Northern Ireland news

Motorcycling's 'guardian angel' medic is laid to rest

Motorcyclists stand outside St Patrick's Church in Portaferry, Co Down, during the Requiem Mass
Gail Bell

ROAD racing came to a solemn standstill as bikers joined with medics and ambulance crew outside St Patrick's Church in Portaferry to pay silent tribute to one of their own, 'flying doctor', Dr John Hinds.

The much loved 'guardian angel' of motoryclists in the north, Dr Hinds, was laid to rest as his partner made an emotional appeal for an established air ambulance service in the north to become his lasting legacy.

Speaking ahead of the packed funeral service for the doctor who is credited with saving countless lives, Dr Janet Acheson urged his hundreds of friends, colleagues and supporters to help make this long-held "dream" a reality. 

"I urge you all today, on John' s behalf, to help us ensure that his dream of a first-class, world-leading trauma network - with a doctor-led helicopter emergency medical service at its core - becomes a reality, so that it can start saving lives on our doorsteps," she said.

And in a personal tribute to a "soul mate", respected intensive care consultant and anaesthetist at Craigavon Area Hospital - as well as volunteer medic with the Motorcycle Union of Ireland (MCUI) - Dr Acheson bade farewell to her beloved 'Delta 7' - a reference to 'Dr John's' call sign when on duty.

"John was my 'quiet man' who will own my heart forever," she said. "He radiated grace from the heart and love from the soul. Ride on in peace now 'Delta 7'."

Fittingly, 'love' was the theme of the packed service for the popular doctor who died after his motorcyle crashed into a wall while providing medical cover at a practice session of a Skerries 100 race near Dublin last Friday.

Speaking at the funeral service, Father Michael Hinds - a cousin of 'Dr John's' - told hundreds of mourners that his "good deeds go before him".

Referring to what seemed a "macabre joke" as John's role as administering medic was perversely reversed and he lay in a hospital bed fighting for his own life, Father Hinds - a cousin of 'Dr John's' - said family keeping vigil at his bedside were united by love.

"As Colin and Peter held their brother’s hand in farewell and as his beloved Janet stroked that infamous hair in her last head rub, there was, it appeared to me, one constant that was now present in John’s death, as there always had been in his life - and that was love," he said. "It was the very bridge that transported him from this life to the next.

"We believe that it is those same bonds of love that will keep John inextricably bound to each of our lives as he lives on in our hearts, until we are all united again."

Tributes in recent days from family, friends and colleagues he said were "too many to mention" but the common consensus spoke of a "kind, competent, compassionate and giving gentleman". 

A guard of honour at the funeral included personnel from Dublin Fire Brigade, N.I. Ambulance Service, the Motorcycle Union of Ireland medical teams and the Motorcycle Marshals Association.

Following the service, the lyrics 'Just Give Love to All' from Lullaby' by Creed reverberated around the slowly emptying building - a favourite song played by John to Janet each evening before they went to sleep.

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