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John Hyam
Journalist & Speedway Enthusiast

John Hyam
Date of Birth: August 14, 1932
John writes in reply to questions asked by Karl Fiala

“I was 13 when I saw my first speedway meeting at New Cross (v The Rest) on Wednesday April 17 1946. I knew so little about the sport that I thought the race was on when the riders were only cruising round the track from the pits to the starting gate. I was terrified when the race started and they roared into the first bend where I was on the terraces. Ron Johnson (NX) won from team mate Phil Bishop after the visitors Ron Clarke and Jack Parker had engine failure. Johnson's time was 61.8 seconds which compared to 58 second track record for the 262 yard track set by George Newton in 1938. Great riders I saw that night included Johnson, Parker, Clarke, Tommy Price, Oliver Hart, Geoff Pymar.

I was a keen follower of speedway from thereon and used to buy every publication that I could find in regard to speedway. After National Service with the RAF from 1950-52 I started writing letters to the 'Speedway News’, then tried a few small articles for the 'Speedway Gazette' then edited by Bruce Valdar. When I started getting postal orders in return, my target was to be a speedway journalist.

Over the years I have written on a freelance basis for most speedway publications - 'Speedway Gazette,' 'Speedway Reporter,' 'Speedway News,' 'Speedway World' and many more. In 1954, when the Southern Area League started I offered to write about the competition for the 'Speedway Star' and they agreed - with the proviso I also organised track sales at the then SAL tracks at California-in-England, Eastbourne, Rye House, Brafield and Aldershot. It was the start of a link that led to me being offered a full-time post at 'Speedway Star' in 1955 when then editor Eric Linden took on the post of features editor at 'TV Times.' I stayed in that post until 1962 when I became the sports editor of the Middlesex-area 'Weekly Post’.   

In the years at 'Speedway Star’ I also tried my hand at riding a speedway bike, mainly practice sessions at California and Eastbourne but never in a competitive race. My nearest chance to 'speedway fame' was when I was among those selected to ride for a proposed Eastbourne junior team the Eastbourne Eaglets in 1956, but they never took part in a match, during this time I owned two bikes - the second was ex-Maury McDermott. This I sold on to the Belle Vue rider Maurice 'Slant' Payling in 1957 - for £25.

I was out of speedway journalism for more than 9 years, but resurfaced in 1972 when I was involved as a freelance writer and sub-editor with the 'Speedway Mail' which I ceased links with in 1984.

There came another lengthy period out of speedway until Wimbledon's return as a Conference League track in 2002 when I resumed old links with 'Speedway Star' as the track reporter, also contributing items on overseas speedway.

I have never written a speedway history book but did edit in the early 1960s the first two editions of the annual 'Speedway Digest.' In recent years since about 1998 I have been a contributor to the 'Vintage Speedway Magazine' and more recent times to 'Classic speedway.' The more recent happenings were around my full-time commitment to the 'South London Press' as deputy-chief sub-editor from 1973 until my full-time retirement in 2007.

Since retirement I am enjoying myself with involvement on most speedway forums, acting as a moderator on several speedway forums. I now have no active involvement apart from sending overseas news items to 'Speedway Star,' sometimes contributing to the excellent 'Classic Speedway' and providing - dare I say this? - a Stock Car column on racing in Britain for Peter White's 'Australian Speedway World.”