The first time BMX star John Buultjens wrote his story down on a piece of paper, no one believed him.
In 1988, John, then aged 16, struggled to read and write but poured out his troubles in a school essay a teacher immediately shot down.
Sexual abuse by a family friend aged five, begging on the streets of Glasgow, and his father’s beatings were just some of the things John had to endure before he was adopted.
“It was the first time I opened up and my teacher basically said, ‘This is rubbish, no one went through this’”, John said.
Now, however, John’s story has been taken seriously as his autobiography Ride: BMX Glory, Against All The Odds has struck a chord with audiences across the world and there is even an adapted movie of his life-story starring rapper-turned-actor Ludacris, which is due for release in September.
But for now the focus is on his book which he will talk about in his home city at Glasgow’s Aye Write Festival on March 16 at the Mitchell Library, which will be a significant moment for the man who started life as John Craig.
John, who now lives in the US, said: “I am actually doing my talk on my birthday. To do that 47 years to the day in my birthtown… I get emotional even thinking about it.”
The movie charts John’s humble beginnings in Glasgow. He grew up in Drumchapel with his brother and two sisters after the family moved from Whiteinch. His dad Thomas, who John plays in the movie, worked in the shipyards before he became unemployed.
He was always angry and often turned on John or his wife Margaret. On one occasion, John was thrown in a fire by his father. John was eventually put into Glenrosa children’s home after he picked up a knife in a bid to stop his dad beating his mum.
He was then adopted by biracial couple Eldridge and Marianna Buultjens, who today he considers his parents. He was introduced to a new way of life in Glasgow’s plush west end before the family settled in Dundee.
He started on the path to becoming one of the biggest names in BMX after he got his first bike after watching ET at the cinema. His passion became a career which has allowed John to travel the world.
His foray into writing, with Glasgow journalist Chris Sweeney, could be viewed as John’s ultimate achievement given he was asked to leave Harris Academy in Dundee because “they couldn’t teach him anything else”.
He said: “I couldn’t read or write until I was 10 years old. I was tongue-tied as well and I had the worst slang little accent – I couldn’t speak properly.
“I went to school in Glasgow but I wasn’t learning nothing. I was just that little kid that was causing havoc in the school.”
He continued: “I always struggled with reading and writing and I was asked to leave school.
“I wasn’t bunking school or anything, I just wasn’t learning anything.
“To be honest, my reading and writing started with e-mails. That was probably 20 years ago.
“But I knew years ago I would write a book. I didn’t know how I was going to do it because my English was rubbish.”
Ironically, John returned to his old high school in December to give a talk to pupils about what you can achieve in life.
His story has even inspired another well-known Scottish actor to take the plunge into writing an autobiography, which John learned when he received a call from the star.
He said: “I had Tommy Flanagan tell me I inspired him to do a book. I have the whole series of Taggart including episodes he was in.
“He grew up not far from me and he was telling me his story.
“It’s amazing, my story helping people open up from all walks of life.”
John, who has a daughter Mackenzie Mae in Australia, is an ambassador for Adoption UK and he wants to give hope to young people who have gone through tough times.
He said: “This book is really about leaving the past in the past – you can’t change it.
“That is the message I want people to get from it.”
To attend John’s reading, book tickets at whatsonglasgow.co.uk