Thursday 18 January 2018

Sadness at passing of voice of racing 'Big D'

Over the busy Christmas season, there has been sadness and love in the racing fraternity, with the deaths of two popular figures in different aspects of racing - that of 'Big D' Derek Mason and Balbriggan man George Gaffney. On the happier side, we saw th

IT would be fair to say that the name of 'Big D' is known by every race fan in the country, and when it came to race commentary Derek Mason was in a class of his own.

I first remember him commentating at the old Skerries 100, and for more than 30 years he was in charge of the mike at both Skerries and Killalane. The Lisburn resident started commentary at Stock Cars, and since then he has covered road racing, rallying, bicycle racing and even the Belfast City Marathon. He has worked on almost every course in the country, and was very well respected. Sadly Derek passed away while commentating at a stock car meeting on St Stephen's Day. 'All of the family are still in shock at the news,' said Robert Mason, Derek's son. 'Many thanks for your kind words, they have warmed our hearts. He passed away whilst commentating a stock car event, he was with friends and with St John's Ambulance on the scene. He had every chance, but alas there was nothing that could be done to save him.' Tributes poured in from all over the racing world, and TT legend Ian Hutchinson even took to twitter to convey his thoughts. 'Sad news to hear that Irish racing commentator Derek Mason (Big D) has passed away today; my thoughts are with his family.' Derek would be seen days in advance setting up his equipment at road races, and when the fans and riders arrived he was always the first voice that you would hear. There are many around today who in a way would curse Derek, as they lay in bed with sore heads from the previous night's entertainment. Derek would be on the mike first thing to waken the paddock, much to their annoyance. Such was his popularity that some of the comments on his facebook page came from far and wide. Chris Kindley, TT commentator, said: 'I have only just heard the news and I am totally shocked at this and will find it hard to not hear his iconic voice again. 'When I first started commentating he passed on a few choice words of wisdom and thinking back he was bloody right. 'I will miss the chat we always had at the TT and him always telling me the fastest road race is still in Ulster!!! RIP Big D.' As a road race commentator, he was always aware of the kindness of course residents and farmers, and this posting by Margaret Patterson on facebook says it all. 'RIP Derek. It's hard to believe that we won't ever hear again your early morning wake-up calls on race morning on the paddock PA or listen to you shouting about keeping out of the barley fields. 'Thanks for all the memories, laughs, jokes and late-night conversations on the old chat room. The boys racing in that big race track in the sky have someone to keep them right now. Sleep well Big D, and thanks for the memories.' Since Derek finished commentating at the local race meetings, he was always seen with his video camera, and his unbridled love for racing never faltered. Derek never let the fans forget who he admired in the sport, and Sam McClements and Joey Dunlop were always on the tip of his tongue. He still attended meetings and loved the craic, and more so a glass of his favourite tipple, Powers. 'Big D was an icon in Irish Road Racing, and over his long service to the Loughshinny club, we had a great relationship with him. His distinct commentary tone will be long remembered, and his love and passion for the sport never faltered,' said Tony Carton, former competitor and chairman of the Loughshinny Motor Cycle Supporters Club. Derek was laid to rest on Monday in Roselawn Cemetery, and the sympathy of the race community goes out to his wife Mary, children Lynne, Alan, Robert and Claire, and his beloved grandchildren Katrina and James. Any donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the MCUI Medical Team. A special remembrance of Derek's life will be held in Fore, his favourite race course, in the near future. May he Rest in Peace.

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