“Legend” is a word too easily attached to a character, but in John’s case, there is no more fitting adjective, as evidenced by the many tributes and comments on social media and other platforms since his passing on Saturday. John had three great loves: sport, dogs and close friends.
He was the Phys. Ed. master at St Stithians Boys’ Prep for many years, paying scant attention to swimming and cross-country: focusing on his great love, cricket. John was a phenomenal cricket coach, producing unbeaten teams as a matter of course. His great strength lay in his diagnostic abilities, analysing and correcting faults in the play and style of cricketers from eight-year-olds all the way to world-class international players, many of whom would consult Ridgy” to help correct a flaw.
John’s love of dogs was evident in the fact that he seldom had less than three at a time. He was a familiar figure for many years walking the ring road at Saints’ complete with stick and canine companions. John’s favourite breeds were Staffies and Jack Russels, but he often supplemented his family with rescue dogs of dubious ancestry. Who can forget Wilbur (of no official abode), trailing John to the pool or cricket field chewing on a sandwich liberated from a Grade 3’s lunch box?
John shared his house with his lifelong friend and fellow sports enthusiast John Hurry. Watching a cricket or rugby match on T.V. at their house was a treat. Their knowledge of the game and insightful but gentlemanly commentary added a special dimension. John Hurry’s passing some years ago was a great blow to John, and those who knew him well could see that a bit of the light in him had dimmed. I was privileged to have shared many Thursday night dinners at their house with their close and remarkable friend and “watchdog” Billy O’Reilly. I will never forget the dogs sitting obediently at Billy’s feet waiting for their traditional ice cube laced with whisky!
John would have spent over twenty Christmas dinners at my house this year, half of which with John Hurry. He was loved and was revered by my wife and children. Joanne saw him as the perfect gentleman; Michael was in awe of his vast sports knowledge. Kerryn said, “Christmas won’t be the same without Ridgy,”.
It is fitting that both Johns were honoured by having their respective cricket pitches named after them: Hurry at King Edwards and Ridgway at St Stithians.