Farewell to Edinburgh Monarchs and Evening News photographer Ron MacNeill

YOU never know where, you never know when. Never have truer words been spoken.

Friday, 28th June 2019, 4:41 pm
Ron MacNeill Pic: Liam Rudden

That sentiment was brought home with the unexpected and devastating news on Tuesday that Evening News and Edinburgh Monarchs track photographer Ron MacNeill had passed away suddenly.

It’s still hard to get my head around. He’d been in fine fettle a few days before when I took the above photo and he’d last texted me the day before. His last email, with photos from the Redcar match we’d both been at on the Saturday, had arrived just 12 hours prior to the call that broke the sad news.

Ron was one of those people who was always pleased to see you and, consequently, people were always pleased to see Ron.

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Nothing was too much trouble for him. When he wasn’t sharing words of encouragement there would always be a story to tell or some wisdom to impart - riders, track staff and management alike loved and respected him.

A speedway fan since the 50s, Ron travelled the length and breadth of the country photographing his team, one of two sporting passions in his life, he was also Heart of Midlothian’s official photographer, but Ron was far more than just a club servant. He was a friend.

I first met him just after he became track photographer. He’d pop up to hospitality to take a shots of the family and pals who gathered annually to celebrate my ‘40th’ birthday. Over the years he became one of those pals.

This year, co-hosting Monarchs’ meetings with John McGillivray has meant I get to Armadale Stadium earlier than in the past and I’ve developed a pre-match routine to fill the time.

After signing in and dropping my things off at the ‘Tower Studio’ overlooking the track, from where we present the meeting, I’d take a wander around the stadium, saying hello to the Monarchs’ family preparing to open the gates and picking up our mics and ear-pieces when John hadn’t already beat me to it.

Along the way, I’d seek out Ron for a catch up and to swap news. There was seldom a chance afterwards as he’d be straight back to his office - his car - to edit his pictures, add a caption, and email them to the News - a tight deadline but one he never missed.

Ron had an innate ability to be in the right place at the right and knew the exact moment to press the shutter. His shots were literally award-winning.

In 2017 he won the prestigious Best Sports Action Award at the Scottish Press Photography Awards.

He was also awarded the Raymond Jarvie Trophy for Outstanding Service to the Club by the Monarchs and received The Doc Melvin Award from Hearts.

This season, Ron had been sending me a selection of his photos each week - his candid behind the scenes shots from the pits were equally brilliant - with a view to collating them all into a Ron MacNeill Monarchs’ Annual.

Sadly his season finished earlier than he had anticipated. I’ll ensure that project is completed.

One thing I do know is Armadale Stadium will be all the poorer without him. He’ll be badly missed, of course, never more so than by wife Janice and family, to whom I extend my deepest sympathy.

Sleep well pal.