Even though Friday, May 5 started off with thunder and lightning and, at times torrential rain, bikers from all across the country braved the elements to take themselves and their machines to Clones.

They did so as a show of support to the families and friends of all those being remembered in the Annual Bikers’ Memorial.

Their presence, their chats to bereaved families, is a huge boost to grieving family members.

This year was slightly different to previous memorial days. Thanks to the co-operation of Clones Film Festival committee and Monaghan County Council, the first event was a showing of a short documentary in the Courthouse Cinema on McCurtain street.

‘Freebirds’ is a beautifully shot and emotional film exploring loss, grieving, and coping, within a small group of biker friends and club mates from Co. Longford.

Film maker and artist Brigid Mulligan welcomed fellow bikers to the first showing and her clubmates were on hand to chat and answer questions afterwards.

Bikers’ Memorial committee Vice-Chairperson, Mick Hoare, expressed his committee’s delight at the “great co-operation that allowed the film to be shown”.

Once again, as 8pm approached the Sacred Heart Church was thronged. Large crowds gathered outside among the hundreds of motorbikes parked in every conceivable space.

Those inside were treated to the sight of six amazing machines around the altar. Fr. Stephen Joyce, Scotstown, officiating for his second year, gave the audience a brief description of each.

First up was a 1986 Suzuki RG 500 Walter Wolf Special Edition. This bike was originally manufactured only for the home Japanese market.

It’s extremely rare, with only 25 ever made. A stunning bike, it was brought to the memorial by Pat Costello, Central Motorcycles, Tullamore.

The second bike from Pat was a 1976 Kawasaki Z900 California Highway Patrol police bike, designed and built by Dan Gorini.

It was entirely original and one of only 230 specifically built for the California Highway patrol. Even without the lights and siren, it was definitely a head turner.

Bike three was an absolutely stunning custom 1997 Bandit 1200. Built by Shane Egan in Limerick, its wheels were machined in Scotland, and it had a V rod front end and custom frame.

The bike is owned by Paddy McClory, but it looked this good thanks to being loving polished by Pauline McClory.

Bike number four was a 2013 125 cc Honda Grom, full stunt kit. Owned by Barry McDermott, Rockcorry, Co. Monaghan, he gets great enjoyment out of this small machine, and Fr. Joyce commented with a laugh that he probably shouldn’t say this, but “he can do wheelies for miles on it, or at least until his arms get tired!”

Number five was a 2018 Harley Davidson 107 Street Bob, that belonged to the late Billy ‘The Barber’ Behan.

Billy was born in Dublin but lived in Longford, and bought this bike brand-new, and it was his pride and joy.

He was a joint founder of the Midlands Toy Run and was known all over for his charity work.

His wife, Jean, and his family were proud to have him remembered at the Bikers’ Memorial – a memorial he attended many times himself.

Finally, a race bike belonging to the late Davy Morgan was also in the group. A Honda 250 two stroke, it’s a real road racing bike.

Davy won two Ulster Grand Prix on this bike, and he loved racing it. This bike was in Davy’s living room, so the committee are really proud and privileged to have got it to Clones, and offered their sincere thanks to Trudy for bringing it to the Sacred Heart church.

Joint celebrants of the memorial this year were Fr. Tony Conlon, returning for what was his seventh year, with Clones parish priest Fr. Jim Moore officiating for his first time.

As a great supporter of the Bikers’ Memorial, the committee are very indebted and grateful for Fr. Jim’s support.

Also attending for his first time was the Rev. Ian Cruickshank, a Church of Ireland minister based in Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan, but originally from Aberdeen in Scotland.

While the memorial was a sad occasion, both Fr. Joyce and Rev. Cruickshank managed to lighten the mood and had the congregation laughing on numerous occasions.

Once again, there was great praise after the memorial for the beautiful music. Galway native Mick Hoare thanked “Caroline Adamson, Maureen O’ Shaughnessy, Cathy Kirke and Dez Murphy for providing such wonderfully appropriate music throughout the memorial”.

The Chairperson of the Bikers’ Memorial committee, Anne Marie Marshall, thanked everyone for their help in the run up to and during the service itself.

“We are very lucky to have such a willing and helpful community,” stated the Fermanagh woman. “Part of the joy of being a biker is being part of this wonderful community that will go out of their way to help their fellow bikers.”

This, she feels, is evident every year at the memorial time. 2023 in particular, she felt was an amazing example of the community spirit with the Bikers’ Memorial being able to count on the support of churches, the local authority, the film festival committee, Brigid Mulligan and the Freebirds as well as the hundreds of bikers “by whose very attendance provides such support to grieving families everywhere”.

Once the memorial ended, the bikers were slow to leave the chapel, as they milled around in groups inside and out, and gathered at the altar to look for names and pictures of their loved ones on the three plaques.

They also took a closer look at the amazing display bikes, all the time chatting to friends old and new.

Eventually, as darkness fell, the last of the powerful machines left the grounds of the Sacred Heart Church.

That’s it until next May, 2024, where it is the committee’s earnest wish that they will have no new names to add to the plaques.