‘I was just slipping in and out of consciousness’ - Brian Holmes to take on one more cycle in memory of west Belfast babies

Former professional cyclist had ICD fitted in December after collapsing at home

It is 48 years since Brian Holmes and a team of riders from the National Cycling Association disrupted the road race at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Picture by Hugh Russell
West Belfast man Brian Holmes had an ICD fitted in December, but plans to take on one last major event in memory of west Belfast babies Enda and Muireann Baker. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE football world was left in a state of shock at the sight of Tom Lockyer lying lifeless at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium on December 16 last year.

It was 1-1 when the Welshman, Luton’s club captain, fell to the ground with no other player nearby. The 29-year-old was technically dead for two minutes and 40 seconds, until eventually being resuscitated by medics amid a deafening hush inside the ground.

West Belfast man Brian Holmes followed the story closely.

Eight days before Lockyer’s collapse, Holmes – a professional cyclist in his younger days - had gone through something similar, the lights suddenly going off after a walk with the dog, temporarily turning his world upside down.

“I came into the house, next minute I’m lying on the kitchen floor, going ‘where am I? What’s going on?’

“I heard my wife screaming... in my head I was thinking ‘she’s heard a mouse?’ She’s always saying ‘keep the door closed in case the mice get in!’ It was like an out of body experience, very strange... I could hear and see but my mind wasn’t connecting anything up.

“I thought I was in bed dreaming I was in the kitchen, but my feet were actually at the door because I fell sideways...”

Holmes lay there for three hours while the kitchen crowded with family, friends and ambulance personnel. To him, though, it felt like a matter of minutes.

“I was just slipping in and out of consciousness...”

Medics were initially treating it as a back and neck issue, because of the way Holmes had fallen and collided with the kitchen table on the way down. But the hours that followed showed they were dealing with something more serious.

The following day he was fitted with an ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator), exactly the same as Lockyer’s. The ICD is a small device a small device designed to treat people with abnormal heart rhythms, sending electrical pulses to regulate these rhythms, especially those that could cause cardiac arrest.

As with Lockyer, the drama that unfolded in December wasn’t the first warning he had received.

“I was first treated for AF [atrial fibrillation] in 1985 – a lot of people have AF and don’t realise they have it.

“In my case, I was getting light-headed, breathless... I was down at the Devenish, training other people, one day I ran up the stairs and I was out of puff. I’m going ‘maybe I need to do a bit more training myself, never mind taking the classes’.

“They were treating me for sports-induced asthma, then I collapsed. In the training sessions in the days before, I was flying, Magheralin up to Moira, telling the boys on the sprint ‘youse haven’t got rid of me yet!’

“But then on the way back I was wobbling all over the road... I actually collapsed on the bike and fell off. Luckily enough there was a doctor riding on the other side of the road, and I ended up being rushed to Craigavon hospital.

“It was because of the AF I ended up seeing a heart doctor after what happened before Christmas, because I collapsed again in the hospital and they had to put the defib on me.”

Enda and Muireann Baker, who were borns with Edwards' syndrome
Enda and Muireann Baker, who were borns with Edwards' syndrome

That was 17 weeks ago – and now Holmes is preparing for his last major event as part of a charity ride from Mizen Head, Ireland’s most southerly point in Cork, to Malin Head in Donegal over four days, starting on June 29.

The epic 410-mile cycle is in memory of babies Enda and Muireann Baker, who were born with Edwards’ syndrome – a rare condition also known as also known as Trisomy 18.

Enda died in 2022 before Muireann passed away last September. Both were under two months old.

All funds raised from the cycle will go to the NI Children’s Hospice, who cared for Enda and Muireann and helped the Baker family throughout their heartbreaking ordeal.

And, despite his recent episode, Holmes was determined to join the 20-strong expedition, purchasing an electric bike for what he insists will be his last major cycle.

“This is definitely it,” says the 71-year-old.

“It’s such a good cause, and we want to try and raise as much money as we can. The generosity of people so far has been amazing; we collected £2,200 shaking buckets down in Sainsbury’s, and hopefully we can lift a lot more between now and June.

“The doctors were in two minds about whether I should do it, saying ‘we’re going to tell you not to do it, but you’re going to do it anyway’.

“I’ve been out and done a few cycles since, but I know I’ll have to get step it up bit by bit and start really training. I would sleep for Ireland after I’ve been out, but the pedal assist on the E-Bike is class, because if I drop under 15mph, it kicks in. It gives you a wee bit more confidence.

“At the minute, with the weather, I pick and choose when I get out but I have a turbo-trainer in the house so it’s a case of head down, ass up and try to get myself fit.

“A couple of them are panicking about me doing this, saying if you’re tired you can get into the van, but I want to do it. I’ve done a lot of rides up around Donegal through the years, I know what the roads are like.

“And anyway, as I keep saying to the boys, you’ve only one heart, I have two now, so I’ll be alright.”

To donate, visit the JustGiving page at

The 20-strong crew who will cycle from Mizen Head to Malin Head at the end of June
The 20-strong crew who will cycle from Mizen Head to Malin Head at the end of June