Rally champion sadly passes away

Derek Johnston
Derek Johnston

Tributes have been pouring in of one of the provinces top rallying champions, Derek Johnston from Hillsborough who passed away at the weekend at the age of 91.

Derek, was one of the few racing stars from Northern Ireland who won two major titles the Monte Carlo and Circuit of Ireland in the 1950’s. The other drivers to have accompolished such feats were Paddy Hopkirk, Terry Harryman and Ronnie Adams.

Derek, was raised on the Belsize Road but spent his latter years from 1982 in Culcavey. He died after a short illness at Lagan Valley Hospital on Saturday afternoon.

Derek achieved his first major title the Circuit of Ireland rally in 1952 in an MG and in 1956 won the Monte Carlo with Ronnie Adams and Frank Bigger in a works Jaguar car.

For 40 years he was a motorsport correspondent with the BBC. He was also a promoter of the sport and worked alongside Alan Tyndall PR.

Derek also served in the RAF during the Second World War and later ran his own garage business Chambers and Johnston at Agincourt Avenue off the Ormeau Road.

He was Secretary Manager for Ulster Reform Club in Belfast.

Son Brian, who is a BBC producer, spoke fondly of his father.

“Daddy had a long and happy life,” he said. “He was a Lisburn man through and through and was proud of that.

“His father was the well known GP Dr Johnston and lived for many years on the Belsize road.”

“He loved working as a motorsport correspondent. He still would have sent reports into the BBC and in October, he said to me would it be ok if I stopped. I told him yes, ofcourse that would be fine. I thought it might be allright, at the age of 91.”

Brian Patterson, a racing journalist and friend, spoke highly of someone whom he described as a ‘terrific person.’

He said that he was a true professional who was not only accurate, but reliable too.

“He was a very special person and quite a guy,” he said. “He will be sorely missed. Derek was good fun, loved to enjoy himself and was fun to be with at a party.

“He was always a true professional throughout his career and would never put a foot out of place. He was also a true friend. He was highly respected both as a competitor and a broadcaster.”

He is survived by his wife Joan and children Brian, Carole and Colin and two grandchildren Emma and Alec.

His funeral took place on Thursday at Roselawn Crematorium.