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Photographs supplied by Chris Abbott

The memorial, erected over the grave by public and private subscription, commemorates Ron Johnson (1907 - 1983) who was a motor cycle speedway champion.  

Johnson was initially buried in an unmarked grave in the cemetery. It needed a fund, established in England and Australia in 1992, to raise money for the headstone.   The cross on the headstone is the emblem of the New Cross Speedway team London, representing the breastplate riders wore. 

Ron Johnson who was born in Scotland, emigrated to Australia with his parents when he was just a child. He started racing at the Claremont Speedway in Perth in 1927 , before  travelling to England with promoter Johnnie Hoskins in 1928 to start a career with Crystal Palce Glaziers. Johnson initially struggled on British tracks that were half the size of the ones he was used to in Australia.   In 1934 he joined the New Cross Rangers, with whom he retained connections throughout his career. It was only in the 1939 season that he began to show the form that would see him regarded as one of the top riders of his era.

Johnson's career was beset with injuries. In 1935 he was involved in a crash which saw teammate Tom Farndon suffer fatal head injuries at New Cross. Johnson had multiple lacerations to his arm which kept him from competing in the Star Riders` Championship final.

 On 1 August 1949, he had a huge crash at Wimbledon when he was following his teammate Cyril Roger for a 5 - 1 heat win. Roger wobbled in front of him and Johnson fell. As he got back onto his feet he was hit by Wimbledon rider Cyril Brine and knocked down, suffering a fractured skull. He also suffered a near fatal blood clot. This clot may have been jolted loose, thus saving his life, by one stretcher bearer who was walking out of step with the others when Johnson was removed from the track. Doctors wanted Johnson to stay in hospital for six months but he discharged himself after a month.

Johnson attempted a comeback in 1950 but was nothing like the rider he was before the near-fatal accident. His form did not improve in 1951 so dropped down a division to ride for the Glasgow Giants. His form failed to improve there so retired and returned to Australia.

After a couple of years Johnson made a comeback the Claremont speedway in Perth, winning the West Australian Solo Championship title in the 1954-55 season. He wanted to return to New Cross but they had closed down, so he returned to England  for an ill-fated spell with the West Ham Hammers but again failed to perform to anywhere near his pre-1949 levels. He returned home to Australia after friends in England  helped him with his fare.

New Cross re-opened in 1959 and Johnson decided to make another comeback attempt, at the age of fifty-two. However, he was unable to keep up even with the juniors. He captained the New Cross Colts in a match against Edinburgh and scored three points with a race win which showed flashes of his old brilliance. He then tried his luck with the Edinburgh Monarchs but scored just one point (plus one bonus point) in six matches and eventually returned to Australia.

There was further talk of him coming back in 1963 when New Cross entered the Provincial League and although he came back to England and settled near the track, the proposed comeback came to nothing, although he did take to the track once more on 14 May that year, defeating Phil Bishop 2 - 1 in a second half match race series.

From 1930 to 1949 he represented Australia in 57 Test matches and captained the team which won the speedway Ashes from England for the first time on English soil in 1934. His aggregate of 322 points in Tests placed him sixth on the all-time list for Australia.

In retirement he lived modestly in Thornlie, Western Australia and died in 1983 at the age of 75.   He was inducted into the Western Australian Hall of Champions in 1987.



Address:Railway Road, Presbyterian KA 564, Karrakatta Cemetery, Karrakatta, 6010
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -31.968764
Long: 115.796699
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Grave
Monument Theme:People


Approx. Monument Dedication Date:1992
Front Inscription

Ron Johnson
 Speedway Champion
1907 - 1983

British Speedway Champion 1933
Captain Australia Crystal Palace and New Cross
Western Australian Solo Champion 1955

Erected in his memory from public and private subscription (England and Australia)



Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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