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Italian Motorcycles

Toyo Marama, Italian Speedway Legend

Rudge-1934-500cc-Toyo-Marama.jpg
Toyo Marama, Rudge 500cc, Dutch TT 1934

Egyptian rider A.M. Toyo with his 500cc experimental Rudge with two carburettors during the TT races at De Haar in Assen. (drentsarchief.nl)


Toyo Adolfo Marama


by Sheldon's Emu

Marama, who seemed to have almost as many names as he had languages, is credited with the introduction of speedway to Italy. He was closely associated with Galbusera.


After the Great War the airfield at Romagna was used for various sports including motorcycle racing from the early 1930s to the 1960s. There was an oval racetrack 340 x 420 meters, covered with sand, gravel or ashes, depending on what was available. The first speedway races were held in 1931.


The name Tojo Marama is believed to be pseudonym and his full name is most likely Adolfo Toyo Marama. He was also referred to by the nickname Captain, (capitano marittimo triestino, the seafaring captain from Trieste, who very likely sailed with Lloyd Triestino). He is also referred to as Adolf Marama Toyo, Tojo and Toio. The word marama means scarf in the Istrian dialect, referring to the coloured bandanas (foulard) denoting the team to which motorcycle racers of the day belonged.

"Father scarves Toye was an Egyptian from Alexandria, where the scarf and was born and his mother was from Rijeka."
(Translated from Italian to Croatian to English)
Rjieka at the time was part of Italy and other sources indicate that he was of Egyptian Italian extraction.

He has been described has having been very popular and as having a a strange and pronounced charisma ("strano e marcato carisma"). Little is known of his life due to the events that preceded and followed the Istrian exodus.

He lived in Fiume in the region of Istria, a northern province of Italy with history dating back to the 9th century Venetian Republic and the Holy Roman Empire before that. Istria was ceded to Yugoslavia after WWII and the ethnic Italians of the region fled.

"The term Istrian exodus refers to the post-World War II departure of ethnic Italians from the Yugoslav territory of Istria, as well as the cities of Zadar and Rijeka." (Wikipedia). Italy had annexed these regions after the Great War, previously having been under largely Habsburg control for centuries. Earlier it was part of the Venetian Republic dating back to the 9th century, and the Holy Roman Empire before that.

    "Between 1943 and 1960 almost 400.000 people escaped..."

Marama travelled to many parts of Europe competing in long track racing (pista lunga) when he was not sailing the world. In the 1920s he saw short track racing, as it was called, in Australia. The account by Franco Vergada implies that Toyo did not actually introduce the sport to Italy, but that when the "first racing in Italy on the cinder track" was announced as taking place at the Stadio di Borgomarina in Trieste in 1931, he was a competitor. Wikipedia EN states (Jan 2017) that the sport was introduced by allied soldiers shortly after the end of WWII.

Death of a Legend

Marama Toyo died after a race at the Ippodromo di Montebello (Montebello Hippodrome) in 1946.

"After the end of the war, Adolf Marama Toyo came back [to] racing, battling against great European riders, included Croatian brothers Mra?, Babich and Fritz Dirtl of Austria. He lost his life in an accident which happened shortly after the end of a dirt track race held at the Ippodromo di Montebello, Trieste, Italy, on 30 May 1946." (1) ( speedway-forum.co.uk, quoting an article translated from Greek).  Photographs from that day show that it was a long-track event held before a vast crowd.

Photos from Toyo's Last Race, May 1946.

Pray to St. Chronicity

    As luck would have it, on a forum quite unrelated to motorcycles I happened to ask a woman if she was by chance related to someone I knew in the Baltics. She said no, and as far as she knew there were none with her family name from that area. (On checking, it was Chertok, not Bertok.) AB went on to say she was from Fiume in Istria. My goodness, I wrote, I'm doing a history on a fellow from there, have you have ever heard of Toyo Marama? My father's good mate, she replied.

AB. writes:

One of my cousins is sure to know about a lot of this as he has a lot of history he might have more information if it's ok I'll send him the info and see what he comes up with... Toyo was one of my father's friends but I am talking [about] the 1930's 1940's... He was killed on the track - that was 3 days before I was born, and they had to go and get my father as he was helping with the funeral. My uncle Spartaco was also friends with him... I'll check with my uncle that's still alive there... I'd say he would be buried there, if he is I'll get him to photograph the grave and find out more.  I know there was a photo of Toyo sitting in an old racing car as well but do not remember seeing that photo since we came to Australia.

I was born in former Yugoslavia [in 1946, during the Istrian exodus]. Before the war Fiume was Italian. We went to Italy first and 8 years later to Australia.

Later...
... spoke to my uncle... and he agreed with me that Toyo would not have died racing as the races were only held on Sunday's, he passed away on Friday, he does not remember but like me he is sure my cousin there might have more information and maybe even be able to get some photos as in his younger days he was a keen spectator of the sport and rode a road bike for most of his adult life and heavily involved in the the organisation of the motorcycling sport. The place were they use to race does not exist anymore but I'm hoping some photos have survived and hopefully we will find out how he really died - although I clearly remember my father saying that he was riding his motorbike when he died.

A little background on Italian culture in the 1940s.

Talking about music with a friend this morning it reminded me of something that was very much the go till probably 70-80 years ago. The night before my mum and dad got married my father with a bunch off his friends musicians went and serenade my mum late at night, it had to be before twelve as they were not to see the bride before the next day when he picked her up at her house to walk to the church, the whole street use to come out and cheer the couples, no cars needed then. What I difference, now we need girls hen night and the guys get in a whole lot of trouble on their buck night, then there has to be the fancy cars and all the trimmings. Just thought I'll share a past custom now long forgotten by most. AB.

AB.

... I was an avid listener as I was growing up, and a was a shit of a kid, many a night when my parents were talking and I was suppose to be sleeping I was outside the kitchen door sitting on the floor listening. When I went back nearly two years ago my uncle, who is ten years older than me, could not believe how much I knew and was always saying that I brought a lot of things back from things he had forgotten. My grandfather was a freedom fighter and was killed a few days before the war ended in the concentration camp - the Germans were making sure some of the big fish never made it back. We never got his body back, nor did others whose relatives were silenced, but the street he lived in was named after him. All my mother's sisters and my grandmother were put in prison by the SS after my grandfather was caught, but my mother was not as she was married by then and they felt she and my father were not a threat; if they only knew! It was a different world after the war, and that's why the motorcycle races were so popular - it was a way of trying to forget some of the very recent past.

SE. Earlier you wrote: "He was killed on the track - that was 3 days before I was born...". As discussed, he cannot have died on May 30th as this was a Thursday.

AB. He did die on Thursday but not at the track, and was buried on Sunday the 2nd of June, the day I was born. My cousin [a Trieste archivist] could not find out how he died but word of mouth is that he had a run in with a truck. I would say there was more in it as at that time it would have been a big inquiry and there should be a lot in the paper about it, but for some reason was hushed up. To be quite honest I have a feeling that there must have been a woman involved or drinking witch [sic] I believe he was very good at both.

SE. Marama Toyo, or Toyo Marama? The former seems to be more common, and his full name appears to be Adolfo Marama Toyo. Nickname appears to be Tojo.

AB. In Italian there is not a J or a Y. My father use to pronounce his name kind of Toshio or just Toio. As my father always referred to him as Toyo I don't know his other name, but over there the surname always goes after the first or second name so his name would have been Toyo Adolfo Marama.

SE.
You wrote "drinking witch", which I interpreted thus. Very fitting!
There is also an Italian liqueur, Strega, which is associated with witchcraft.

AB.
Mum and I used to make the liqueur Strega and my mum always called me that as she said I come from the gypsy part of my family ancestors. I believe my great grandmother was some sort of  witch - no one will talk of her much but I know she spoke 5 languages and people use to go to her to cure them with her herbs, she use to walk along the street with her grandchildren, when she was allow to have them and pointed out every grass, the common name and the botanical name and knew what they were good for. I would have loved to have learned from her as I am into herb remedies but know very little. A pity she never left books, with the knowledge she had. But if she had her kids would have made sure they were burned! Such a misunderstood person; I feel very close to her although I never met her.

AB. Re the articles quoted, written in Trieste and Istria, the way I see it they are trying to claim Toyo as theirs. He was from Fiume, therefore Fiumano; the fact that he was born in Egypt does not surprise me as Fiume had been taken over by Egyptians that had taken slaves from Africa many centuries earlier to work on the pyramids* that is why we wear the Moretto earrings from that time, I have two uncles and one auntie that are very dark skin, they use to call them half cast or "mulatta, mulatto " I have a photo of my mother with her siblings that I can send you if you like, it's black and white but you can really see how dark they were.

As far as some reference in both the article about Fiume it annoys the sh*t out of me them going on about Croatia. It was Italian then it was Yugoslavia, and then brothers killed brothers and all that BS, now there are pockets of all different nationalities which hate each other - just politics going crazy. My father was born in 1914, Fiume under Austro-Hungarian control - my mother was born in 1919 and Fiume then was a Free City - taxes were low and everyone lived well, then Danunzio claimed Fiume for Italy, big f*ck up. My sister was born in Fiume, she was Italian, I was born in Fiume and I was Yugoslavian, and now I would have to call my self Croatian! Bugger that, I'm Australian and proud to be one, but that does not mean I am not proud of my heritage, I am very proud of having Heinz 57 varieties in my blood.

In other words I found the two articles very biased and the fact that one said it got the story from direct sources I find doubtful. Just my opinion.

    * The pyramids sounds unlikely, but the basic tenets are true. The story dates back to the days of Cleopatra when Egypt became part of the Roman Empire and many Italians moved to Egypt.

    https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Italian_Egyptians

July 1937

THE T.T. MOTOR-CYCLE RACES

The Senior

This year's Senior race was one of the most exciting of a long series. There were twenty-three starters, but nearly all eyes were on Jimmy Guthrie (Norton), who in practice had lapped at 87.82 m.p.h., and Stanley Woods, riding a Velocette. The non-starters comprised Mellinann (N.S.U.), Barrington (Norton), Clift (Norton), Marama-Toyo (Rudge) and Fleischman (N.S.U.). On the first lap Guthrie did the standing lap in 25 min. 49 secs., shattering the old record of Woods's by 13 secs. Woods was 5 sees. outside his old record and Tenni, hero of the Lightweight Race, took 27 min. 5 secs. on his Guzzi. Jock West, astride the supercharged B.M.W., Frith (Norton) and White (Norton) were shaping well, but Tattersall (Vincent H.R.D.) had a fall at Quarter Bridge, from which he recovered and went on. From now on the contest was just terrific.

Guthrie did lap two at the record speed of 88.51 m.p.h. and Stanley Woods was only 8 secs. slower. West was drawing away from White. Guthrie led at 88.11 m.p.h., Woods was second. and Frith third. Then Guthrie caused a vast sensation by doing lap three at a time only 2 sees. outside that for a lap at 90 m.p.h. The fast men came in for fuel, Guthrie needing only 80 secs. and Tattersall (Rudge) had stopped to change a faulty plug. C. J. Williams had a thrill on lap four, overshooting at Quarter Bridge with his Vincent H.R.D. and almost contacting with a barrier in the escape road. Tattersall again came off at this point, owing to oil on his rear tyre affecting the braking, but he continued. Tenni now found the Guzzi worried about its plugs and he changed one at the pits and another before reaching Bray Hill. Still Guthrie led for Nortons, still Woods sat on his tail - 19 secs. behind - for Velocette, and the race average was at 88.3 m.p.h. Then poor Guthrie's mount died at the Gooseneck, and it was Stanley Woods who led...

motorsportmagazine.com

Lloyd Triestino

There are certainly indications that Marama may well have traveled to Australia, given that he was referred to as the Captain from Trieste.

Theshiplist.com writes, "But the real strengthening of the [Lloyd Triestino] fleet began in 1936, the Company's centenary, when, with the reform of the merchant navy and the creation of four shipping companies controlled by the Finmare Institution, Lloyd Triestino began to operate with 75 ships and 17 services in the Asian, African and Oceania markets.", and also that one of the routes was "Genoa, Naples, Messina, Port Said, Suez, Aden, Colombo, Djakarta, Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney" (undated).

One story on Marama calls him Marama of Suez. As he was known to speak Arabic, it seems very likely that a seafaring Italian from Trieste would find employment with a Trieste shipping line which sailed to Arabic ports.

There is a 1931 Lloyd Triestino brochure promoting the company's passenger liners on the Italy to Australia route available via coasit.com.au

Origins of Speedway

"The origin of this sport is questionable, though most believe that arose in Australia in the second decade of the twentieth century."

Speedway is widely believed to have begun in Maitland, near Newcastle, NSW, in December 1923.

"Johnnie Hoskins was the first promoter to put up a cash reward for the winner at West Maitland, and from the huge turn-out this novel event generated, speedway began to form in Maitland with a cinder track, rules and regulations, and the broadsiding of bikes in the corners. No previous event inspired such a metamorphosis as this." Ian Hoskins, son of John Hoskins and the world's first motorised mascot,  20/03/06.

The discussion continues with another chap, who appears to have done considerable research, refuting that claim. There is considerably more on the subject, this one from the horse's mouth.
More information on speedway.

* Notes: dates vary, some sources say 1932, others '34.

Sources:

  • Articles by Fosco Rocchetta and Franco Damiani Vergada published at TuttoTrieste.net and cesenabikers.blogspot.com. There is a new edition of Vergarda's book, Motociclismo a Trieste - Cent'anni di storia nella provincia giuliana, see Bibliography
  • www.iitaly.org
  • www.speedway-forum.co.uk
  • Tragatsch, Wikipedia.it, drentsarchief.nl and many more.



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