Cookstown 100 stalwart Norman Crooks described as “heart and soul” of club after sad passing on Thursday
The 75-year-old first joined the Cookstown Club in October 1968 and took on the role of assistant race secretary, before he was promoted to race secretary in 1979 – a position he had held ever since.
Last year, Mr Crooks – known affectionately to those within Irish motorcycling circles as ‘Daddy Crooks’ – was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, recognising his contribution to the sport as a stalwart of Cookstown and District Motor Cycle Club Ltd.
He received the medal via courier, with the Covid-19 pandemic denying him the opportunity to participate in the traditional presentation ceremony, when recipients normally receive the medal from the Lord Lieutenant of their county on behalf of the Queen.
Speaking to the News Letter at the time, Mr Crooks said the accolade had come as a “big surprise”.
“It was a big surprise,” he said.
“I’ve been in the Cookstown Club for 52 years and I’ve helped a lot of other clubs out during that time as well.
“I just love the banter in racing and it’s very nice to be recognised like this.
Mr Crooks, from Moneymore, witnessed many changes in road racing over the last half-a-century, including within his own club, but his approach to his job as race secretary for the Cookstown 100 remained largely unchanged.
He explained at the time: “I usually start my preparations in December, getting entries sent out to all competitors, plus other bookwork, which continues throughout the year.
“I’ve built up a great rapport with competitors over the years and I know most on a personal basis these days.
“The pandemic situation certainly changed many things, but we still managed to get our race over and fingers crossed, we can do likewise this year.
“It’s being part of a great club that gets me up in the morning.”
This year, the Cookstown 100 marked its 100th anniversary, a milestone Mr Crooks said he was particularly looking forward to after two difficult years due to Covid-19 restrictions.
A statement from Cookstown 100 Club chairman John Dillon said he was a “highly thought-of” race secretary and friend.
“It is with deep sorrow and devastation as chairman of the Cookstown Club that I inform every one of the passing this afternoon of our highly thought-of Race Secretary and friend Norman Crooks BEM.
“Norman has been the heart and soul of the club for over 50 years, dedicating endless hours service and becoming friends with so many people over the years.
“His knowledge and love for the sport and the Cookstown 100 races may never be matched again. Our thanks for everything you have done over the years ‘Daddy Crooks’, you will always have a special place within this Club.”
The sad news comes after MCUI veteran Jim Cray passed away earlier this month.
Mr Cray had been part of the sport’s governing body in Northern Ireland for many years and held the offices of chairman and president.