Johnnie S. Hoskins MBE (1892 Waitara, New Zealand – 1987 Kent, England) is the man who is considered to have 'invented' motorcycle speedway. If it cannot be established he invented the sport, he certainly played the largest role in promoting the sport (and Stock car racing) in the United Kingdom.
He left school at thirteen and worked on a farm and then as a postman. He decided to try his luck in Australia and ended up at West Maitland near Sydney, after working as a telegraph operator at Wagga Wagga and then onto Sydney.
After running low on funds in Sydney he got on at train with enough money to get as far as West Maitland. When he arrived he met a couple of friends who helped him set up a charity sports programme including boxing and street stalls which he ran with some success. He was duly elected Charity Carnival organiser for the Local Hunter River Agricultural Horticultural Society. The secretary resigned as a matter of principle so Johnnie accepted his job too.
First speedway meeting
He was a keen motorcycle enthusiast and tried to convince the committee to allow motorcycles to race round the showground trotting track. Regular Carnivals were staged at that time on the Maitland Showground by various bodies as a source of revenue raising.
Electric Light Carnival
On 1 December, 1923, the following appeared in the Maitland Daily Mercury:-
"Motor cycle races will be a novel feature of the sports carnival to be held on December 15 on the Show Ground. The track is in splendid order, and it is expected that over 40 entries will be received for the different motor cycling events. This will be the first time that motor cycling races have been held on the Show Ground, and the events should therefore prove of great interest."
In his capacity as Secretary to the Local Hunter River Agricultural Horticultural Society, Hoskins organized a Sports Charity Carnival which was staged on the Maitland Showground on 15 December, 1923. The Electric Light Carnival was staged to benefit the local orphanages and the Local Hunter River Agricultural Horticultural Society. The programme of events staged that night consisted of cycling events, horse events, trotting, athletics and motorcycle racing.
This was the first occasion motorcycle racing had been staged at the venue and it is this date that is widely recognised as the day on which motorcycle speedway in its current form was born. He ran speedway at Maitland for two years and then moved onto Newcastle, Australia.
Newcastle, Sydney and Claremont
In 1925, Hoskins continued with motorcycle speedway racing when he became Secretary of promotional company (Newcastle Speedway Co. Ltd.) at Newcastle in New South Wales. He also promoted speedway at the Sydney Showground during the first season of racing there in 1926-1927, but a very wet summer made the venture a flop and almost bankrupted Hoskins. He then moved to Western Australia where he began promoting at the Claremont Showgrounds near Perth in 1927. Within a month he had made almost £1000.
Speedway in the United Kingdom
In 1930 the promotion at the West Ham Stadium went broke so Hoskins acquired the promoting rights for the West Ham Hammers and ran the club for nine successful seasons until the outbreak of World War II.
In 1933, whilst with West Ham, Hoskins appeared in the British film Money for Speed which starred John Loder, Ida Lupino, Cyril McLaglen and Moore Marriott. Ginger Lees, Lionel Van Praag and Frank Varey also featured.
After the war
Hoskins promoted or co-promoted many clubs and was a real force in promoting British speedway. His last involvement was with Canterbury Crusaders which he founded in 1968 aged seventy-five, continuing until he was eighty-five years old.
He has been involved at:
- Ashfield Giants
- Canterbury Crusaders
- Belle Vue Aces
- Odsal Boomerangs
- Edinburgh Monarchs
- Fife Lions (Cowdenbeath Speedway)
- New Cross Rangers
- Newcastle Diamonds
- Glasgow Tigers
- West Ham Hammers
- Open meetings at Brighton Hove Greyhound Stadium.
- WestEnder - Top Stories
- Heartbreak sent me to West Maitland
- Jacobs, N & Lipscombe, P (2005). Wembley Speedway : The Pre-War Years. Stroud: Tempus Publishing ISBN 0-7524-3750-X
- Belton, Brian (2003). Hammerin' Round. Stroud: Tempus Publishing ISBN 0-7524-2438-6
- "Money for Speed (1933)". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2008-10-01.
- Jacobs, N (2003). Speedway in the South East. Stroud: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-2725-3