Lisburn motorcycling legend Ray McCullough BEM is celebrated for his sporting achievements

What a marvellous year it has been for motorcycling legend Ray McCullough, writes Peter Clarke.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 12:03 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 12:04 pm
Racing greats Trevor Steele, Moto GP winner Jeremy McWilliams, Denis Todd and Johnny Rea senior all attended the Celebration event to pay tribute to Ray McCullough (Photo credit Paul McClean)

Lisburn motorcycling legend Ray McCullough BEM, has capped off a tremendous year perfectly with a special celebration day held at Queens University Belfast in honour of his incredible sporting achievements.

Queen’s University was of course the place where the people’s champion McCullough helped to design and build the ground-breaking machines he rode in to so many victories.

The organiser of the celebration day, local author and photographer Paul McClean, presented two copies of his fabulous book’ Ray McCullough - the Dromara Destroyer’ to Queen’s University Chief Librarian Irene Bittles and it will now be on permanent display in the McClay University Library.

The QUB Mechanical Engineering team reunited with Professor Robert Fleck, Doctor Robert Key and Ray McCullough with the iconic QUB 500 which was designed and built at the University. (photo credit Paul McClean)

Ray was not only reunited with two of his work colleagues and close friends Professor Robert Fleck and Doctor Robert Kee, but also with his Belfast built QUB 500 motorcycle on which he claimed 17 wins in the early 1970’s.

This unique two stroke machine was the brain-child of the late Professor Gordon Blair and is a reminder of how far the QUB’s Mechanical Engineering Department was ahead of its time. Professor Blair and Rays sponsor Mick Mooney were both instrumental in the McCullough success story.

Ray was a very valuable member of the highly skilled team in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in Queens University for 38 years where as chief technician he worked on cutting edge engine development with Professors Blair and Fleck with high profile manufacturers such as Yamaha. Ray also inspired thousands of students to attain Mechanical Engineering excellence in their undergraduate and postgraduate studies so it was so fitting that a special event was held at Queens.

This lightning-fast road racing superstar who always displayed refreshing modesty and great sportsmanship rode a QUB prepared motorcycle to beat world champions Phil Read, Jarno Saarirnen and Dieter Braun with relative ease on an historic day in 1971 at the Ulster Grand Prix and also defeated another World champion Barry Sheene MBE twice in the space of a year. His biggest rivals on the home front were the brilliant duo of Grand Prix regular Tom Herron and the remarkable 26 times TT winner Joey Dunlop OBE.

Ray McCullough pictured at Queens University Belfast on his QUB 500 machine (photo credit Paul McClean)

But in the 1970’s, Ray was the man to beat in the ultra competitive 250cc and 350cc classes whether it was at the Ulster Grand Prix, North West 200, Southern 100 and all the national road races and short circuits across Ireland.

For Road Racing fans throughout the island and beyond, Ray who won an incredible 175 races during his illustrious racing career, is now receiving the recognition he so richly deserves. Racing greats including Moto GP winner Jeremy McWilliams, Trevor Steele, Denis Todd and Johnny Rea senior attended the celebration day to pay tribute to this local hero.

It really has been quite a year for Ray with an excellent film on his life entitled ‘Ray McCullough - Held in Admiration’ directed by Colin James, produced by Rowland White and narrated by Stephen Watson raising thousands for the Children’s Kidney Fund NI charity. Ray was delighted that the charity benefited so well from this film.

Ray has always been an ardent supporter of many charities including the Injured Riders Fund, the Samaritans and Air Ambulance NI. Everyone is delighted that Ray has recently been awarded the prestigious British Empire Medal for services to motorcycling sport, a fitting honour for such a terrific champion and advocate for sport in Northern Ireland.

Ray racing the iconic QUB 500 in the early 1970’s (photo credit Jim Morrow)

Author and Photographer Paul McClean said, ‘It was my privilege to write a book about the life and achievements of my hero, Ray McCullough. Like thousands of others, I was very fortunate to watch this motorcycling legend beating all comers during the golden era of the sport in the 1970’s. It was just a brilliant time for racing and Ray was number one.

“Ray McCullough represents all that is good about sport and Northern Ireland and to see him sitting on the QUB 500 at the front of the world-renowned Queens University Belfast where he worked for so many years was a very emotional experience for us all.

“To see my book presented to QUB library was a very proud moment for both the McCullough family and my own family. This will allow generations of students to find out more about this world beating Ulster Road Racer from the townland of Carnew in the Dromara Hills.”