Belfast Telegraph

Tears of sadness for a motorcycle legend... family and fans unite to remember William Dunlop

By Leona O'Neill

It was a fitting final farewell to their hero. Thousands of mourners packed the quiet country road outside Garryduff Presbyterian Church in Ballymoney yesterday to say goodbye to one of motorcycle racing's most loved sons - William Dunlop.

They lined the route to the church from the Dunlop family home in Ballymoney to pay their final respects to the man they had followed on the race track, and loved, for many years.

The 32-year-old died on Saturday while competing in the Skerries 100 in Co Dublin.

He was to celebrate his daughter Ella's birthday on Sunday and his own birthday the week after.

Yesterday, bikers stood silently, their helmets under their arms and their heads bowed against the driving rain as the coffin of their idol slowly moved towards the church that William's father, Robert - killed at the North West 200 in 2008 - and his uncle, Joey, who died while racing in Estonia eight years earlier, were also remembered.

Michael Dunlop, a hugely successful road racer, helped carry the coffin of his older brother into the church in silence.

The mourners were led by William's heartbroken, pregnant partner, Janine - due to have the couple's second child in October - and his mother, Louise.

The Reverend John Kirkpatrick, one of the chaplains to the Motorcycle Union of Ireland, led the service and paid tribute to both the man and his career.

"Many wonderful tributes have already been paid to William," he said.

"No one tribute or indeed all together will suffice, there are as many stories and memories as there are people here, as we share them and treasure them, we celebrate the full and meaningful life William lived, and we enable his story to be told.

"In preparing for today, I have read and researched much about William's life and career. As I listened, I've heard about his thoughtfulness as a child, his strong bond with his brothers, his kindness to his mum and his deep devotion to his dad.

"I have witnessed the moving love between William and Janine and his delight as a father to Ella."

Rev Kirkpatrick said since the start of his career at 17, William had been "an example of a great sportsman", pointing to his record of 108 national wins and 11 international wins.

Racing fans lined the streets to pay their respects to William Dunlop.
Racing fans lined the streets to pay their respects to William Dunlop.
Road racer Michael Dunlop at the funeral of his older brother William.
Racers Glenn Irwin and Derek Sheils along with their partners Laura and Alicia paying their respects at William Dunlop's funeral.
Ryan Farquhar at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral.
Former road racers Brian Reid, Steven Cull and sponsor Davy Glover at William Dunlop's funeral.
William Dunlop's cousin and fellow motorcycle road racer Paul Robinson at Garryduff Presbyterian Church.
William Dunlop's former 125cc racing rivals Melissa Kennedy, William Cowden and Nigel Moore at Garryduff Presbyterian church.
Hawk team bosses Steve and Stuart Hicken at William Dunlop's funeral.
North West 200 winner Glenn Irwin at the funeral of William Dunlop.
Family friend and sports commentator Liam Beckett paid tribute to William Dunlop before attending the funeral service.
Legendary sports commentator Jackie Fullerton at garryduff Presbyterian Church.
Sports reporter Adrian Logan attends the funeral of William Dunlop.
Former race medic Dr Fred MacSorley arrives at William Dunlop's funeral.
A biker pays his respects at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral.
Motorcycle racing fans lined the roads leading to Garryduff Presbyterian Church to pay their respects
Racing fans lined the road outside Garryduff Presbyterian Church.
Racing fans lined the road outside Garryduff Presbyterian Church.
Race marshalls formed a guard of honour as the hearse arrived at Garryduff Presbyterian Church.
A race marshal is overcome by emotion at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral.
Racing marshalls formed a guard of honour as the hearse arrived at Garryduff Presbyterian Church.
Racing marshalls formed a guard of honour as the hearse arrived at Garryduff Presbyterian Church.

"We have watched his smooth style on the track and his gracious and thoughtful manner off it. As Michael said in his book, 'Nothing made his dad more proud than giving William a bike that he then goes out and wins on'... 'Class will always tell and Dad and William have it in spades'.

"Ten years ago, here in this same church at Robert's funeral, I said, 'Not many people finish what they start, not all persevere in adversity or push themselves to their potential - this made Robert stand out from the crowd'.

"William watched and learned from Robert and his life developed those same qualities and although his life has been shorter than many and certainly shorter than we hoped, the one he chose to live was not dull, but full."

The Reverend pondered what William would have said to those who knew him - from his heartbroken family to his devastated fans.

"To his fans and supporters," he said. "You were kind to me and stayed with me over the years, you waved your programmes, and you didn't walk away. Across the small country roads and the sweeping corners of international races over the world, I saw you.

"To his family - you are the big part of the person I became. You accepted me, listened to me, gave me space to be me, loved me, laughed with me

"To his mother - you brought me into the world and cared for me, nurtured my life, watched me grow, set me an example, put kindness in me...

"To his brothers - you were also my friends, you were there for me, you have not let me down, you have the stories few people know. Remember our happy times together.

"To Janine and Ella - you were my true chequered flag, you, the home of my heart. When I held you Ella for the first time, it was the beginning of new love. You made being a father the best of all podiums. When anyone sees you, they will see me.

William Dunlop’s partner, Janine, and his mother, Louise, (centre) at his funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian Church, outside Ballymoney
William Dunlop’s partner, Janine, and his mother, Louise, (centre) at his funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian Church, outside Ballymoney
The coffin is carried
Racers Glenn Irwin and Derek Sheils and their partners, Laura and Alicia
William’s grandmother May
Mourners brave the rain
Janine (centre) follows the coffin of William
William Dunlop's cousin and fellow motorcycle road racer, Paul Robinson at his funeral
Ian Paisley
Former road racers Brian Reid, Steven Cull and sponsor Davy Glover
Former race medic Dr Fred MacSorley
William Dunlop

"Where do we turn when find ourselves in such a time as this? Where can we find help? The road ahead is not easy for sure.

"In times like these, we really discover just how frail and helpless we are, no matter how independent and strong we are, no matter how long we have lived and how successful we have been.

"These are times that confirm to us that everything is not right in our world, things need fixing.

"Life is broken, pain is real, grief is crushing and our hearts cry out for an answer. There is a lie put about that we don't need outside help and another lie that there is no one there."

William's coffin was carried out of the family church to the strains of Danny Boy, to be buried beside his father Robert in the church's cemetery.

Famous faces from across racing were at the church to pay their respects, including North West 200 winner Glenn Irwin, Derek Sheils, Ryan Farquhar, Melissa Kennedy, William Cowden and Nigel Moore.

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

Politicians Ian Paisley and Mervyn Storey were in attendance at the funeral.

Racing legends Brian Reid and Steven Cull paid their respects, as did Hawk team bosses Steve and Stuart Hicken, while race marshals provided a guard of honour as the hearse arrived.

Family friend and motorcycle pundit Liam Beckett attended along with fellow broadcasters Jackie Fullerton and Adrian Logan.

Bikers from all over Ireland rode to Ballymoney to pay their respects to the man they called "a hero and an inspiration".

Road race fans filled every inch of the church grounds and the narrow road outside.

Hundreds of bikes were parked up on grass verges and country lanes.

They came to honour the man who showed "true grit and determination". The man who only a few hours after his father's death, had got back on his bike to ride in the 250cc race at the North West 200 alongside his brother Michael.

Mark Andrews from Banbridge said he wanted to come to highlight how well William was thought of in the road racing family.

"I rode up here today just to let the family know that we are all thinking about them," he said.

"Three of us came down on the bikes today. It was a very sad day. When I got the news on Saturday, I couldn't believe it. I felt ill for a while and it took a while to sink in.

"Road racing is a cruel sport, but then you can be killed out on the road just driving in your car. I think the buzz and the adrenalin keeps racers going.

"This is the third tragedy for the Dunlop family. It is hard to contemplate how one family can go through so much pain. But it's what they loved doing, so you couldn't take that away from them."

William Stewart from Ballyclare said he has followed road racing since a child and wanted to come and say a final farewell to one of his idols.

"I've been a road race fan since I was no age," he said. "It is very sad and I wanted to show my respect. I rode my bike down, I just wanted to be on two wheels for today.

"William seemed to be the nicest man in the paddock and the quietest man, too, he seemed to just do what he had to do on two wheels and that was it. He inspired me.

"He was humble and kept himself to himself and showed his skill on the bike.

"Everybody knows the outcomes of racing, no one forces your hand.

"William was from a racing family and the boys would have known nothing different. It was nice to come here today and see so many bikers. When I arrived, there were hundreds here. It was a fitting tribute."

Brendan Allen from Coleraine said William was his hero.

"I've watched William through the years in the North West and the like," he said.

"He was a brilliant fella. I met him a good few times. He was definitely one of a kind and is sadly missed.

"I am still in disbelief. I felt I needed to come today and stand in the rain with my wife, we are both bikers, to pay our respects.

"I have been in a couple of crashes myself. It's just one of these things that you do. You get back on the bike and think to yourself that you'll go a bit easier this time, but nothing really changes. It's just in people's blood.

"I think William would have been pleased to see the amount of people who came out today to pay tribute to him for what he did do. He was doing what he loved, what other way would you want to go, doing what you loved best."

Aidan McPhillips from Redhills in Co Cavan said he rode up through Ireland to William's uncle Joey's funeral and his father Robert's funeral and wanted to come to William's service.

"It was hugely important for me to come here today," he said. "Those boys risked their necks every time they went out on the road on a bike.

"My own son died 14 years ago in a motorcycle crash. I was going to burn all the bikes that day, but that's the way it goes. The biker community is a family and we just wanted to get on my bike and come up here to respect William."

Paddy Treanor from Co Monaghan rode down to show the Dunlop family they were not alone.

"I was so upset when I heard the news and I had to come down," he said. "It was an awful shock, but with the sport, the danger is there. Anyone who is in racing circles understands. But it is still very shocking and devastating.

"It's the breeding of the Dunlops, they just want to race bikes. It's the breeding of them, they have the bug. It's their life, it's all our lives, but sadly it can take a life, too."

Many of the bike fans stopped at the Dunlop Memorial Gardens in nearby Ballymoney on their way home from the funeral.

Belfast Telegraph

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