Bert (Haggis) Harkins not only boasts many years connected with speedway but also having two nicknames, the second being ‘Bertola’ (sounds more like ice cream to me).
** see last paragraph
Bert, as the whole world must know, hails from bonnie Scotland and proud of it too, so proud that he takes any opportunity of showing us his knees, courtesy of his elegant kilt. He and some of Scotland’s other speedway stars make a colourful appearance at many of the W.S.R.A’s events putting their English cousins discreet lounge suits and dinner jackets into the shade.
This long-term servant to the sport of speedway says he first rode in 196? Seems that so much has happened since he is unable to recall which year during that decade he first took to the Old Meadowbank track in Edinburgh, mind you the 60’s were a bit like that for a good few of us.
When asked which tracks he had ridden for and he replied that it was easer to list those that he had not ridden for. However he recalled in particular, Edinburgh at both Meadowbank and Powderhall, Coatbridge, Cowdenbeath, Wembley, Wimbledon, Sheffield, Milton Keynes, Bakersfield Bandits (USA), he also rode for Scotland (of course) Great Britain and Various ‘Rest of the World’ teams.
Bert lists as his best achievements the winning of the Victorian Championship on his first trip to Australia and adds being captain of Scotland and Wembley was pretty amazing too.
Asked what he was most proud off he says, “I suppose riding for Scotland as reserve. Then as second string, heatleader and then captain, finishing it off as Team Manager before Scotland was unceremoniously dumped out of world speedway (I am still trying to get us reinstated with the FIM) Oh yes, as Scotland, Jim McMillan and I qualified for the World Best Pairs Final in Malmo, Sweden, so we DID make a World Final!
His worst memory from his riding years was breaking his back at Wimbledon in an unimportant end of season cold, wet, second half and lying in hospital listening to the jumbo jets taking off from Heathrow. He had been due to fly to ride in Australia the week after the accident so obviously the trip was put on hold.
He says he sort of retired from riding in 1980 but then again he sort of didn’t as it did not take too much arm twisting to persuade him to take part in a few of Briggo’s Golden Greats meetings. He is still very much involved in speedway, he is a member of the World Speedway Riders Association committee and he “also writes wee columns for Speedway Star, Vintage Speedway Magazine and the WSRA Opposite Lock magazine, plus still campaigning for the return of Scotland to the International stage. And I am lead to believe sponsorship of speedway riders and events, in particular the Bronze Helmet for the Conference League.
Most will know that Bert also founded and is now managing director of Bert Harkins Racing, an organization sourcing, importing and supplying specialist equipment to the motorcycle fraternity in general and sporting motorcyclists in particular.
(Briggo, for those who have wandered into this site by accident or a misplaced click, refers to Barry Briggs, a very distinguished rider who, like Bert, has given back to the sport as much if not more that they took from it)
** Having published the above I got the following message from Bert:---
The "Bertola" nickname came from a brand of Sweet Sherry which was sold in Scotland in my early days,...."Bertola, Cream of Sherries". I am not sure if this nickname came from Ian Hoskins or from my mother, but although I didn't drink, the name has stuck with me every since, so much so, that Richard Clark, editor of Speedway Star, has now recorded a CD entitled,..."Bertola, Where's Yer Troosers". (With apologies to Scottish singer, Andy Stewart and his song, "Donald Where's Yer Troosers"!)