‘Docs said I’m dying – but I want to get on the track one last time’
But now living in Dundee’s Priory Court — an alcohol dependency unit in Mid Craigie — the 60-year-old said he has found inner peace after being told by doctors that he is dying.
At Ninewells Hospital last month, John received the news he had water retention on his heart and his lungs, which has seen his weight increase by nearly eight stone.
Although he doesn’t know how long he has left, the former Scottish international rider said he would meet any hurdles at “full throttle”.
Speaking today, John said he had competed against some of the top riders in speedway during his heyday in the mid-seventies.
The sport, which sees riders racing round a track at speeds of up to 70mph with no brakes, has given John some “incredible memories.”
He started racing on the speedway track aged 16.
Originally from the West Coast, he moved to Dundee in his early twenties and he described the City of Discovery as his adoptive home.
During his racing career John boasted a speedway fan club with more than 30 members.
The former Mill o’ Mains resident said: “Looking through the scrapbooks today, it was incredible.”
But he said his career went downhill after the death of his sister and his niece in 1979 in the Paisley Gilmour Street rail accident.
He said: “I was only 23 when they died — it was a terrible time. There was no counselling and I drank to help the pain. I stopped racing properly after that as I raced for my niece. I’ve probably faced demons with drink ever since.”
John, a welder by trade, went on to work for Lomax Mobility and Torbrex in Dundee and said he kept his working life and battles with alcohol separate.
Then, at the age of 41, he decided he wanted to be an actor.
He said the decision to turn to the stage helped to fill the void left by his speedway career.
John said: “In 1996, I was at a really low point in my life. I had separated from my wife and I was battling my demons with alcohol.
“Acting had always been something I’d considered and I thought it could fill the buzz left behind by the track. I walked into Dundee Rep and said I wanted to be an actor — they recommended community theatre and I’ve never looked back.
“I starred in a feature-length spoof movie of Lord of The Rings. I loved every minute of it.
“King Lear was one of the stage productions I was involved in.”
John said he “raised some hell” as he competed in speedway at home and abroad. And he added that the memories of those days have fuelled his desires to go around the track one last time.
“I visited the Edinburgh track last year and someone recognised me — it made my year. I’d love to get on the track one last time,” he said.
“When I got the news from the doctors I was dying, there wasn’t really any shock. The work done by the staff at Priory Court is tremendous and they’ve helped me to reduce the level I’ve been abusing alcohol.”
JOHN Rodger has always lived life in the fast lane — and the former speedway star, actor and welder says he has seen it all.