in a 40-38 victory! After that he was part of the Monarchs' team which toured Poland.
We had a star – but we didn't see him the following year due to conscription into the Swedish Army! He was back for the memorable 1967 season though, our last one at Old Meadowbank. We had a fine side that year with Bernie and Norwegian Reidar Eide leading the way.
Bernie qualified for the World Final and had a fantastic blue-and-gold travelling support at Wembley. He scored 6 which might have been more but for a controversial exclusion against Ivan Mauger.
He was third in a run-off against Barry Briggs and Ray Wilson for the Scottish Open, the penultimate Old Meadowbank meeting.
He joined us in the move to Coatbridge in 1968 and pushed his average up to an excellent 9.58 which included a figure of 11.34 for home meetings at Cliftonhill. Once again he made the World Final and led his opening heat in Gothenburg only for his engine to fail, and it wasn't a good night for either Bernie or Reidar, who also qualified.
The following year, Bernie moved to Cradley. It was suggested that he wanted to be nearer the midlands where he could gain extra bookings, though it is also possible that Hoskins found it hard to afford both of our World Final stars.
Bernie went on to even greater success at Dudley Wood including that 1972 second place in the World Championship, and many international appearances for Sweden.
He made many friends in Scotland but has seemed to keep a fairly low profile since his racing days. It was great to see him in 2008 when he presented the trophies at our Jubilee event, and we are left with great memories of the young, slim Swede in his white jersey at Meadowbank and Coatbridge.