A SIMPLE obituary message sent a ripple of excitement through the speedway world.
It read: “It is regret that I have to inform you of the death of Ron Johnson, pioneer of British speedway and ex-
Then came a line that was to lead to an international investigation which eventually involved a judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia. It said: "Ron passed away peacefully at his home in Bangor, North Wales, on Sunday, January 15th 2006 aged 94 years."
Yet it had been well chronicled in various speedway publications that Ron Johnson, then confined to a wheelchair, had died at his home in Perth, West Australia, aged 75 years on February 4, 1983. And there was further evidence that he had been buried in Karrakatta cemetery on the outskirts of Perth. However, there were puzzling parallels between the ‘Ron Johnsons.’ Both had been married to a woman named Ruby!
The known speedway Ron Johnson’s short-
Mike Russell, a family friend of the newly-
“Ron never talked about his speedway career and would talk down references to it. He also claimed that besides being a speedway rider, he had been a stunt motorcycle rider in a ‘Globe of Death’ act.”
Johnson also told Mike Russell that he had been a double for Dirk Bogarde in the speedway film “Once A Jolly Swagman” and to have served in submarines during World War Two.”
He also told Russell that at one time he had been a start marshal at the motor racing circuit at Silverstone and been awarded a plaque for his work there. But Mike Russell added, “I never saw this nor any mementos of his speedway days.”
I have also studied photos of the second Ron Johnson which were taken in 1963. He bears no resemblance to the Ron Johnson I knew in the late 1950s and early 1960s who was born at Milton Douglas, Duntocher, in Scotland on February 24, 1907. His parents emigrated to West Australia and it was there in the early 1920s that he started his speedway racing career in West Australia.
In Britain, Johnson’s most successful years were pre-
His career as a leading rider ended when he suffered a head injury at Wimbledon in 1949. Johnson made several unsuccessful come-
Judge Geoffrey Miller said, “There are existing photos of Ron Johnson in a wheelchair meeting various riders. He still had the same features of those shown in the earlier days when he was a speedway rider.”
The judge added, “Certainly Ron Johnson died in Western Australia because Western Australians had to put together the money to bring him back from England after his dismal failure in attempting to return to the speedway track in the 1960s or thereabouts.
“He was broke and had no money to ever go back again. I cannot see that he could possibly have ended up in Wales.”
The historian Ken Brown added, “I am 99 percent the man buried in Australia is the speedway Ron Johnson.”
There was just one other intriguing coincidence -
Judge Miller said, “When I was writing a history of the WA solo champions I spoke with his grand-
And, finally from West Australia, promoter Con Migro provided a copy of the known speedway rider’s death certificate which authenticated the place and date of his birth. But there remains a mystery -
By John Hyam
Who is the real
Ron Johnson, Speedway Rider
The Photos at the top of the page is the Ron Johnson the speedway rider.