‘Docs said I’m dy­ing – but I want to get on the track one last time’

Evening Telegraph (First Edition) - - Court Reports - BY JAMES SIMP­SON

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.

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