Born: Dumbarton, June 9, 1940. Died: Glasgow, October 12, 2018.
John Lindsay, pictured right, who has died aged 77 after suffering from leukaemia, was a popular motor trader in the west of Scotland, perhaps best-known after he took over the dealership at Dumbuck, Dumbarton, previously-owned by Sir Jackie Stewart’s family.
John had started as a mechanic at Dumbuck Garage aged 16 at a time when the Stewarts were probably Scotland’s best-known Jaguar dealership and car ownership was still a relative luxury. He worked his way up to become a salesman and eventually own the business, at the landmark junction where drivers from Glasgow decide between Helensburgh or Loch Lomond. As more folks could afford cars, he made Dumbuck Garage more accessible and turned it into a highly-successful Vauxhall dealership, now owned by his only son Damon and known as Lindsays Dumbuck. John and Jackie, both Dumbartonians born within a mile of each other, had become friends in their first years at Dumbarton Academy and the future three-times Formula One world champion considered John his best friend for the rest of his life. He invited his school pal to Grands Prix around the world, taking comfort in John’s deep knowledge of motor racing and simply his Clydeside accent against the backdrop of F-1s glamour and hangers-on.
Sir Jackie helped John’s wife Nan, her son Damon and daughter-in-law Elaine comfort him during his final days when John, still frisky of mind, continued to insist he had always been faster than Jackie when they were both “boy-racers” on the twisting, speed-limitless country roads around Loch Lomond, Glen Fruin, Drymen, Stirling, the Rest and Be Thankful and beyond.
Even on John’s deathbed, Sir Jackie took the old joke in good spirit. He was also the first to admit that John had been a major influence on his driving career, particularly when Jackie set up his own Formula One team, Stewart Grand Prix, in 1996.
Like Jackie, although on a more mundane scale, John survived a few near-death situations on the road. Once, a steel ingot flew off the back the lorry outside Glasgow, went through his windscreen and struck him on the face. Doctors said could have killed him. Another time, he was speeding rally-style over a hump near Garelochhead when a black and white cow in the middle of the road declined to give way. He always remembered that the cow showed no gratitude as he tried to get his car out of a ditch.
John Galloway Lindsay was born in Dumbarton on June 9, 1940, and he and his brother Andrew were brought up in Geils Avenue by his father William, a draughtsman at Dewrance and Company in Glasgow Road, and his always-cheery mother Meg (née Galloway). The family survived the 1941 Clydeside blitz which, although centred on Clydebank, also targeted the shipyards of Dumbarton.
At Dumbarton Academy, John was a gifted goalkeeper in the days when they wore yellow jerseys, woolly caps and leather boots. As a teenager, he cut a dash in Dumbarton in one of the first-ever Mini Minors seen in Scotland, a bright red one he bought in 1959 for £499, souped up and embellished with a wooden racing-style steering wheel.
When he started as a mechanic at Dumbuck Garage, it was owned by Jackie’s father Bob. It later went to Jackie’s elder brother Jimmy, himself a top motor racing driver, mostly in Le Mans-type cars such as the D-Type Jaguar. In 1965, on behalf of the Stewart family, Jackie, already making headlines on the F-1 circuit, sold it to his pal John, whose son Damon would later take over and runs it as a successful family business until this day.
John died in the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow, where, his wife Nan said, he was treated “brilliantly, with great love and care” throughout his illness. Nan herself had been deeply involved in Dumbuck Garage and the motor trade in general. She was a popular president of the Scottish Motor Trade Association for two years.
John’s brother-in-law Phil he had spoken to him the day before he died: “He was as annoyingly funny as ever. The second last thing he said to me was ‘what does DNA stand for?’ I said I didn’t know. ‘National Dyslexia Association.’ The last thing he said to me was ‘Love you,” the first time he had said that in the 60 years I had known him. He was a believer and had told me throughout his illness he was “ready to be with the Lord.”
In his eulogy at a memorial service in Rhu, Sir Jackie recalled a time when he, Jackie, had to drive the great former five-times F-1 world champion Juan Manuel Fangio from the Donnington Park racing circuit to Heathrow airport. Jackie let John drive the Rolls Royce. When they got to Heathrow, Fangio got out of the Roller and said to Jackie: “this boy (John) is the best guy that’s ever driven me.”
Sir Jackie began the eulogy: “I’ve been to many funerals, mostly due to my profession. I usually get emotional, so forgive me if I do now.” After telling of his adventures with John, he concluded: “John was the best friend I ever had, and ever will” before leaving the podium in tears.
John Lindsay is survived by his beloved wife of 53 years, Nan, their son Damon, grand-daughters Iona and Lara, and John’s brother Andrew. The couple lived for many years in a bungalow next door to their garage at Dumbuck and moved to Rhu on Garelochside when they retired from the business.