Motorsport fraternity mourns passing of ‘voice of Irish racing’
LOCAL motorsport is mourning the passing of the man who was undoubtedly the voice of Irish racing, Derek Mason.
Better known as ‘Big D’, Derek was the race commentator at just about all the tracks in Ireland at different times. He died peacefully on Boxing Day.
He manned the microphones on circuits as far apart as Carrick on Suir and Aghadowey, but it was at Skerries and Fore where he found his favourites.
His inimitable style and his distinctive voice will be a sad loss to the sport of motorcycle racing, where he knew every single rider from first to last, be it Clubmans, road races or ISB.
I’m not quite sure how I met him, but I do know it was at Aghadowey in the early 80s. He was always at circuits long before anybody else, setting up the PA systems.
In later years he was forced into commentating, when the guy who was to do it lost his voice! When I started to race myself, it was Derek who christened me the Flying Photographer, after I made my debut with John Scott on a sidecar at Aghadowey.
It may not be widely known by bike fans, but Derek commentated at many other sporting events as well. I’ve heard him at kart meetings, stock car races, hill climbs and even helping David McKibben at athletics events, where he used a radio microphone to give David athletes’ positions from the far side of the track. I would have expected him at Greenmount in early January for the cross country that’s held there every year.
In 1986, I ran a number of half marathons, before taking part in the Belfast Marathon. I clearly remember coming into the finish area outside Maysfield Leisure Centre and hearing Derek, who was standing on the roof, announcing who I was and that I was a photographer and road racer. He had a way of making people feel special, and his unique form of commentating often had me laughing.
While many of the stories I remember about Derek can’t be re-told here, one does spring to mind.
At Aghadowey, many years ago, long before the days of Health and Safety, he was putting the speaker on top on an old wooden pole, climbing up a ladder that he’d leaned against the pole. The pole was nailed to a wooden post that held a barbed wire fence.
To cut a long story short, the pole broke and he came down off his ladder with a leg on either side of the barbed wire. I can leave the rest to your imagination, but he told me later he was ‘a bit uncomfortable’
I know Derek had been diagnosed as a diabetic recently, but he last time I spoke to him, just before Christmas at the launch of the Joey, Ray and Rivals DVD, he told me then that he was feeling a bit better.
Before he left, he said he’d see me at Greenmount. I’m very sad that I’ll never see him again and to his wife and family, I offer my sincere and heartfelt condolences.
MID ANTRIM NIGHT OF NOSTALGIA
The locally based Mid Antrim club are hosting a Night of Nostalgia, on Saturday 2nd February, in the Rugby Club, Ballymena.
As yet I don’t have full details, as there is a meeting of the club this Wednesday night to discuss plans. Hopefully, I’ll have fuller details next week, but I do know that it’s hoped the Dromara Destroyers will be present.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
That’s all for 2012, folks. Some of it’s been great, and some not so great. As we enter 2013, I wish you all a Happy New Year. I’ve been asked about resolutions. Why bother? They’ll all be broken by next weekend anyway. Have fun and stay safe.
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Weather for Ballymena
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 8 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South