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Video News: Thousands of mourners gathered for the funeral of road racer William Dunlop. The Ballymoney rider died during practice at a race meeting on Saturday. His father

Thousands of mourners gathered for the funeral of road racer William Dunlop. The Ballymoney rider died during practice at a race meeting on Saturday. His father Robert and uncle Joey also died taking part in the sport. Our North East reporter Michael Fitzpatrick reports.

Posted by BBC Newsline on Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Thousands of mourners gathered for the funeral of road racer William Dunlop. The Ballymoney rider died during practice at a race meeting on Saturday. His father Robert and uncle Joey also died taking part in the sport. Our North East reporter Michael Fitzpatrick reports.

The Rev John Kirkpatrick loves motorcycles. For 25 years he has been chaplain to the Motorcycle Union of Ireland, often riding motorcycles around racing circuits at speeds of more than 100mph.

Yesterday, Mr Kirkpatrick led the funeral service for yet another fallen biker, William Dunlop, in Garryduff Presbyterian Church just outside Ballymoney in Co Antrim.

There, he remembered that he had officiated at the funeral of Dunlop’s father, Robert and his uncle Joey – two genuine road-racing legends in Northern Ireland, where bike racing is loved.

Robert Dunlop was killed in the North West 200 in 2008, and Joey died in a crash in Estonia in 2000: now a third Dunlop was to be buried in the small cemetery adjoining the church. How could a family take such grief?

Full life

Mr Kirkpatrick recalled Robert’s funeral 10 years ago and how William had earlier chosen to follow his father’s path: “William watched and learned from Robert. 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.”

Such words might not be understood by those outside the motorcycling world, but Mr Kirkpatrick knew they would be by the scores of bikers from all over Ireland who had travelled to Ballymoney.

Inside the country church were William’s partner Janine, who is mother of their young daughter Ella, and who is expecting a second child in September; his mother, Louise; and his grandmother, May, mother of Joey and Robert.

Also present were his brothers Daniel and another racing great, Michael, and the wider Dunlop family.

William (32) was killed during a practice run near Skerries, Co Dublin, on Saturday. Michael, who also was competing in the Skerries 100, was riding behind him when the accident happened.

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