William Dunlop: 'I cried my eyes out' says heartbroken family friend Liam Beckett
Sunday Life columnist and former mechanic of William Dunlop's dad, Robert, Liam Beckett has paid a heartbreaking tribute to the legendary road racer following his tragic death at the Skerries 100.
Tragedy struck the Dunlop family for a third time on Saturday when William Dunlop was killed in a practice run at the event in Co Dublin.
Following consultation with the riders, it was agreed the overall prize fund for the event, which is going ahead as planned on Sunday, would be given to the Dunlop family.
The son of the late Robert and nephew of the legendary Joey was making his return to the sport after pulling out of this year's Isle of Man TT to be with his pregnant partner.
His death has stunned both road racing fans and the public who knew him as a fierce competitor yet a gentleman off the track.
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Liam Beckett, speaking to the Sunday Life, said: “I pray for the family and my thoughts are with his partner Janine, daughter Ella and their unborn child."
Everyone is heartbroken and I must admit I cried my eyes out before arriving at the family home last night and I’m sure I’ll shed plenty more tears throughout this week. It’s devastating. Liam Beckett
“I don’t say this lightly. William got to the top of his profession in road racing not because he was a nephew of Joey or the son of Robert, but because of his own talent and ability.
"But my relationship with William goes beyond the sport of bikes. I enjoyed playing golf with William regularly and he was such an unassuming lad. I made sure that when I picked the players to play with us in our fourball, William would always be comfortable.
“I will miss the social aspect we enjoyed and I am heartbroken.”
Can I just say a massive thank you to the 100’s of people who have been in touch with me by calls, texts, emails, tweets etc regarding William, too many to reply to individually, but neither I nor Williams family will ever forget your kindness. Like so many I am heartbroken.— Liam Beckett MBE (@liam_beckett) July 8, 2018
Tributes from across Ireland and indeed, the world, have been flooding in flowing William's tragic death.
Road race champion Ryan Farquhar said: “I’m absolutely gutted. We all feel the hurt for the family. It’s another sad day for road racing.
“We all know road racing is dangerous and when it goes wrong our thoughts are very much with the family, friends and sponsors who are left behind.”
DUP MP Ian Paisley Junior told the Sunday Life William “represented the past, future and present of road racing and he has left a legacy which he can be immensely proud of. William was an absolute gentlemen. There was no showiness with William- he just got on with the sport he loved. Sadly, accidents are part of the sport and we’ve lost William."
Former Ulster Unionist leader and ex-sports journalist Mike Nesbitt paid tribute to William, saying: “How sad to hear of the death of William Dunlop. Like his father Robert, uncle Joey, the Armoy Armada and all the friends and colleagues who lived and died by their sport. RIP.”
Legendary motorcyclist Carl Fogarty added his condolences, saying: “Sad news that William Dunlop has lost his life racing today. Thoughts are with Louise, Michael and family.”
On Saturday night, DUP leader Arlene Foster was among figures in Northern Ireland who reacted to the tragic news.
Shocked and saddened by the passing of NI’s talented sporting legend, William Dunlop. Motorcycling was his life and he will be forever remembered for his many achievements, both in Ballymoney and across the world.— Arlene Foster (@DUPleader) July 7, 2018
Truly terrible news reaching Ballymoney tonight, from the control room our thoughts go out to the Dunlop family circle and everyone affected by the sad news about William.— PSNI (@PoliceServiceNI) July 7, 2018
Just hearing the tragic news of William Dunlops death. My thoughts go out to the rest of the Dunlop family. RIP— Carl Frampton MBE (@RealCFrampton) July 7, 2018
This is truly shocking news once more for The Dunlop family circle , Northern Ireland and the Road racing fraternity.— Eamonn Holmes (@EamonnHolmes) July 7, 2018
Sincere condolences to William's partner and daughter.
So so sad . #WilliamDunlop #Rip https://t.co/yhGbcBcfTu
William Dunlop a hero behind handle bars. Charming and courageous in equal measure. Thoughts with the family and my old mate @liam_beckett— Joel Taggart (@TaggartJoel) July 7, 2018
So sorry to hear this. @doublebandfilms ROAD, opened BFF14 & we can honestly say that the reactions to the Dunlop's story & the film were some of the most emotional that we've ever had at a festival. A terrible loss to his family & community. https://t.co/2z3Fkt6CHa— Belfast Film Festival (@BelfastFilmFes1) July 7, 2018
Very sad news about William Dunlop. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Dunlop family at this time. Another gone too soon 😢— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) July 7, 2018
Heartbroken to hear the news about Willie Dunlop. Willie was a friend and a great fella. RIP— Adrian Logan (@OurLogie) July 7, 2018
Awful news about William Dunlop. Another tragic loss for the Dunlop family. Condolences to sorrowing family and friends.— Jim Allister (@JimAllister) July 7, 2018
Desperately sad. Sincere condolences to the Dunlop family. https://t.co/EnnEbNgoJ1— Naomi Long MLA (@naomi_long) July 8, 2018
How sad to hear of the death of William Dunlop. Like his father Robert, uncle Joey, the Armoy Armada and all the friends and colleagues who lived and died by their sport, RIP— Mike Nesbitt (@mikenesbittni) July 7, 2018
We are so saddened by the terrible, tragic loss of William Dunlop. A brilliant sportsman - but above all a sweet, kind man. A gentleman. A friend. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family.— DoubleBand Films (@doublebandfilms) July 8, 2018
Belfast Telegraph Digital