Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Huxley, Victor Nelson (Vic) (1906–1982)

by Jonathan Richards

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Victor Nelson (Vic) Huxley (1906-1982), speedway motorcycle rider, was born on 23 September 1906 at Wooloowin, Brisbane, third of four children of Sydney-born parents William Henry Huxley, shirt cutter, and his wife Eva Amanda, née Lippiatt. Vic attended Fortitude Valley and Kelvin Grove state schools. Employed as a battery mechanic, he had been riding motorcycles for three years when a major motorcycle speedway competition was introduced at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground in October 1926. Winning the first event on the program, the One-Mile Handicap, he became one of the `broadsiding’ stars of the inaugural night races. He also won speedway events at the Toowoomba Showground and Brisbane’s Davies Park. It was probably at this stage that he acquired the nickname `Broadside’. After success in Australia, including a stint at Adelaide’s Wayville Showground, he left for England in 1928 with a group of other leading speedway riders, including Frank Arthur, to introduce the new Australian sport of `dirt-track racing’.

Speedway was a huge success in England and at one stage it was the second most popular sport (after horse-racing) in the country. For many years London was its heart, and Australians—especially Huxley—were nearly always winners. To celebrate his victories, the Ogden’s branch of the Imperial Tobacco Co. (of Great Britain & Ireland) Ltd issued a `Vic Huxley’ cigarette card in their 1929 set of `Famous Dirt-Track Riders’. On the card, he was portrayed in his characteristic `broad-siding’ manoeuvre on the track. That year he was the subject of one of a series of articles on `Daredevils of the Speedway’ published in the magazine Modern Boy.

In June 1930 Huxley led an Australian team to victory in the first official speedway Test match against England. Unbeaten at this meeting, he was to become the most successful rider in Tests in the early 1930s. Captain of the Harringay and then the Wimbledon speedway teams, he won the Star championship (forerunner of the world championship) in 1930 and next year became the British open champion. He was almost unbeatable: he broke speedway records all over England; won eight major championships; and also set and broke lap records at speedway tracks in Australia and New Zealand. His earnings were over £5000 per year, making him then one of the highest-paid sportsmen in the world. Members of the royal family and T. E. Lawrence were among those who congregated around Huxley’s team at the speedway.

On 23 October 1931 at the register office, St Marylebone, London, Huxley married Sheila Alice Katherine King. He featured in numerous speedway magazine articles and books on speedway riding in England and Australia. When the British Broadcasting Corporation interviewed him in 1934 for its `In Town Tonight’ program, he became the first speedway rider to broadcast on radio. In the same year he won the Australian solo championship after being placed first in every event he entered.

In his eleven years as a speedway rider on a range of different manufacturers’ machines, Huxley had only one serious accident. He left speedway racing in 1937 and opened the British Motorcycle Co. in Brisbane. Mobilised in the Militia as a lieutenant on 5 August 1941 he trained motorcycle dispatch riders. His appointment terminated on 5 February 1945 and he returned to his motorcycle business, retiring in 1957. He kept few trophies and never sought any publicity. Despite being `bigger than Bradman’ in his day, Vic Huxley remained throughout his life a modest and simple man. Three months after the death of his wife, he died on 24 June 1982 at Kangaroo Point, and was cremated. His son survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • T. Stenner, Thrilling the Million (1934)
  • J. Shepherd, Encyclopedia of Australian Sport (1980)
  • J. Shepherd, A History of Australian Speedway (2003)
  • Brisbane Courier, 18 Oct 1926, p 16
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Nov 1930, p 18
  • private information.

Citation details

Jonathan Richards, 'Huxley, Victor Nelson (Vic) (1906–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/huxley-victor-nelson-vic-12678/text22853, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 14 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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