Legacy of sport is left by Cramlington rugby stalwart

Ken Johnston died from a heart attack at an England vs Scotland match at Murrayfield this year

L-R Beverley Branlghan, Alan Connell, Joyce Connell, Jess Sidney, Ivan Sidney, Susan Johnston, George Gobling and Barry Elliott
L-R Beverley Branlghan, Alan Connell, Joyce Connell, Jess Sidney, Ivan Sidney, Susan Johnston, George Gobling and Barry Elliott

Stroke survivors can forge a path back to health with curling stones donated in tribute to a much-loved rugby stalwart.

Curling fan and proud Scot Ken Johnston, who lived in Cramlington, Northumberland, died after suffering a heart attack at an England v Scotland match at Murrayfield in February.

Donations at the 60-year-old’s funeral raised £2,000 and have now bought curling equipment for members of the North East branch of the Stroke Association.

Ken, who was a proud Scot and a committed curling fan, died just weeks before the all-Scottish men’s and women’s Great Britain teams at the Sochi Winter Olympics took home silver and bronze medals.

Ken himself suffered a stroke three years before his death.

Mrs Johnston, who describes her husband as someone who was a fun-loving and kind man, says it is a fitting tribute to him that the stones will help people in south east Northumberland recuperate.

“In his life, he always tried to encourage everybody to take up a little bit of sport and exercise,” she said.

“He has left quite a bit of a legacy. That is why he always said he didn’t want flowers at his funeral and to get donations to go to a good cause.”

Ken Johnston, who died at the Scotland v England rugby match at Murrayfield
Ken Johnston, who died at the Scotland v England rugby match at Murrayfield
 

Mr Johnston was born in Scotland and went to Dollar Academy, in Clackmannanshire, where he started playing rugby and represented the school.

He was a devoted Scotland fan and a long-serving member of Gosforth Rugby Club who regularly travelled to the Edinburgh ground with friends.

After finishing his studies, he got into the insurance trade and moved around the industry until he moved to Northumberland in 1974.

He met Susan in Newcastle and they married in 1977 before having a son, Gordon-Ross.

Mr Johnston started as a player at Gosforth in 1974 and played for 15 years before becoming a referee for 10 years.

Mr Johnston retired last September after 38 years with the National Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Society Limited, the last 20 of which being as the National Farmers Union senior group secretary for the North Northumberland group, based in Alnwick.

During this time, he worked closely with Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith over rural matters in the area.

Mrs Johnston said her husband was a joker and didn’t allow his stroke to set him back when he retired.

“He had a mini-stroke but it didn’t leave him physically disabled,” she said. “Sometimes he couldn’t remember when he had something in his left hand.

“He made a joke of it and he would say that he played the ‘stroke victim card’ to get to the front of the queue.”

She added he would be proud that the cash would be used to help others.

“We were looking for an activity that people could do in a wheelchair,” she said.

“I didn’t want it to be just the usual money for a day trip.”

It is now hoped a curling competition can be organised between stroke sufferers in the region using the equipment.

Peter Moore, regional head of operations for the Stroke Association, said: “We are always happy to receive these sort of items to support our groups and any donations in terms of funding are used locally to support local stroke survivors.”

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