It is 15 years since the most successful rider in the history of the Isle of Man was killed in Tallinn, Times Sport talks to Joey Dunlop’s daughter Donna

Joey Dunlop.'PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Joey Dunlop.'PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

It seems like it only happened yesterday, yet it is 15 years since Joey Dunlop was killed when he crashed in Estonia.

Most people remember where they were on 2nd July 2000 when they heard that awful news that Joey had been lost to a family who loved him dearly and also the entire roadracing fraternity from whom he was held in the utmost respect.

Joey’s wife Linda and his children Richard, Gary, Donna, Joanne and Julie, share their special and personal memories of him, however, they are continually amazed that the general public from the man on the street to road racing fans still talk about him and love him as much today as they did in his racing heyday.

His daughter Donna commented: “To be honest with you it’s hard to believe just how much people still talk about Daddy. A lot of people come in to the bar (Joey’s Bar) and talk about him and they all speak about him with such affection. People constantly talk about him and the fact he won that award this year for being the Greatest Northern Ireland Sportsman was unbelievable. We honestly thought after the first few years the interest would die down but it hasn’t at all. It’s nice for us and especially now we have our children because it keeps his memory very much alive for them.”

Each year when the TT comes round, the topic of Joey’s record number of wins comes to the fore. This year John McGuinness came within three wins of Joey’s record breaking 26 victories. However, it’s not something the family give much thought to.

“Records are there to be broken,” continued Donna. “Daddy went through the exact same thing when he broke Mike Hailwood’s record and I know heart in hand that if Daddy was still here he would be more than delighted for John (McGuinness) to go and break it because Daddy thought so much of John.

“It is unbelievable the record has stood so long and its only now when we are older that we realise and appreciate just how great he was. At the time we didn’t think anything of it when Daddy was here. He was just an ordinary man and we didn’t realise then just what he went on to achieve.”

As Joey’s family have grown up over the past 15 years, they have had families of their own who have been able to discover the greatness of this quiet and unassuming man.

“All the grandchildren talk about Daddy as if he is actually here and have said things like ‘I wish I had seen him’ or ‘I wish I had got to know him’. My children can just go on You Tube and type in his name and they sit and watch him and watch interviews. Even since the film Road has come out they would talk even more. At first I didn’t take them to see it and then they kept saying ‘Mummy I want to go and see Granda and Robert. I didn’t know what to think because it is such an emotional film and eventually I let them watch it. They sat and were mesmerised by it.

“Although it was such an emotional film I have to say you couldn’t fault it in any way. Everything about it was just fantastic and we loved every minute of it. Now Mummy has never watched it since that first time because it’s just too hard for her.

Joey Dunlop, at 48 years of age, on his way to his 25th victory in the Lightweight race at the Isle of Man TT races on a 250cc Honda during his final TT in June 2000. Photo Credit:Stephen Davison/Pacemaker

Joey Dunlop, at 48 years of age, on his way to his 25th victory in the Lightweight race at the Isle of Man TT races on a 250cc Honda during his final TT in June 2000. Photo Credit:Stephen Davison/Pacemaker

“My boys have it recorded and every so often I can hear the music and that’s them sitting down to watch it again. It’s good for them because that’s how they got to know Daddy and Robert. A lot of other families would have that and some grandchildren would never get to know their Granda in the way ours can.”

As Tuesday brings another anniversary and along with that a mixture of emotions, the family will mark the occasion in private.

“We have nothing special planned,” added Donna. “We did something for the tenth anniversary but we have decided to do it in our own way. The children usually release balloons and put wee tags on the bottom and let them go into the sky. Sometimes it’s nice to do more personal things like that when it’s just our family.

“It’s harder for Mummy because sometimes it just hits you. We marked the tenth anniversary because that’s something she wanted to do but we prefer to keep it amongst the family now. It can all get too much at times and it takes a lot out of her.

“The 15 years have gone by in a flash. We really appreciate how much everyone loved Daddy but sometimes it’s just nice to keep your thoughts and memories at home out of the public eye.”