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Tributes paid to long-serving motorcycle correspondent

Tributes have been paid to a motorcycle journalist from Northern Ireland who has died after working in the industry for more than 40 years.

Dermot James, from Hillsborough in County Down, covered the sport for Belfast News Letter and was also the motorcycle correspondent for the Sunday World.

The 70-year-old, who died after a short illness on Monday, also worked for the BBC and UTV during his distinguished career and was a contributor to English bike sport newspaper Motorcycle News plus various magazines and publications.

Former News Letter sports editor Brian Millar, who worked with the former school teacher for more than 25 years, described Dermot as a ‘gentleman’.

Dermot James worked for Belfast News Letter for more than 40 years

“I knew Dermot for a long, long time and I spoke to him on the phone hundreds of times over the course of 25 years when I was at the News Letter,” he said.

“He was one of the main writers in the Province along with Jimmy Walker and he was first class – very professional.

“Dermot was a gentleman and although he was a teacher by profession he certainly loved his motorbikes. He made an immense contribution to motorbikes in the paper and fans owe him a debt of gratitude because he did a lot to promote the sport.”

Several past and present motorcycle riders and his colleagues from within the media industry paid homage to the invaluable contribution Dermot made to all disciplines of motorcycling in Northern Ireland.

Billy Nutt, a former clerk of the course at the North West 200 motorcycle race, first met Dermot in 1972 and the pair became friends when working together.

“The amount of work that he did for motorcycling was really underestimated because although motorcycling was popular, those guys made it even more popular – Dermot with his coverage in the News Letter and also in MCN as well, plus the BBC and UTV.

“I’ll miss him and it’s really sad.”

Dermot was also credited with coining the phrase, the Dromara Destroyers, as that great group of riders comprising Ian McGregor, Ray McCullough, Trevor Steele and Brian Reid forever became known.

Phillip McCallen, 11-time winner of The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Race, added: “I had a really good relationship with Dermot and I’ve known him for years and years.

“He’s been around as long as I ever remember and he was always good to me with PR and I was good to him as well. I respected him and I think he respected me too.

“I had a lot of contact with Dermot when I was starting out because I was the young kid on the block and he gave me a lot of advice and guidance about what to say to the media and what not to say.

“He was a very good journalist and I owe him a bit of credit for what he did for me.”

Aprilia World Superbike star Eugene Laverty said Dermot was a ‘gentleman’ who covered his career from the beginning.

“Right from the start when I first started racing in 2001 Dermot has always been a big part of the sport and a gentleman as well. He was always professional and I got on very well with him.

“He was very well respected and it was a pleasure working with him.”