Westerton community struggles to accept tragic death of a ‘wonderful neighbour and friend’

John Leonard Stern with his wife Irene
John Leonard Stern with his wife Irene

Friends are struggling to come to terms with the tragic death of John Leonard Stern from Bearsden after he was killed at the Jim Clark Rally in the Scottish Borders at the weekend.

Widower John (71) from Spey Road in Westerton, who was known by some as ‘Len’, was hit by a rally car when it veered off the road while he was watching the race on Saturday.

His next-door neighbours John and Liz MacLennan said they were ‘close friends’ with Len and not just ‘neighbours’.

They’d known him for 30 years and had often socialised with him and his late wife Irene over the years.

John said: “He loved cars and rally driving all his life - he’d even built a few rally cars himself with help from friends.

“We are going to miss him very much and it’s just really shocking.

“We can’t believe we will never see him again, we had many happy times having barbecues in his garden and going out together.”

Len, a former BT engineer, lost his wife Irene six years ago. She tragically passed away the same week that he retired to look after her when she became ill.

John added: “Len was a really popular guy, very laid back and well known in the wee community here.

“He really would have helped anybody.

“His wife Irene was also a fantastic lady, a real character, she was active in neighbourhood watch - which Len took over after she died.”

George Lermont, who was best man at Len and Irene’s wedding and had known Len since he was 11-years-old, said he was absolutely devasted by the news. He had spent a lot of time with Len over the years doing long-distance cycles.

He said: “He always made you feel at ease and welcome.

“Because he was so laid back he was always late - but I actually liked him for that.

“He’d never run for a bus - he’d just say we’ll get the next one.

“He was a very calming influence and lots of people are very heartbroken by his loss right now.”

Len was standing next to businessman Iain Provan (64) and his partner Elizabeth Allan (63) who were also killed in the accident.

A fourth spectator who was also hit by the car is fighting for his life.

Five other fans were injured, one critically, in a seperate crash earlier in the day.

According to reports the section of road where this happened - after a small hump-backed bridge - was closed to spectators last year because of safety fears.

Len was apparently due to attend the race on Sunday but went on Saturday due to a last minute change of plan.