King of the road forever
A legend who had time for all

Dunlop's record 26 TT victories
The career of an all-time great


King of the road forever

JOEY DUNLOP is dead. But his name will live on as long as people race bikes.

The news will have affected everyone who has ever seen or heard of Yer Maun, but nowhere has the impact been more severe than his home town of Ballymoney, 40-odd miles from Belfast.

Just hours after his death was announced by news flashes which broke into the daytime schedules on every Irish television channel, the pub which the 48-year-old owned and ran in the small market town was surrounded by wreaths, bouquets, and messages of remembrance.

It was a spontaneous out-pouring of grief from a part of the world that has had its fair share of things to mourn over recent years, and showed just why Dunlop was one of the few in the province to transcend any barriers of sectarianism or politics.

The sense of grief among the 8500 residents is palpable. The bar is set in a cul-de-sac, and throughout Sunday evening and every day since, the normally quiet road has seen a stream of bikes and cars pull up as people come to pay their own respects.

Joey loved riding riding at the Isle of Yer Maun

Some drive down the road and then drive straight back out without leaving anything. After being mesmerised by his skills at the Isle of Man, they just want to see the place where Joey spent his life.

Ballymoney Mayor Bill Kennedy said: "The town is in shock. People have seen it on television and heard it on the radio, but are still asking 'is it true?' We never thought it would happen to him.
"Everyone here knew Joey, from the little children who collected stickers of him up to the 80-year-old lady who would know who you meant if you said 'Joey's won again on the Island...' It's no exaggeration to say he was loved by everyone, no matter what their background."

Kennedy opened a book of condolence in the council offices on Monday morning, and it already contains hundreds of messages.
Ironically, the last time most townspeople saw Dunlop was at a civic reception earlier this month, arranged to celebrate his hat-trick of wins at this year's TT. He toured the area in an open-top bus, surrounded by a sea of fans.

Ballymoney is at the heart of the Irish road racing scene, and several other racers live there, but it will always be known as the town put on the map by "Yer Maun's" incredible success.

David Wood, a close friend and former manager, said: "You can't believe what the place is like. There is shock in the air. He was known by everyone, and for all the problems Northern Ireland has had it was people like Joey who could put a smile on anyone's face, no matter what their religion or beliefs.

"There have been very few people who could do that. He really was unique. Not only was he a great sportsman, he was also a great human. The only other death I know which has caused this sort of numb feeling of disbelief was Princess Diana's."

The town had honoured him with the Freedom of the Borough in 1993, the highest honour it can bestow, and recent talk had centred on converting an abandoned court house into a museum to celebrate his success.
Kennedy also says he had approached sculptors to discuss having a statue erected - he had planned for Joey to unveil it.

He said: "For a long time we've been looking at ways to let the world know how much the town thinks of Joey. It's just so sad that he won't be able to see it."

But he added it is likely the museum and statue plans will still go ahead.

The sense of grief extends well beyond the two-wheeled world and Ballymoney. In Ireland, both north and south of the border, television programmes on all channels were interrupted by the news, and the 33,000 fans at the Ulster Irish Gaelic Football final in Belfast was silenced when his death was announced during the game.

Mourners gather outside Joey's pub in Ballymoney to lay flowers and remember Yer Maun

One photographer at the event, Stephen Davison, said: "It was amazing. We were in the middle of this game when 30,000 people suddenly took a sharp intake of breath. The whole event changed."

A race at Aghadowey in Co Londonderry was cancelled on Sunday as a mark of respect, while there was a minute's silence at Silverstone on Sunday after the British superbike races.

He leaves five children, Julie the eldest, Donna, Gary, Richard and Joanne, the youngest. He is survived by two brothers and three sisters, and both his parents.