‘WEE’ Johnnie O’Neill, mechanic to the Armoy Armada and many others, has been fittingly remembered with the presentation of a memorial trophy to the Armoy Motorcycle Road Racing Club by Joey’s Bar Motorcycle Club.
The recently established Joey’s Bar Motorcycle Club presented the Johnnie O’Neill Memorial Trophy, along with £300, in memory of Johnnie O’Neill (wee Johnnie) to Kathleen Hartin, the founding member of the Armoy Road Races, for the winner of the fastest lap during the Senior Support Race.
Lyle Millar, Chair of Joey’s Bar Motorcycle Club said: “The club has only been going since 2010. We are a number of regulars at the famous Joey’s Bar in Ballymoney who follow road racing and decided to get together and travel to the road races around the country.
“Johnnie O’Neill was one of those original members, but he was actually much more than that, like so many Ballymoney men, road racing was in his blood. He was a supporter of road racing all his life, having worked with big Frank Kennedy and Meryvn Robinson in the early days and more recently with Gary Dunlop, son of Joey Dunlop, and one of our own members and road racer, Raymond Hodges.
“This is a fitting tribute to Johnnie and his memory. He passed away suddenly earlier this year and on behalf of the Club I am delighted to be able to present this beautiful Johnnie O’Neill Memorial Trophy to Kathleen (Hartin) and the Armoy Road Racing Club.
“Joey’s Bar MCC works hard to raise funds for local riders and the road racing community. We manage to give a few pounds out here and there and hold various fundraisers throughout the year. At some stage we hope to sponsor a race.
“In the meantime this trophy and money will go to someone in the Senior Support Race and I know it will mean a lot to the winner, it’s going to someone who needs it. I believe wee Johnnie would’ve wanted it.”
Kathleen Hartin said: “I’m just over the moon with this trophy. Everyone knew ‘wee Johnnie’. Once you met him you never forgot him. He will be very much missed at Armoy and at other road races around the country this year.
“He was one of those great characters, he loved life and road racing. He was a great mechanic and I’m told that he worked with big Frank Kennedy as well as Mervyn Robinson of the Armoy Armada. He could be found in those early days at Frank’s garage in Armoy where it all began.
“Many in the road racing world knew Johnnie O’Neill as ‘wee Johnnie’. I’m not sure many knew his last name but he could be found at just about every road race there was and every racer including Eugene and Michael Laverty, John McGuinness to the Dunlop boys knew him and would have found the time to chat with him.”
Gary Dunlop added: “Wee Johnnie is much missed. He helped me when I was racing and more importantly he helped me restore my father’s bike. There wasn’t anything he didn’t know about bikes. I really appreciated his help. The bike now sits proudly in the bar in Ballymoney for all to see.
“The guys in Joey’s Bar do a lot for local road racing so this is great and a lovely way to remember wee Johnnie.”
The Armoy Road Race is part funded by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and is part sponsored by Moyle District Council. Bike Week 2013 is from 21st– 27th July. For more information on the RiverRidge Recycling’s ‘Race of the Legends’ visit www.amrrc.com.