Belfast Telegraph

TV View: My visor lifts on the incredible world of Dunlop brothers

By Joe Nawaz

There's a guy who lives on our street who owns a motorbike. He isn't content to just own this motorbike mind you. He bedecks himself in his gaudy homo-erotic leathers and revs the bloody thing of a Saturday morning.

Then, when he's quite sure he's successfully incurred the ire of every sentient being in the vicinity, he pootles off in his spluttering glorified Vespa, just round the corner to the Mace to get a pint of milk and his copy of TV Quick. He then loudly returns for a few more brain-felching revs and a studied, pretend inspection of said "road hog" to make sure the wheels are on correctly or whatever.

All this with his over-sized helmet on. Now I think on it, I've never actually seen his face. I'm not even certain he ever takes it off, which must make showering awkward, but one thing I do know is that this purple-helmeted piston peddler and many like him have coloured my opinion on all things motorbikey – to use the proper adjective.

So watching Road then, the tale of the famous Dunlop motorbiking clan, was akin to the visor being lifted from my eyes, and me shaking my golden tresses free in slow-mo, wide-eyed wonder. Something like a cross between an epiphany and a Timotei advert.

Road, quite simply, was a stunning documentary about a family and dare I say, a community obsession with racing very quickly on two wheels along public roads for – not fun exactly, but more like a slightly more dangerous alternative to heroin. And like the best documentaries, you didn't have to give two-strokes about the ostensible subject matter (um motorbike racing) to find the epic drama of family tragedy and triumph more compelling than the idea of me in a blonde wig.

Starting unpromisingly with a Milan Kundera quote and a ponderous, Liam Neeson narrative (but seriously Liam, the-voice-of-God-as-Ian-Paisley-heard-it thing is starting to chafe the ears), Road quickly settled into gripping drama, charting the rise and rise of brothers Joey and Robert, who started racing for fun and turned out to be brilliant at it.

A host of talking heads helped to neatly piece together the story of these two rather private and essentially unknowable Ballymoney lads who dominated the world of motorcycle racing for decades until their tragic – although some including themselves would say fitting – demise on the track.

That Robert's sons William and Michael followed in their famous dad and uncle's, um, footsteps, gave this tale an emotional heft to somebody who used to switch over whenever Jackie Fullerton used to say "and meanwhile at the North West 200".

BBC pundit and family friend Liam Beckett explained that the brothers "converted their bikes in such a way, that they were missiles." Another commentator explained about how racers described lampposts, telegraph poles, walls, hedges – ie the very solid, unyielding paraphernalia that lined the roads they hurtled along with little regard for personal safety – as "furniture".

The disconnect between the horror footage of crashes and a racer quietly explaining that "when you're on the bike, you feel in control" demonstrated, rather chillingly, just how, like most addicts, you live in the here and now as a racer.

As Beckett tearfully recalled the last night of Joey Dunlop on Earth, you find yourself involuntarily welling up like a reluctant African aid worker. Remarkably, six weeks after Joey's death, Robert began racing again. Inevitably, you might say, if you were melodramatically inclined, he died on the track with his sons racing alongside.

That Michael then went on to win the North West 200 that year, might have been scripted. Road really was a film about family, legacy, selfish desire, and that odd see-saw dynamic between fathers and sons. And it was hard to feel sad for long – as William said: "It's better to be killed on a motorbike than lying for six months dying."

The best thing about Road though is that, even though you may think "two wheels bad", you can't help but recognise the Dunlops as true local heroes. A fittingly unfussy salute to these quiet maestros. But that guy up my street is still an idiot.

Peaky Neill’s pitch getting there, so it is

It's that time again! Peaky Blinders is back, and with it the legend that is Sam Neill's peaky Ulster drawl.

You may remember that in series one, poor CI Campbell was lumbered with an accent that was Broughshane meets distressed albatross. But word on the street is he's been licking his vowels into shape with the help of Jimmy Nesbitt.

“I am a vurry bizzy mawn guvnorr” was his opening salvo.

“Not bawd”, I thought, getting carried away with the moment. He followed up with: “In the naxt faar minutes its yur dyootay to escort that mawn to the gates uff hell.” You know what? It's getting there. Or thurr.

Switch on...

Spotlight: (BBC1)

The spotlight special on Kincora boys’ home was chilling, yet essential viewing. Sterling investigative work on a subject that you sense has many more dark corners still to be illuminated.

Switch off...

The Great British Bake Off: (BBC2)

Somebody won it, by baking to a better standard than the other finalists. Now they can call themselves Great British Bake-off Champion of 2014. At least I THINK that's how it works. And God Only Knows what the BBC were thinking murdering THAT song. Dark times people.

Belfast Telegraph


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