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William Dunlop's heartbroken mum on the first Christmas without him

Louise Dunlop tells Leona O'Neill that the family has been touched by the letters and gifts from motorcycling fans from around the world but she, his partner Janine, daughters Ella and Willa Wren and brothers Michael and Daniel will still be faced with an empty chair at the dinner table

Louise Dunlop with her son William
Louise Dunlop with her son William
William with his partner Janine and their eldest daughter Ella
William Dunlop
William’s partner Janine, his grandmother May and mother Louise; the rider with his daughter Ella (inset), and (below) William in action
The rider with his daughter Ella
William with his daughter Ella
William's mother Louise and partner Janine
Mourners line the road at William Dunlop’s funeral in Ballymoney this year

The heartbroken mother of late road racing hero William Dunlop says her family are facing a "poignant and raw" first Christmas without him.

The 32-year-old Ballymoney rider died in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 race in Co Dublin back in July.

It was the third tragedy to hit the Dunlop family. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 racing in Estonia, and just eight years later death struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200.

William had been looking forward to the birth of his second child with his partner Janine Brolly. His "pride and joy", little Ella, marked her second birthday just three days after her Daddy was buried.

The couple's baby girl, Willa Wren, was born two months after her father's passing. At the time William's devastated partner said she had no doubt that he would have been "besotted" with his new baby and said she was "grateful for two precious girls who are keeping my heart beating".

Now the family are facing a tough Christmas without a much-loved partner, son, father and brother.

William's mother Louise says that it will be very hard.

"The first Christmas without William will be really tough," she told the Belfast Telegraph. "William has only left us a few months ago and we are just not really able to want to do a lot or see people. That raw stage is still here. We just want time and space because you cannot get over things as easily now, particularly when it was someone so young and it was very unexpected. It is hard, but you have to do things. There is an awful lot of people going through exactly the same thing as we are."

Louise says that Janine is finding the loss of her partner and father of her two children particularly difficult.

At the time of his funeral Louise paid a special tribute, promising to tell their girls "how special Daddy was and how much he loves them".

PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 23/8/2017: William Dunlop on the start line for practice at the Classic TT.
PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 23/8/2017: William Dunlop on the start line for practice at the Classic TT. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
William Dunlop racing during practice at Skerries today. Pacemaker
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 9th May 2017 Vauxhall International North West 200 practice sessions. Pictured: Paul Jordan and William Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
William Dunlop racing during practice at Skerries today. PACEMAKEER BELFAST 07/07/2018
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 20/3/2017: William Dunlop with his Caffrey International R6 Yamaha he will race in the Supersport class in 2017. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 7/7/2018: William Dunlop in action on the Temple Golf Club Yamaha during practice for the Skerries 100 today. William died in crash during the session. PICTURE BY DEREK WILSON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 2010: Michael and William Dunlop in their father Robert's Memorial Garden in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 7/7/2018: Gardai at the scene where William Dunlop suffered a fatal crash during practice for the Skerries 100 today.
Northern Ireland- 13th August 2014 Mandatory Credit - Matt Mackey/Presseye.com William Dunlop in action on board his superbike at practice for the Dundrod 150 and Ulster Grand Prix road races.
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 25/8/2017: Michael and William Dunlop at Classic TT practice tonight. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/5/2014: William Dunlop celebrates after winning the opening Superbike race at the Vauxhall International North West 200. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
William Dunlop and his partner Janine arrive at the Adelaide Motorcycle Awards in Belfast in 2014. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/1/2014.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 03/06/13: Brothers Michael (MD Racing Honda) and William Dunlop (Milwaukee Yamaha) in the winners enclosure after finishing first and third in the opening Monster Energy supersport race on his MD Racing Honda at the 2013 Isle of Man TT PHOTO BY STEPHEN DAVISON/PACEMAKER
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 23/1/2015: That's my boy! William Dunlop, winner of the Race of the Year category at the Adelaide Motorbike awards with his mother Louise. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
William Dunlop at the Armoy Road Races in 2016. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 27th April 2017 Cookstown 100 Road Races. Pictured: William Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 1/5/2015: William Dunlop during Tandragee 100 practice. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 William Dunlop (Tyco BMW Motorrad Racing) during Tuesday's practice for the North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 24/7/2015: William Dunlop (CD Racing Yamaha) celebrates winning the opening 600cc race at the Armoy road races on Friday evening. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2017 Isle of Man TT Practice Week Pictured: William Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Mandatory Credit: Rowland White / PressEye Motor Cycling: Tandragee 100 Venue: Tandragee Date: 1st May 2015 Caption: William Dunlop
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th August 2016 Practice sessions for the Plant Lubrication Dundrod 150 and the MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix get underway. Pictured: William Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2017 Vauxhall International North West 200 Pictured: William Dunlop with fans. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 07th June 2017 Isle of Man TT RL360 Quantum Superstock Race Pictured: William Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th August 2017 Dundrod 150 Gym Co Ultralightweight / Lightweight Race Pictured: Paul Jordan and William Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th August 2017 Ulster Grand Prix & Dundrod 150 Practice Pictured: William Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Mandatory Credit: Rowland White PressEye Road Racing: Cooktown 100 Venue: Orritor Date: 30th April 2016 Race: Supersport 2 Caption: William Dunlop celebrates
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 3rd June 2013 Mandatory Credit - Brian Little/ Presseye William Dunlop (Milwaukee Yamaha) at Creg-Ny-Baa during Monday's Royan London 360 Superstock Race over the Mountain Course during the IOM TT 2013.
Northern Ireland- 13th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Picture - Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Vauxhall International 2014 North West 200. Tuesday practice. William Dunlop Tyco.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 26th April 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/presseye.com Cookstown 100 road races practice evening. Ballymoney rider William Dunlop.
PACEMAKER BELFAST, 9/5/2006: Robert Dunlop is the most successful rider in the history of the North West 200 with 14 wins and as he goes for win 15 in 2006 he will have strong competition from his own sons Michael and William. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST,2007: The Dunlop family enjoyed a winning day at teh Mid Antrim 150 with Michael, Dad Robert and William all winning a race apiece. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 2008: Robert Dunlop and his three sons Daniel, Michael and William. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

She poignantly wrote in a tribute on William's official website that the area where "he really shone brightest was as a father".

Louise says his little girls are helping everyone in the family cope with their loss.

"We are getting through and Janine and the girls are getting us all through too," she said.

"But they have their own struggles as well, Janine in particular.

"Just at the moment we are just not functioning very well. It's not easy. We don't know what we will do on Christmas Day. At this moment in time we are just taking it day by day. We are just trying to get through the next few weeks and months, and get Janine through it and the girls.

"It's just about taking each day as it comes. For Janine it is particularly hard. It is her future gone, she is grieving for the girls as well as for herself. It is all just very painful and still very raw at the moment."

The funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: Motorcycle racer William Dunlop's brother Michael, carries his coffin at the funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: Motorcycle racer William Dunlop's partner Janine and his mother Louise, (centre) at his funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: A biker pays his respects at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: Grief stricken. A young fan at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: Racers Glenn Irwin and Derek Sheils and their partners Laura and Alicia pay their respects at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: Bikers pay their respects at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: A huge crowd of mourners brave the rain at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: A huge crowd of mourners brave the rain at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: Members of the Loughshinny Club (black and yellow shirts) organisers of the Skerries 100 races where motorcycle racer William Dunlop was killed in practice last Saturday, join the mourners at his funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: Hawk team bosses Steve and Stuart Hicken at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: William Dunlop's grandmother May at the motorcycle racer's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: Race marshals pay their respects at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: Racers Glenn Irwin and Derek Sheils pay their respects at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: A huge crowd of mourners brave the rain at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: William Dunlop's former 125cc racing rivals Melissa Kennedy, William Cowden and Nigel Moore pictured at the motorcycle racer's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: Former road racers Brian Reid, Steven Cull and sponsor Davy Glover at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: Ryan Farquhar at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: A huge crowd of mourners brave the rain at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: Race marshals pay their respects at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: A race marshal is overcome by emotion at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: Roger Chen from Taiwan was a mourner at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney today. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 last Saturday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. Jackie Fullerton pictured the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. Mourners pictured the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. Family and friends pictured the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. Family friend and sports commentator Liam Beckett pictured the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. MP Ian Paisley Jnr pictured the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. Family and friends pictured the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. Road racer Glenn Irwin pictured the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. William Dunlop's brother Michael arrives for the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. Family and friends pictured the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 General view of the PSNI officers at the scene of the Cluan Place bonfire in east Belfast as contractors remove material from the 11th night bonfire. A large police operation was also put in place with over 100 PSNI officers in riot gear present at the scene. Councillor Jim Rodgers speaks to the police. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. Mourners pictured the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. Mourners pictured the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. Family friend and sports commentator Liam Beckett pictured the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
William's partner Janine as the funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Michael Dunlop The funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Daniel Dunlop The funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
William's partner Janine as the funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
William's partner Janine as the funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
William's partner Janine as the funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Motorcycle racing fans attend the funeral of Road Racing champion William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church, Ballymoney after he died in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 in County Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 11, 2018. See PA story FUNERAL Dunlop. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
William Dunlop funeral
The funeral of William Dunlop takes place in Ballymoney on July 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
TV presenter Adrian Logan attends the funeral of Road Racing champion William Dunlop takes place at Garryduff Presbyterian Church, Ballymoney after he died in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 in County Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 11, 2018. See PA story FUNERAL Dunlop. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. William Dunlop's family, including his brother Michael(back right) carry his coffin from the church after the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. William Dunlop's family, including his brother Michael(back right) carry his coffin from the church after the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. William Dunlop's family, including his brother Michael(back right) carry his coffin from the church after the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. William Dunlop's family carry his coffin from the church after the funeral service as fellow road racer Glenn Irwin looks on. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. William Dunlop's family, including his brother Michael(back right) carry his coffin from the church after the funeral service. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2018 Funeral for road racer William Dunlop at Garryduff Presbyterian Church outside Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. The 32-year-old was killed while participating in the practise session of the Skerries 100 in Co. Dublin lat Saturday. William's father Robert was also buried from Garryduff Presbyterian Church when he died at the North West 200 road race in 2008. William Dunlop's family, including his brother Michael(back right) carry his coffin from the church after the funeral service as fellow road racer Glenn Irwin looks on. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

In July thousands of mourners packed the quiet country road outside Garryduff Presbyterian Church in Ballymoney to say goodbye to William. In the five months since the family have been inundated with messages of support.

Louise says that hearing people speak so warmly of her son has been a huge comfort to her and her family. She says that the family have received gifts, cards and letters from all over the world from people who have been touched by her son's life and who loved him. She adds the family are extremely proud of all that he achieved in his short 32 years.

"A lot of people haven't forgotten William and certainly that has been a comfort to us," she said. "He made such an impression on people. And that was really quite shocking, because he was quite a quiet and private person. But people seemed to have warmed to him greatly for that. We are just grateful that we had him in our lives for as long as we did. It is just so raw and painful at the moment and we are just trying to get through every day.

"I just want to thank everyone who has been thinking of us and sending gifts. They are still coming. The biking community are like a family. They have all rallied around us. They have been wonderful, as they always are. And the continued support from friends, family and the church really is much valued by us.

"I can't believe the outpouring of love and support. I've had letters from as far away as New Zealand and Australia and all over the world. We've had letters from borough councils in Northern Ireland, from every corner of the globe. William truly touched people and we have to be proud of the 32 years that he was with us. He achieved so much and we are so proud of him. So many people loved him.

"We indeed know it's not easy for other people in exactly the same position as us. So we just have to make the best of it and get through."

William was a devoted family man. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph in 2016 after Ella was born, he said he didn't think being a dad would change the way he thought, but that it "makes you realise there is more to life than motorbikes and winning".

Now he is gone, Louise says the family get flashes of him in Ella.

"The girls, particularly Ella, are so like their father. Ella is the double of him and her little ways and her mannerisms are his. I thought she might lean more to Mummy, but she's not, she's her Daddy's girl," Louisee explained.

Louise has been trying to keep herself busy so as not to dwell on the grief and loss that is never far from her mind.

She says Christmas will be particularly hard for them all with the empty chair at the table.

"I think we can speak for most people and say that it is a really hard time," she said. "But you just try to get through it day by day, with the help of friends and the church. At the minute I am just preoccupied. Sometimes that is the only way to do it - to keep incredibly busy. It's almost like you don't want to dwell on things. Christmas will come and go like every other day, but it's a particularly poignant thing for most families who have gone through this - it's that empty chair.

"As time goes on things do start to look a little bit brighter. But just at the minute it has only been months, and it is quite hard. You get through on autopilot almost.

"Janine has to be strong now, and she has been. We'll get through it for the girls. Every day after Christmas and every month after Christmas. We just want to thank everyone for thinking of us."

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