William Dunlop

I had been asleep for around an hour or so when my boyfriend returned to the tent after going for a walk to the local pub to see how England did in their World Cup match. Camping on a hill on a remote Scottish Island means no signal or Wi-Fi for us unless we are at that certain spot.

As he got into bed I woke a little and he said "Lauren, England won" I just about mustered an "Oh, that's good" then he said "But I've got bad news too. And you will cry". Immediately thinking about my children, my mum, my brother, my cats, the tortoises, my house. He told me not to worry but it is bad news and would make me upset.
I have to admit, the fact he knew this was big news for me, and that he even remembered that this name was one that was important to me and a big deal to me was impressive. But the words were some I didn't think I'd hear.
Unexpected he said "William Dunlop died today".

I burst into tears. "What? No he hasn't. No he hasn't. You are fibbing". And he said it again.
Then showed me screenshots he'd taken of the news on the BBC Sports site.
I sat there in shock, in tears. And then feeling like I had no right to cry. I'm no one to him.
Then I justified my feelings to myself and realised I had every right to cry.

This man, William Dunlop, was unknowingly part of my change to who I am now. He, and the Dunlop family, were part of what ignited my passion for the TT. William and Michael were the ones I supported when I went to the TT.

The day I spoke to William on the phone, was another example of how he, unknowingly, changed my life. That morning I had split up with my ex-husband. My brother didn't even know what had happened that morning.
I will never forget that phone call. I will never lose my appreciation for my brother asking and for shy William Dunlop calling me, and even admitting on the phone he hasn't done that before and didn't know what to say.

Then the following year I remember walking up to the paddock and knowing that I was about to meet a Dunlop.
Walking around breathing heavily hoping he would be around somewhere then all of a sudden, there he was, stood in the middle of the walkway talking to someone.
I remember turning to my brother and constantly saying "Oh my god. Oh my god. William is there. Oh my god". He told me I'd have to go and ask for a photo but I couldn't bring myself to do it.
"William mate, can my sister have her photo taken with you?" my hero brother said as we reached him.
Between a caravan and an awning I stood with one arm round William, his arm around me and the words going round in my head "William Dunlop has his arm round me. He is touching my sweaty back!".
He was so sweet and so quietly spoken but we joked about me hanging up on him last year and talked about the TT that year. He wasn't having a great year but I said "You looked good on Gooseneck last night". He replied in his strong Northern Irish Accent "Yeah the corners are going well".
No William, that's not how I meant. Haha.

We said our goodbyes and I did as my brother instructed and managed to stay cool...until he was out of sight and then with my head in my brothers chest I sobbed.

Never before did I think that meeting a motorbike racer would be my equivalent to a girl meeting a member of One Direction.

Later that week I got the letter D tattooed on my wrist. D for Dale (my brother) and for Dunlops.

I remember being grumpy whenever I went to the TT and he and Michael were out of a race for whatever reason.

Maybe I'm so naive but I never thought I'd be hearing that a Dunlop had died.
They've not even had serious accidents like Ian Hutchinson or John McGuinness...or their dad.
But not Michael...And not William.

The same age as me. He is just the same age as me. It's far too soon to be gone.
Younger than his Dad when he lost his life, and his Uncle, both losing their life to the Sport they love. Just like William now has.

I can't help but to think about his mum, having to bury her son. His grandmother already having buried two sons and now a grandson. To his girlfriend who had a baby last year and is now pregnant again.
And to his brother, Michael, who will now face never sharing the paddock with his brother, never looking out for his brother on the track, and never sharing the roads with him again.

Brokenhearted, but glad I got to see him race, to speak on the phone and to meet him.
And grateful of the change he brought to my life. His, and his families, passion for the sport that made me who I am.


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