John McGee jnr, the Newcastle trainer who had the distinction of parading one of the great Greyhound Derby winners, died on Thursday evening. He was 49.
“John had been battling cancer for a few years and, anyone who knows John, will know how hard he fought,” his wife Julia said. “With such a serious condition, there were ups and down along the way but his condition deteriorated last week. He wanted to be at home and I cared for him here.
“It was his wish that we married last week,” she added. “It was a special moment for both of us and in many ways the current lockdown situation helped us be together. He was due to become a grandad in July - his eldest daughter Faye is pregnant - and so wanted to be here for his granddaughter.
“John just loved the dogs. He had a fantastic understanding of breeding and I learned so much from him. All through his illness, the dogs were his and our priority - and that was the same to the end,” added Julia McGee.
The son of John ‘Ginger’ McGee, John jnr paraded Hit The Lid before the 1988 Daily Mirror/Sporting Life Greyhound Derby at Wimbledon, a Derby considered to be one of the greatest in the history of the sport’s premier Classic.
John McGee snr said: “Junior had been poorly for some time and we feared the news would come. We are all nevertheless devastated.”
Of the pair's Derby success with the Fred Smith-owned Hit The Lid, McGee snr added: “Hit The Lid idolised junior, so we agreed he’d parade Hit The Lid. I had our other finalist Gino. The rest is history. They were great days.”
Ian Walton, general manager at Newcastle, said: “On behalf of the staff and patrons at Newcastle greyhound stadium our condolences are with the family of John McGee jnr.
“John was a trainer at Newcastle for the last few years, with his wife Julia as part of the team. He was a respected trainer, very good with a dog and loved his greyhounds. Our thoughts with all the family at this time.”
Barry Silkman, former greyhound trainer-turned football agent, said: “John jnr worked for me for a while and they were good times.
“We had a lot of laughs and a lot of winners and I remember so clearly him saying I thought my dad walked dogs a long way, but you’re worse! At least I’ll get really fit - if only I could play football. We laughed for so long. I’m gutted.”
John McGee junior leaves wife Julia and daughters Faye, Jade and Jo.