Ulster Transport Museum acquires motorbikes raced by NI road racing legends Dunlops and McNally
The motorcycles, originally owned and restored by motorsport enthusiast Ivor Skelton and date from the 1970s to 2010s, are now on display in the Ulster Transport Museum as part of its Driven Gallery, which has reopened to the public following a short closure over the summer to make way for the bikes.
The seven motorbikes are connected to some of the most well-known racers in Northern Irish road history, including Joey and Robert Dunlop. Joey’s 1978 Yamaha TZ250E and his brother Robert’s 1986 Special Honda RS125RW are part of the new display at the museum, as well as a Yamaha F1R1 1000cc which was the last bike Philip McCallen won a race on at the Tandragee 100 before retiring.
A 1977 Spondon Yamaha TZ250 owned by privateer Tom Herron, a Suzuki TT McAdoo Superbike GSXR 1000 first raced by Ryan Farquhar in the 2003 North West 200, a 1987 RS Honda 125 owned by Owen McNally and a 1976 Maxton Yamaha TZ350 owned by Frank Kennedy also make up the collection.
Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive of National Museums NI, said the acquisition reaffirms Ulster Transport Museum as a place to celebrate and be inspired by Northern Ireland’s heritage.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Skelton family, the Department for Communities and the National Heritage Memorial Fund for supporting us in bringing these iconic motorbikes into our transport collection.
" Road racing is a significant sport in Northern Ireland, we’re one of the few countries in the world that holds races on public roads, yet we did not have any examples of racing motorcycles in our collection. Until now,” she said.
“Having these bikes in the Ulster Transport Museum not only allows us to share the achievements of our road racing greats with our visitors and the road racing fraternity near and far but also to connect audiences with our heritage, as the museum is a place to inspire the designers, engineers and adventurers of the future, so they too can leave a positive impact on Northern Ireland.”
2022 marked the centenary of the Road Races Act which permitted road racing of both cars and motorcycles to take place across Northern Ireland. The sport remains well-loved to this day, signalling just how important it is to give it a platform at the Ulster Transport Museum.
Sharon Skelton, wife of the late Ivor Skelton who owned the collection of bikes, attended the reopening of Ulster Transport Museum’s Driven Gallery and said: “I think Ivor would be proud to see these seven bikes on display in such a single impressive space that gives people a place to come and learn about the sport and the racers he loved so much.
"Not only do these bikes show Ivor’s passion for road racing, and so many like him, but they also serve to inspire the next generation of riders and trailblazers the way the museum can, and position the importance of our sport to Northern Ireland both culturally and economically.”
For more information on the Driven Gallery and to plan a visit, go to ulstertransportmuseum.org