It’s becoming a bad habit of mine; meaning to catch up with old friends but leaving it too long.
Within days of us losing one of the younger pillars of Scottish cycle sport in Rab Wardell we also lost one of our elder statesmen in John Montgomery, another man who I’ve been, ‘meaning to catch up with,’ – sadly, too late.
I got to know John and his wife Rita – an inseparable couple – through our mutual friend, Stewart Sutherland.
John and Stewart had raced together, ‘back in the day.’
He also rode the Tour of Britain Milk Race back then, against men like New Zealander Warwick Dalton, who was a Commonwealth Games medallist on the track and won stages in the Milk Race; British legend and Milk Race winner, Billy Holmes, and pursuit king, Hugh Porter.
John was still successfully competing in Scottish veteran’s races up until the 1980’s – and in veterans’ races internationally, including Russia.
In the 80’s John would come to races like the British Hill Climb Championships to spectate with Stewart and I, he just loved the sport and being around bikes and bike riders.
He was a man who lived the old sales maxim of, ‘remember that you have two ears and just one mouth, stick with that ratio.’
He could spot patter merchants a mile away, he’d listen carefully and quietly to them; but once they were gone he’d deliver a succinct opinion on their baloney.
He used to have us in stitches with his tales of ‘drum up habbles,’ where his group of old cycling foxes would light a fire, drum their tea up and eat their sandwiches.
After a while, one of the group would pretend he was getting something from his saddlebag but would leap on to his bike and hammer off with the rest kicking the fire out, jumping on their bikes and setting off in hot pursuit.
John loved all things Italian, buying Rita a lovely Colnago and himself mounted on an Olmo, I was glad to be able to help him with decals for that machine.
John and Rita were friends with an Italian cycling aficionado called Dante, he held the couple in high regard and they had a ‘granny flat’ for their use at Dante’s home – John loved his trips to la Bella Italia.
My favourite John anecdote is the one where, when he was courting Rita, he brought a box of Maltesers as a wee present for her dad.
Her father said that he never ate chocolates but John and Rita had a couple before they headed out for the cinema.
When they got back to Rita’s, her dad was in bed and Rita went to put the kettle on.
When Rita emerged from the kitchen, John announced; ‘your dad ate six of those sweeties.’
Rita rolled her eyes; ‘how the heck do you know that?’
To which John replied, deadpan; ‘I had them counted!’
Our friend Harry Tweed broke the news of John’s passing to us:
“Sadly I have to post word that John (Monty) Montgomery has passed away.
“John, who originally hailed from Chryston was only ever a member of the Chryston Wheelers, from the late 1940’s until the club folded a few years ago.
“John raced for them from his early years right up until he reached veteran status.
“John will be known to the younger generation from his presence at races with his wife, Rita spectating at time trials, road races and track races.
“Rest in peace, John.”
With Gordon Goldie’s kind permission we reprint his tribute to John:
“I’ve known John and Rita since I was 15 years-old.
“They were at our wedding 33 years ago, at our daughter’s funeral and at a hundred other things in between.
“When you said ‘John and Rita’ to cyclists, you didn’t use a surname. Everybody knew who you meant straight away. They were always out and about, they were everywhere.
“Although 90 years-of-age, John was always interested in what was new in cycling from frames of steel to aluminium to carbon to electric bikes.
“John was up on what was new in the shops, often long before it got to the UK outlets. He often spoke passionately about wheels in particular. He appreciated the craftsmanship that went into building something that was both lightweight and strong.
“I never, ever heard John raise his voice, and I never saw him without that big wide smile, even on hard days into the wind and snow – he was never without a joke.
“I was about 18 or 19 years-old going round the coast on a Sunday run with the Renfrew bunch. It was blowing a hoolie, we were all soaked and I was not enjoying myself one bit.
“We got to the Largs cafe and John could see I was struggling. He said to me; ‘this time tomorrow, you’ll look back on this and laugh, but you’ll be stronger for it.‘
“This became his catchphrase for me when we met, no matter what I was up to.
“That would be about 35 years ago, and funnily enough John would have been the age that I am today.
“A good guy, who made the world a better place.“
‘Amen’ to that, Gordon.
VeloVeritas extends condolences to his lovely wife Rita, his extended family and many friends.
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Tuesday 13th September
Service at 1:00pm at the Lynhurst Hotel, PA5 8LS
then to the cemetery, then back to Lynhurst.