One extremely popular element sadly missing from the TT this year is the madcap motorcycle display team, collectively known as the Purple Helmets.
With the majority of the founder members of the troupe now already in or rapidly approaching their 60s, they decided to hang up their knee-length ex-World War Two tropal coats and mothball their long-suffering C90 Hondas.
They did a farewell tour of gigs last summer and autumn, but over the winter the unmistakable voice of the group - Derry Kissack - compiled a book telling the hilarious story of the World-Famous Purple Helmets, entitled ‘At Speeds Approaching 100 Miles an Hour’.
Derry used that description on hundreds of occasions (along with dozens more) when commentating on their displays - locally and internationally.
Purely for financial reasons, the full identity of the death-defying Purple Helmets line-up is kept a close secret.
Their first live show took place at the DOI Test Centre in 1996 on the fringes of Douglas, conveniently close to Noble’s Hospital, when crowds flocked to the unlikely venue to see them perform alongside the island’s only ever full-time professional trials rider Steve Colley.
The show was an instant success and overnight they outgrew the venue.
Many of their largest shows took place at Onchan’s Nivison Stadium where thousands would pack in to watch what Derry described as the same old shi*e stunts.
The crowds loved them, and invites began to arrive for them to perform at bike shows and meetings as far apart as Edinburgh, Oulton Park and Stafford.
They soon became international celebrities, often performing at various editions of the International Six Day Enduro at venues across Europe and beyond. In 1995, not long after purchasing a late 1960s former Douglas Corporation AEC Regent double-decker bus, the Helmets drove all the way to Poland and back for the ISDE. With the seats removed, the bikes were loaded onto the lower deck of the bus while the riders slept upstairs.
But a serious modification had to be made to the vintage vehicle, that of a flat roof, as its original height precluded it from the German Autobahns!
The bus behaved impeccably on the 2,500 mile round trip, considering it had previously gone no farther than Willaston.
It made many more trips and guest appearances, famously Steve Colley jumped off the top of it one year at Onchan Park, but it was eventually sold on (last known owners Remington Shavers UK as a party bus).
When Sir Ian Macfadyen was Lieutenant Governor some 20 years ago he invited Derry and the Helmets to appear at several private shows in the grounds of Government House. One of those guests turned out to be a young Prince William, a keen biker, who generously agreed to swap jackets with one of the Helmets for a photo-call.
When Sir Ian and Lady Macfadyen left the island at the completion of their term of office, the Purple Helmets duly provided a Guard of Honour to the Sea Terminal for that morning’s ferry.
Derry Kissack organised the motorcade from his hospital bed.
Photographic evidence of all of the above incidents and occasions appear in the book, plus a lot more madness from the last 27 years, character profiles, Onchan Show posters, newspaper cuttings and a foreword by the current Lieutenant Governor Sir John Lorimer.
He said what a privilege it was: ‘In years to come, when people discuss the Isle of Man and list the Manx people of the past, I have no doubt that in the same breath as Archibald Knox, T. E. Brown, Mark Cavendish and the Bee Gees, people will mention the Purple Helmets.’
The book can be ordered directly from Duke Marketing, Champion House, Tromode, Isle of Man priced £30 (postage and packaging can be arranged). It is also available from Bridge Bookshop (Ramsey and Port Erin) and The Book Company (Castle Street, Douglas).
All profits from the sale will be donated to Hospice Isle of Man and the Queen’s Pier Restoration Trust.
l The official launch of ‘The story of the World-famous Purple Helmets’ will be at the Victory Cafe, the Bungalow (near the highest point of the TT Course) at 11am on Monday, June 5 when there will be a ride through and book signing session.