Richard Britton will never be forgotten in County Kerry.
The talented Fermanagh-based rider – the people’s champion – lost his life in a tragic and freak accident during the first running of the Ballybunion Road Races on September 18, 2005.
Organised by the same team that ran the legendary Athea Road Races between 2002 and 2011, Ballybunion had all the ingredients needed to make it one of the great Irish Road Races.
However, fate intervened and, Britton’s accident left the organising team without any desire to continue and, the event never again ran.
The accident happened on a stretch of road known locally as Billy Blake’s Bend on the back road that links Lisselton village with the main Tralee to Ballybunion road.
It occurred on the first lap of the 250cc race – the second race of the meeting – after a mechanical issue threw him off his Honda.
Back in 2008 his wife Maria and son Loris unveiled a memorial on the spot where he fell.
Local motorcycle racing enthusiasts, including several members of the Ballybunnion organising team, take turns to maintain the roadside monument.
One of them is JJ Kelly, one of the hardest working members of both the Athea and Ballybunnion races and a well-known figure in motorcycle circles locally and nationally.
Kelly would have known the Britton family personally and would have invited Richard to contest the ill-fated 2005 event.
He made one of his twice-yearly visits to the site in mid-October (Thursday 15) to tidy the memorial and its surroundings.
“I brought him here so, it is something I feel I have to do,” he said. “There are many more who turn up a few times a year, some of the organising team still live locally, my sister, Joanne, used to live nearby and I know of two people from Newcastle West [County Limerick] who come because they want to. To-be-honest, when I went out this time, I thought it would be a lot more overgrown because of the travel restrictions, the restrictions were not going to stop me doing this, but people care and it is in very good condition.”
JJ and his friend and fellow biking enthusiast, George Edwards, trimmed the grass on the hedge, replaced the batteries in the memorial lights and removed some of the older flowers.
“I will get back before the winter and place some white stones on the roadside, just to tidy it up, and I will get a signwriting friend to touch up the [replica] helmets,” added JJ.