Harry “Johnny Sombrero” Barnes

November 14, 2016

All Posts, News, Obituaries

Harry “Johnny Sombrero” Barnes

We grow old. Harry “Johnny Sombrero” Barnes, the founder and Supreme Commander of the Black Diamond Riders Motorcycle Club in Ontario, died nine days ago on November 5, 2016 of complications from heart disease and diabetes.

Canada’s first outlaw motorcycle club was the Canadian Lancers Motorcycle Club founded in 1950. Johnny Sombrero joined that club when he was 21, in 1956, He quickly became its leader and rechristened his new family the Black Diamond Riders. By 1963, the club had 200 members and a reputation for brawling. Barnes was arrested that year for having an unlicensed bar in the Black Diamond Riders clubhouse and he eventually did three months in jail for the offense.

In 1970, the Toronto chapter of the Satan’s Choice Motorcycle Club, began a series of fights and skirmishes with the BDR that continued for more than 20 years. The hard feelings seemed to culminate in a brawl between members of the two clubs in a motel parking lot in Sudbury, Ontario in September 1992. Eight men were hospitalized. Local police refused to name them. One Black Diamond Rider was shot in the abdomen. No one in either club cooperated with police. Eventually three men were arrested – two of them in October 1992 and the third in 2009.

Johnny Sombrero annoyed the police for six decades, not so much for what he did as for his free and independent attitude. A Canadian Swat team broke into his home on January 21, 2010.  He was a gunsmith and a gun collector. His collection included both a gun his father had given when he was seven and multiple, legally possessed machine guns. The police accused him of improperly storing 18 guns. The guns were stored in two locked metal cabinets. Police and prosecutors charged “the guns were put away together with their removable bolts or bolt-carriers” in violation of Canadian law. They also alleged, “the guns were not kept in a vault or a room that was specially constructed or modified for the storage of prohibited firearms,” The issue in the case was whether the cabinets qualified as “safes.” The case lingered for 17 months before a judge ruled that Barnes had done nothing wrong and his guns were returned to him.

Harry “Johnny Sombrero” Barnes is survived by Maire Barnes, his wife of 58 years; his children, Shane Barnes, Myra Tingey, Sabrina Robinson, Spain Barnes and Sinceray McCabe; and his seven grandchildren, Devon (Robinson) Manson, Scott McCabe, Connor Robinson, Darren McCabe, Daniel Tingey, Lucus Barnes and Michael Barnes.

He was buried last Saturday in the Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, Ontario.

His daughter Sabrina described her father as “true to his principles and absolutely loyal to everyone around him.”

His personal motto was “No guts, no glory.

Harry “Johnny Sombrero” Barnes was 81-years-old. Canada will be unusually grey this winter, now that he is gone.

Requiscat In Pace


22 Responses to “Harry “Johnny Sombrero” Barnes”

  1. Preacher Bill Says:

    Johnny was truly a legend. I like the article but need to clear one thing up. He was not an outlaw as defined by cops and Joe citizen. He was simply a man who lived on his own terms. He was law abiding and a believer in honour,respect, and loyalty. He hated drugs, cowards, snitches and nerdowels. To be in his club you had to be stand up, tough and clean. Yes he and his club was and remains a true motorcycle club dedicated to the old school ways. If living your life true to self with out compremise make one an outlaw then so be it. To me he was and remains a friend and Supreme Commander. A true legend R.I.P. GBNF DFFD

  2. Elinor Says:

    Lucky enough to know Mr. Harry Barnes, aka Johnny Sombrero between 1988 and 1992. Always kind, considerate, and caring to me. My condolences to the whole Barnes family. R.I.P.

  3. Sharon Cox Says:

    Johnny was a LEGEND in the Canadian biker world……RIP, you will be missed.

  4. lee griffin Says:

    sounds like the world has lost another one of the last few outlaws this world had, may he ride free in the wind, respects to his family and club free forever forever free.

  5. Philo Bedo Says:

    @Paladin – Good point. Very good point. In a world where everything is against the law, everyone should know the system.


  6. Philo Bedo Says:

    Dude lived his life on his terms. Like a boss. Good on him.



  7. Whitepride Says:

    RIP Mr.Barnes and condolences to his brothers, family, and friends up north

  8. LW Says:

    A true Canadian icon and good man. Best to his family and brothers.

    LW Pres BMC Canada

  9. JMacK Says:

    Deepest condolences and Respects to the family and Brothers of Johnny Sombrero. Thanks for blazing a trail.


  10. The Kraut Says:

    Respects and condolences to Mr. Barnes family and Brothers.

    I can only imagine the fullest of lives is the one he lived.

    Respect to those who warrant respect

    The Kraut

  11. Hippie john Says:

    Todays club members have no idea what an original member of any club went thru to keep the club alive
    The young guns today need to learn from us old guys
    And they need to show more respect

  12. Kelly Says:

    There was a movie that Hollywood should have made rather than the inaccurate crap they usually make. He could probably have patched over to other bigger clubs but he stayed true to his patch and his brothers, and that’s something special.

  13. BMW Says:

    Condolences to the Brothers, Family and Friends of Johnny Sombrero!

    Sometimes, I despair for coming generations of bikers because so little is preserved of the individualistic and iconoclastic guys who created the “Biker” culture. There is no one I know of to keep the memories and stories of those, except for a few Brothers. When they pass, will the pins, patches and tales be sold at an estate sale to RUBBIES? I am not talking about colors, of course, but the posters, trophies and most importantly, the tales of really great guys. Those stories are our heritage, in many ways. These stories inform newbees of how it was when we made our own parts, created our own machines, and lived as men. Long before RUBBIES could buy “custom parts on the Internet with free delivery, we lived as free men…


  14. TX_Biker Says:

    Godspeed Johnny, Ride free in the forever chapter. Few of us get to live life on our own terms like you did.

  15. One Eye Says:

    Ride free Johnny Sombrero, and condolences to all who loved him. A truly iconic part of the Canadian biking scene, and its history.

  16. swampy Says:

    Sincerest condolences to all who knew him. Hopefully there are some younger men Mr. Barnes mentored and set an example for that will carry his legacy.

  17. Sandmann Says:

    @Paladin: well spoken

    Rest in peace, Mr. Barnes.

  18. Dutchboy frmo Says:

    So many of the old school are passing away. Fair winds and following seas, Johnny. Hope they have a hog in heaven with your name on it so you can putt the streets of gold.

  19. Sieg Says:

    RIP / GBNF
    Seated in the Great Hall of Warriors
    Condolences and reslect to the family, Brothers and friends of this righteous rider.

  20. Nihilist Says:

    Sounds like he had a colorful and remarkable life. “Free and independent attitude.” We definitely need more like him. R.I.P., Man.

  21. Loose Cannon Says:

    Rest in Peace

  22. Paladin Says:

    Mr. Barnes was a truly formidable outlaw because unlike most others, he understood that if one knows the laws better than the other guy, one can do what one wants without breaking them.

    Long May He Ride,


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