Ron snaps up top prize at 72

Ron, at the top of his career at 72!
Ron, at the top of his career at 72!

At an age when most press photographers would have long since retired and hung up their cameras, Ron MacNeill’s career seems to be taking off at the age of 72.

Admittedly much to his own surprise, one of Ron’s pictures has been judged the best sports action photo of the year at the Scottish Press Photography Awards.

His speedway crash photo.

His speedway crash photo.

Despite his age, Ron, of Kaimend, still regards himself as a bit of a novice, having only taken up photography after his retirement following over three decades of service as technical manager for NHS Lothian.

That came after an earlier career with Ferranti during which he played a part in building the first Concorde passenger jet in the 1960s.

It was almost an accident that he ever took up photography seriously.

Several years ago, he was almost casually asked as a favour to take a snap while visiting his beloved Heart of Midlothian Football Club, and that snowballed into his eventual appointment as the Edinburgh club’s official photographer.

The discovery of his hitherto-hidden skills with a camera also led to his other sporting idols, the Edinburgh Monarchs speedway team, also making him their in-house snapper.

It was one of his speedway pictures, of two riders dramatically colliding, that won him the 2017 press photography award.

He told the Gazette: “When I saw my name on the awards list, I initially thought that there must be another bloke called Ron MacNeill who’s quite good at photography.”

However, when it was confirmed he was, indeed, the winner, Ron’s reaction was, even then, typically self-deprecating: “To me, it just looked like a disorganised jumble of bikes and arms and legs, but the judges obviously saw something in it.

“I still can’t decide if photos like that are down to skill or just being in the right place at the right time.”

Married to the former head of Lanark’s Stanmore House School, the then Janice Bridges, Ron says that, ironically, he was born just a stone’s throw away from Hibernian’s stadium in Edinburgh.

He was later to live for several years in Lanark before moving and retiring – or so he thought – to Kaimend.

His winning picture apart, Ron says his perhaps his proudest achievement was carrying out an assignment for Hearts and then suffering a near-fatal heart attack that night, yet still filing his pictures before the club magazine deadline the next day!