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Correspondence

Johnny Johnson

For Johnny Johnson, it was always Saturday night.  He was the stuff of fictional heroes who prevail over their circumstances.  A British army doctor who later joined the Royal Navy, Johnny came from a broken home, never married, and eventually saw his only child given up for adoption.  When he left school in the depths of the Depression, he had no prospects of a job and turned to medicine because he “thought he might meet girls there,” rather than from any burning sense of vocation.  He struggled with financial worries and declining health throughout his adult life.  It is possible he suffered from some form of personality disorder, or even schizophrenia.

But the world was one vast opportunity for Surgeon Lt.-Cdr. John Robb-Johnson, whom I met in early 1965, when he was 43 and I was 8.  Whatever his circumstances, he always believed that the next day, or the next moment, would be better.  For him, the glass was always half full; often literally so, as he consumed up to two bottles of gin per day.  While he formed few close friendships, Johnny was widely popular and extravagantly generous with his time and money.  People loved to hear him talk.  He had a bottomless fund of stories, which sometimes became more amusing, or dramatic, over time, but which never failed to hold his audience.  Among other things, Johnny had been an Olympic-class oarsman, a professional boxer, a fairground...

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