A tribute to Eric Dunne.
It was with great sadness that members of North Down Cycling Club, past and present, learnt of the death of founder member, Eric Dunne, on 27th August. Eric had been in poor health for some time and he passed away peacefully at home.
Eric was a really enigmatic character who was much loved by all who knew him. Like his father and his two brothers, Ivan and David, he was a stalwart of City of Derry Wheelers where he was industrious in organising and competing in events throughout his youth. Work took him away from the Maiden City in the early 50’s and he joined the Kings Moss club back in 1954. He remained a member of ‘The Moss’ up until he was persuaded to be part of the steering committee which brought North Down Cycling Club into existence in 1977.
Eric was a fine athlete. He was the British Police Champion and he podiumed in countless local races. Indeed, he was 2nd in the Tour of Wicklow where he was beaten by the legendary Shay Elliott.
Perhaps his greatest accomplishment, however, was the input he had in developing cycling in the local community. He was a tireless worker for the fledgling North Down club, always on hand to assist at races, lead club runs or pass on his cycling expertise to a younger generation. He was the first treasurer of North Down Cycling Club and it was under his careful stewardship, that the club was established as one of the most progressive outfits in the country.
Eric particularly enjoyed the pioneering work which the club did with cycling for the visually handicapped. He piloted a tandem for both Michael Beggs and Paddy Gallen, winning many races both at home and abroad. Eric had the perfect temperament for this activity. He was an athlete and enjoyed the physicality of racing but he was also very caring and he appreciated the opportunity of sharing with others the freedom which cycling affords.
On top of that he had a real sense of fun. The stories that are associated with Eric are countless. For example, on a tandem trip to Norway it is reported that, on one occasion, Eric swapped
places with his pillion passenger, the visually handicapped Paddy Gallen! The outcome was obvious – but typical of Eric.
Other stories revolve around Eric’s thrift. His brother, David tells the story of one cycling holiday where Eric repaired 7 punctures in one tube before being convinced by Ivan and David that he
needed to change the tube! In more recent times his family bought him a new bike – which Eric insisted on ‘keeping good’ ie never riding. Eventually he sold the bike insisting it was ‘the legs that were important not the bike’.
On one of his last club runs a few years ago Eric was involved in a ‘racing accident’ when sprinting for the 30’s coming into Bangor. He was duly transported to the Ulster Hospital where the medical staff horrified Eric by cutting off his favourite cycling top. In true Eric fashion he insisted that they returned the lacerated and bloodied Carerra top which he had laundered and
sewn back together again. That top still hangs in his wardrobe today.
Eric was a very active member of North Down Cycling Club up until his late 70’s. However, age was never an obstacle to him. Indeed, on many occasions he asked that his performances in club races wouldn’t be noted as Renée, his wife, thought he was only marshalling at the events not competing.
Eric was a true character. His real passion was cycling, be it recreational, competing, administration or coaching. He gave of his time, talents and expertise selflessly and was always one to offer a word of encouragement and advice and never to ‘put down’ another rider’s efforts. It is pleasing to see that his cycling legacy is continuing through his own children and grandchildren.
Everyone was so delighted that he was able to attend the North Down Cycling Club’s 40th celebration last autumn. Eric will be greatly missed by the whole cycling community and our thoughts are with Renée and the whole extended family.