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 Big D - The Man Behind The Wire

Derek Mason Take a look upwards when you get to the Skerries circuit this year. You will see a wire draped from pole to pole and encompassing the entire circuit. This the media of Radio Big D, and you are about to enter the Big D zone.

The first time I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Derek Mason, or "Big D" as he is affectionately known in racing circles, was on my first visit to the Skerries 100 road races in 1987.
That was the year of the Steve Cull, Eddie Laycock dash for cash, and a massive crowd had turned up on a magnificent day for a truly great days racing. The one problem you have when the crowd is so huge and you are relatively inexperienced in the art of manoeuvring from one spot to another on race day, is that there are certain areas that are prohibited to the general public and which may not be patently obvious at the time.

The landowners in the area are generous to a fault in the amount of leeway they give to spectators on race day, such as allowing their walls, fences, grassy banks and gardens to be used as grandstands. If people abuse these privileges, it is usually not until after the racing has finished and we have all gone home, that the complaint is aired to the race organisers, who must then go about ensuring that the problem does not arise again. It is therefore incumbent on the marshals and race officials to keep order on the day, something that is more easily said than done in the hectic cauldron of race day.

This is where Big D comes in. On the day in question, I was ambling Slowly along the edge of the barley field approaching the timing box, minding my own business and making good progress around the course, when an unmerciful tirade blasted forth from the nearby speaker. "You in the barley field, get your arse out of there before we let the dogs lose", or words to that effect were hurtled in my direction. Of course not being of the farming inclination, I was not aware at first that I was even in a barley field, so I stupidly looked around for the eejit who was being shouted at. It was only when the second tirade was loosed on my head that I realised that the fool was me. I looked up in total embarrassment at the laughing faces of the crowd on the bank, and quickly made my way back along the edge to where I had started out. I could have argued that I was only skirting the edge of the field, but what chance had I got against the might of the Big D.

I have been back to Skerries every year since then, so the experience Must not have been too traumatic, and I have witnessed the similar humiliation of many other poor unfortunate souls, who have dared to tread the barley or potato fields of Skerries, within view of the all-seeing Big D. Similar treatment is meted out to those inconsiderate drivers who leave their cars or bikes parked on the circuit or on ambulance routes or slip-roads. It is always worth a belly laugh of Mexican wave proportions as the crowd have probably all received the Big D tongue lashing at some stage or another.

The other great attribute of Big D is his intimate knowledge of the sport he so obviously loves. I'm not just talking about times and dates, I mean the personal details of riders and their families, like what a rider drinks or does after he drinks. Or whether he is too mean too buy a drink. You get my drift. He brings a dimension of familiarity and friendliness to an often unforgiving sport, and in doing so allows the first time spectator to feel instantly at home. He is also a man who loves to party, and his exploits in the Yacht after he pulls down the cables and speakers, are well documented.

When you come to Skerries you will be consumed by the aura about the place. You will smell the freshly cut grass, feel the buzz of activity in the paddock, taste the apprehension before the start of the first race, and most of all be deafened by the enthusiasm of Big D, as he leads you on a wondrous journey through Skerries 2001, in search of the perfect race in the greatest sport.

So when you see the big speaker and the wire up high, remember the voice at the other end of it. Have a drink to Big D when the racing is done, for we will not see his like again.

Here's to Big D, where WOULD we be without him.

Eddie Byrne

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