A PERSONAL TRIBUTE
Des Collins put more in to road racing in the Island than most people are aware of. In a wonderful, personal tribute, Ronnie Russell paints a picture of an exceptional man... I first met Des when I was 19/20 back in 1973/4, which is more than half Des’s lifetime. We started out with me buying my first racing bike (Belfast Telegraph Yamsel) from him and since then Des became my sponsor, employer, mentor, confidant, financial advisor, attorney, partner and above all my great friend. As I lost my parents when I was young, I often turned to Des for sound advice, words of wisdom and inspiration in all manner of things. Des always had an amazing knack of conversation and would have great rapport with whoever he was talking to whether it was a two-year-old or a 100-year-old, he told great and interesting stories with great humour. Des never raced but I felt he kind of rode pillion with many of his riders and he relished them telling their race stories. His favourite race was the MGP which his riders won four times as opposed to the TT saying: “It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond” but he loved all races and had an uncanny knack of knowing the form of riders and their results. Des and I have had some arguments over the years as we both believed we were right. On those occasions, it would be left to Dot and Helen to knock our heads together to get us to sort things out which we always did. Des was forever trying to get me in a job or some business opportunity and would get very frustrated with me when I would say I was no longer chasing that kind of thing. I know he wanted better for me as he was convinced that I should be a millionaire by now. Over the last few years, Des and I would have long conversations while we were out travelling the Island meeting people and seeing things. We talked of many things like religion, politics, health issues, relationships. Sometimes Des’s views would shock, disappoint, amuse and puzzle me. However, his views could also inspire me and were always of great interest. I will miss those times very much. I would now like to share with you something that happened just over a year ago, and showed that Des’s grey cells were working on all cylinders. Since we have been partners in TCR we usually would try and put a plan together for the following year before Christmas. Des was always trying to go bigger, better and above all louder for our big show at the Grandstand, but after 2015 I said it was too much work for me keeping everyone happy and I was sparked out. He took this surprisingly well but he had a crafty look on his face and said that we should think outside the box and make some proper money. Des had my interest in that, and we came up with a few good ideas on paper to put to Paul Phillips and his team, but knocked each one back for various reasons until Des came up with his masterplan to dominate the Grandstand which I found astounding due to its sheer audacity. We would hire a wall of death from the UK or Europe for a week and set it up at the Grandstand. To draw in the crowds (and money) Des said we would host a match race for the stars and get John Mcguinness ENG, Michael Dunlop IRE, and Connor Cummins MANX to race at the same time around and around inside the wall of death! He was laughing away saying he could just see Connor nailing John and Michael’s asses to the wall. ‘Des’, I said, ‘are you insane?’ They would never allow that to happen because of almost certain injuries, insurance issues, team orders etc. He reluctantly agreed but we did pursue just the wall of death show and still made enquiries regarding bringing it over. Des was never short of an idea! Well, after some years of pain and discomfort, Des has been released. Goodbye comrade Ronnie Russell
From left: Des, Ronnie and Hector Neill.