Monday, March 27, 2017

Fare-thee-well Lionel 'Duc' Newbery


Last week one of our contributors passed away. A real gem of a man, Lionel Newbery, or 'Duc' as many people called him, contributed fragments and memories of his ride around the world back in the late '70s to issues #2 and #3 of Head Full of Snakes under the title 'Not Safe'. That's Lionel above on his 1974 Moto Guzzi GT850, the bike he rode from London back to NZ. He still had this bike and it was great to see it again, sitting out the back of his house at his funeral/tangi last Thursday. His kids told me that they plan to do the ol' Guzzi up too, in Lionel's memory.

Last Thursday was amazing and seemed a really fitting send off for someone who was so sort of quietly influential in quite a few peoples lives. Lionel had a large and really loving family, and he was also well known to the locals over in Lyttelton where he lived. It was actually seeing Lionel riding his old red Ducati (below) around Lyttelton back in the very early 2000s that made me get back into motorcycles (having since sold my bike after my cousin died on one). I loved the look and sound of Lionel's Ducati, and he'd often be parked up outside No.6, one of the old cafes that was run by Bruce Russell and his wife Kate back then.


Lionel had shown me photos of his old Ducati GT 750 that he'd bought brand new and raced, but I'd never seen it in the flesh. Turns out his brother had it up in Auckland, and so he rode it back down all the way to Lyttelton for the funeral! I think it bought a tear to many people's eyes when Lionel's son (on the red bike) and his brother (on the GT) started up both bikes to lead a procession of motorcycles over to the Diamond Harbour cemetery. Lionel went in the old Citroen you can just see in front of the motorbikes there.

I thought it would be a slow sombre ride around the bays, but no! These two on the Ducatis took off and this would easily be one of the fastest most hair-raising group rides I've been on. A fitting tribute as everyone agreed, 'that's how Lionel would have ridden'.

The ceremony was beautiful with no involvement from any weird outside participants who didn't know Lionel. The family filled the grave with shovels, everyone got real dirty. There were no speeches, but there were a couple of songs. It was really moving and special.

Here's to you Lionel, and long may the Guzzi run.

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