Local BBC sport pundit Liam Beckett marked the anniversary of road racing legend Joey Dunlop recently when he visited Tallinn, Estonia with the BBC Sport NI team to cover Crusaders’ Champions League game against Levadia Tallinn.
The visit, Liam’s first to the site of Joey’s crash on 2nd July 2000, proved to be a moving occasion for the Ballymoney man.
“I found out that I was going to be going to Tallinn with the BBC about a week and a half before we left,” explained Liam. “I was speaking to Margaret Dunlop, Joey and Robert’s sister, and she had said it would be brilliant if I could take something out on behalf of the family to mark the anniversary. They organised a lovely card which Joey and Robert’s Mum May brought up to me, with Joey enscribed on the front and which said ‘Forever in our hearts, Miss you always Love Mum, Jim, sisters Helen, Linda, Virginia, Margaret and families. “We thought it would be best to get the flowers out there so once we arrived there on Monday, Joel (Taggart) and me went sourcing the flowers and eventually I thought yellow flowers would be ideal as they were the same colour as Joey’s helmet.”
A member of the Levadia Tallinn club had been seconded to look after the Northern Ireland visiors and he organised Liam’s visit to the circuit where Joey lost his life 15 years ago.
“After we were checked in to our hotel, Crusaders had to go to the international stadium for a training session which we were covering,” continued Liam. “Immediately after that Joel, myself and a representative from Crusaders were taken to the circuit by Hendrick.
“I was taken around the circuit and I have to say that I would consider it to be quite dangerous, even in the dry. It is densely populated with trees for seven eighths of the way round but it was that type of circuit Joey would have enjoyed. I could see what attracted him to Tallin with the old city and the new and the people were so curtious and hospitable too.”
Liam’s visit had attracted quite a bit of interest from the local media who had been tipped off that he was there to lay the family flowers.
“When we arrived there were quite a few local press and photographers but they were very mannerly and they gave me time on my own to have a private moment. This was the first time I had been here so I walked up to the corner because I wanted to see how he would have been linning up. I could see that it wasn’t really a corner because they would have been coming over the crest of a bow flat out. There were a few momentos and cards left by people at the scene and there were some things including a sprocket pinned to the tree. It really was quite poignant...Anyway, I had my time and laid the flowers and the card at the memorial.
There’s no racing held there any more which is good. It only ran for another two years after Joey. There was a side car passenger killed not far from where Joey lost his life and they deemed it too dangerous and shortly afterwards they closed it completly. “It was a very special moment for me, I knew the family were very keen to mark Joey’s 15th anniversary out there in some sort of personal way and I was only too happy to be able to lay the flowers for them. It really was an honour and a privilage to be asked.”