Johnny Mack has spent most of his life as a South London gangster. He was raised as an only child on a notorious South London housing estate mainly by his Irish Mother. All through his childhood he had little contact with his Father because he worked away for long periods from the family home. Even though his Mother was very loving and caring she was also a very strict disciplinarian of a nature which would shock parents of today. Johnny started his childhood as a meek and weak child who became a target for groups of bullies on the housing estate he lived on. This followed him into his first school when he was just aged four. He not only endured the bullying for being a meek child he also became a target for racism. During the late 50’s and early 60’s there was an assortment of racial criticism and abuse especially towards the West Indians and Irish communities.
Johnny’s Mother was a hard worker and held down a job which meant she had to start work very early each morning. So at the age of four Johnny was put out of the front door at 7am and had no choice but to walk the four miles to school alone. Johnny would always arrive at the school gates an hour before it was open, which meant he would be sitting on the steps waiting to be let in. Johnny persevered with the torment of torrent abuse for another six years before finally standing up for himself. He had been noticed by an infamous criminal who lived on the same housing estate as Johnny. This gangster had watched Johnny take beatings and kicking’s almost daily and decided that he would help him to overcome what was happening to him. The gangster taught Johnny the art of self defense but not in the normal sense of the word. Johnny squared up to one of the gang-leaders on his estate but there were no Queensbury rules involved. Johnny ended up bashing this older gang leader with a length of 4x4 wood consequently leaving him in a heap on the side walk. This event gave Johnny status along with a reputation and he became the leader of the gang that once made his life a living hell. The gangster that showed Johnny how to overcome his bullying problems had taken a shine to him and decided to educate and introduce him into the criminal fraternity.
So from the age of ten starting as an apprentice, Johnny became an active member in the criminal world mixing with some of London’s infamous gangsters.
At the age of thirteen after being expelled from several schools he decided that school was not for him. Apart from working as a bookies runner for the criminal gangs he worked in the markets selling his wares from a suitcase. But very quickly Johnny found himself in trouble with the law which frightened his parents. They tried everything to tame Johnny’s behavior but he had become resolute to be like his mentors from the criminal firms. He had seen the money, glamour and above all the respect these criminals gained and wanted what they had.
Leaving home at thirteen he donated all his time and effort to become ‘one of the boys’ but above all he craved respect. This he quickly learned could not be bought and could only be gained by being loyal to his own kind and keeping his mouth shut.
Johnny fell in love at fifteen and moved in with the love of his life, it was not long before a baby was on the way. But Johnny wanted the best for his new family and decided to go on a rampage of crime. Eventually he was captured (Grassed on) and was sentenced to 2 years borstal training. His first child Lynsey-Ann was born while Johnny was incarcerated aged sixteen and it would be thirteen months before he would set eyes on her. After his release Johnny tried working legit with his Father but crime always beckoned and he would be lured back into that way of life.
As the years went by Johnny became a professional criminal by doing acts of crime such as armed robbery, hi-jacking, tie-ups, fraud and extortion to name but a few. He never once opened his mouth to the law when he was arrested and gained his respect as a ‘sound geezer’ from his associates. He got married in the 70’s and even though he was still an active criminal he never once involved his family in his wrong doings. Even Johnny admits hypocritically he went on to teach his children that crime does not pay and insisted that they get good educations and become upright citizens. Johnny is very proud of the fact that none of his four children have followed him into the world that Johnny was once part of.
Johnny was a clever criminal and by that he never got convicted on any major charges. That’s not to say that he was not arrested for some well known criminal capers that went down. But Johnny was a staunch geezer who kept his mouth shut no matter what sort of deals the police were throwing at him to keep his freedom.
In his mid twenties he opened up several illegal drinking and gambling dens known as spiellers by converting houses to cater for them. In these places he would come across all sorts of people from the criminal world who would want to sell their proceeds from crime. Because Johnny was a connected guy he would become a middleman for many an illicit deal, taking his cut from each transaction.
Then in the early 80’s drugs came on the scene and they became the easier way of earning big money. Armed robbery was now becoming a thing of the past because with drugs there were fewer headaches with the police. Cocaine was now the new party drug and everyone was using it, from Judges to pop stars, London became coated in it.
Of course where there was money to be earned than not far behind you would find Johnny trying to line his pockets. But what most gangsters who had done that transition from armed robberies to drugs did not realise was that with drugs came treachery and deceit on a massive scale. Drugs had changed people; there was no more respect or loyalties. It was far worse for those gangsters that began to use their own product and Johnny became one of them. What Johnny did not realise was that he had an addictive personality and became hooked on heroin while in Brixton Prison awaiting trial on an armed robbery and attempted murder charge. Once he was acquitted at the Central Criminal Court he quickly realised that he had become an addict. He quickly became a main player in the ‘Heroin and Crack cocaine’ market not only to make money but also to feed his ever increasing habit.
His wife was worried sick about Johnny and tried everything in her power to get him to stop. But by this time Johnny was in the depths of hell and was a definite for a mortuary slab. She summoned all her courage and left Johnny, who by this time was a broken man. It was only a short time of her leaving that he had a moment of clarity after looking at himself in the mirror and what he was seeing was unrecognisable. With Johnny at his rock bottom he resulted to prayer and gained the courage to get clean from the poison that was contaminating his blood stream. There was not much help out there for the likes of Johnny’s problem unless you were a rock star with a big bank account. Johnny by this time had nothing but the clothes on his back and a good friend offered him a damp basement flat to stay at to get him clean from drugs. For the next ten days without any medical help Johnny went through the horrors of cold turkey. He saw and felt the pain that such a procedure incurred. It started by him talking to dead people by means of hallucinations, then came the sweating, violent vomiting, shaking and not being able to sleep. Yet Johnny won the day and emerged from that damp cold basement flat weighing only nine stone (Fourteen stone being his average) He then left London and joined his family leaving all his criminal exploits behind especially his inner demons…or so he thought.
Arriving penniless on the South coast of England to be with his family he found it so hard to adjust to a normal life. It was not long before Johnny found booze and those demons that he thought he had left behind began to resurface and take effect.
He would try to gain some of the glory he once lived in by going back to his beloved Peckham to try some good old armed robbery. But drugs were rife and those old associates he worked with were now users which resulted in him being doubled crossed and left for dead.
Coming back to his family he knuckled down and started a construction company and slowly his old life was becoming history. His drinking became worse by the day, but because he could still function he dismissed the idea that he may have a problem. Johnny kept up this pretence for the next twenty three years until he was asked to stop by his family and friends. With bravado he dismissed their claims that he had a drink problem and decided to stop. Reality kicked in when Johnny found that he could only maintain short lengths of sobriety. This stopping and starting went on for several years until 6th June 2006 when at 4am he found himself on his knees crying like a baby and praying for help. He had remembered from his experience when trying to get clean from drugs that it helped him when he prayed. It was then that Johnny had another moment of clarity combined with a feeling of absolute love come upon him that he knew he could stop. From that date to this present day Johnny has never touched alcohol. He admits quite frankly that he is alcoholic and attends groups that have others just like him to maintain his sobriety. He has researched and gained a vast amount of knowledge on alcoholism ever since accepting that he is alcoholic. He now helps others who have drink or drug problems because he believes that this is his purpose in life by helping others.
A remarkable man who donates his time in helping other people, people that are living a life that Johnny once lived himself. He is an inspiration to those that are still suffering because when they meet Johnny they see living proof that there is hope.