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William Dunlop was ready to quit and focus on his family before Skerries crash that claimed his life

Ex-footballer Liam Beckett reveals tragic final text message from Dunlop shortly before crash that claimed his life

Special talent: William Dunlop
Special talent: William Dunlop

By Liam Beckett

I am of the firm belief that had William Dunlop seen out the 2018 season, he might well have pulled the plug on his racing career.

He had spoken to me at length about this and it was clear that if he could have found an alternative way of earning a living, he would have chosen that and spent more time with his partner Janine and their young family.

I still have a text message from William a few weeks before his death at a race crash in Skerries on July 7, 2018 - he wanted to come and see me for a chat.

I was in Belfast but told him I would be at home all of the following day if he wanted to call and he replied with the words 'Cheers LB'. That was my last contact with him.

The next time I saw William was when the undertaker brought him home to his mum Louise's house.

Road racing is full of good people but William was one of the nicest young men in the paddock, a real superstar in the making. You'd have been hard pressed to meet someone more popular or likeable.

He was always extremely well-mannered, quiet and reserved, a happy-go-lucky fella who shied away from the limelight. Despite his fame, he was humble and modest. He was most comfortable among family and friends.

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I had been his dad Robert's mechanic and mentor. And I was with his Robert when William was born in 1985. We went to celebrate the birth of his first-born in a pub in Dervock, a village just outside Ballymoney. That's how, at only a day old, William was responsible for one of the worst hangovers in my life.

He was a beautiful child who would continue the Dunlop tradition and become one of this country's greatest-ever road racers.

In recent years William had become very settled and content. Ever since he met Janine, he had showed all the signs of a young man ready to settle down and plan for his future - set up a new home and start a family - the things most young people do when they've found their perfect partner.

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 2016 William and Janine's dreams came true when their baby girl Ella arrived. Two prouder parents you couldn't have found. Then, in 2018, Janine confirmed she was pregnant again. William and Janine were over the moon. On the home and family front, I don't think I'd ever seen William in a happier frame of mind, but on the racing scene things hadn't been going terribly well.

The first major of 2018 was the North West 200 and William took a tumble at Church Corner in practice, sustaining a fairly severe back injury that led to him having to pull out of the entire meeting.

William had joined the Tim Martin (Mar-Train) Temple Golf Club race team that season and was really keen to impress. In fact, I felt that maybe he was putting himself under extra pressure.

He'd ridden for several sponsors over recent years and I knew he was keen to find the perfect formula of some really fast bikes and a good team to work for. William just needed that wee change of luck; he needed reliable and fast racing motorcycles and some continuity in personnel for a sustained period of time.

His ability was never in question but he'd been a victim of unreliable machinery, which had inevitably led to him changing teams too often, preventing him from building up the necessary trust within a team and with it the confidence required to win races, particularly at international level.

There is no doubt whatsoever that William's poor run of luck and form over the past couple of seasons had dented his confidence. The fact that he'd had a lean couple of years was on his mind, as was the fact that he had a young family, a family that meant the world to him. He had spoken at length to me about pulling the plug on racing.

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

The first I knew of William being involved in an accident was on the Saturday, July 7. I was at home when I got a phone call from Barry Symmons, the former Honda and Norton chief. He told me that there had been an incident at the Skerries 100 races - he didn't know how serious but he knew it involved William.

He promised to ring when he got any more information.

Shortly after that the phone rang again and it was my BBC sports colleague Stephen Watson to tell me that William had been involved in a bad accident - I knew that whatever had happened was very serious. And then my phone was ringing constantly. Finally, Barry Symmons called me back and suggested that it might not be such a bad idea for me to make my way to William's mother Louise's house. I asked, 'Is it bad?' and Barry said, 'Michael has just left the circuit - it's not good.'

I don't mind admitting I broke down and then immediately drove to Louise's. I could hardly see the road for tears and yet I felt numb with disbelief. As I pulled up at Louise's members of the Dunlop family circle were arriving.

I didn't know what to say to this family that has suffered so much. Words seemed irrelevant. When I got in, it was a house of devastation and grief.

The cause of the accident or any of the detail was not discussed. As I sat in Louise's living room, staring up at a picture of Robert with sons William, Michael and Daniel, the reality struck home - four were now two. Not only had we lost Joey and Robert to the sport, we had now also lost William from the next generation. My thoughts kept switching from Louise to Janine and to May, and to Michael and Daniel - I couldn't imagine how they must be feeling.

For the next few days, I went regularly to Louise's - she had made the house open to the general public. I thought that was a brave and generous gesture and spoke volumes about her.

Hundreds and hundreds of people - friends, family and fans - came to pay their respects. One of the downstairs rooms was readied for William.

After the accident, he had been taken to an undertaker in the south of Ireland.

Although William died on the Saturday it was late the following Monday afternoon before his body was brought home. His brother Michael had gone to meet the hearse and accompany it to Ballymoney. When the coffin arrived, the cold hard reality of William's death really hit. I still can't take it in. After the family had been in to see him, I went in. He still had that trademark slight smile on his face and I kissed his forehead and said my goodbye.

Outside in the yard, there was an eerie silence. There was a sense of disbelief, of shock among the road racing family, a sense that a line had been crossed.

Some people admitted that William's death was just too much for them, that this was the end of the line for them with the sport.

I know that grief often leads to knee-jerk reactions, but I was struck by the number of people who came over to me and said, 'LB, that'll do me'.

Some had been devoted to the sport for over 40 years and were vastly experienced members of the road racing fraternity. I understood how they felt.

Liam Beckett's Old School: Beckett, Bikes, Balls and All is published by Blackstaff Press. It will be available in all good book stores from this Thursday, November 7 and can be ordered online via the publisher and major online book retailers.

Liam Beckett was a top Irish League footballer before becoming mechanic and mentor to his motorcycle racing legend friend Robert Dunlop. He's now a straight-talking broadcaster and Sunday Life columnist.

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