At 6:43pm on the last Saturday in May my phone pinged to let me know a Facebook notification had arrived. From the brief intro on the screen I could see it was from the station boss at BIKERfm and that it said, “People I don’t know how to tell you all this…” I could only think that he was going to announce that due to some unforeseen circumstances the station had been forced to close but I was in the middle of family stuff so it was an hour and a half before I got to read it.
I’ve enjoyed the last couple of years as a BIKERfm DJ so I really wasn’t looking forward to reading the bad news. I thought I’d steeled myself for the worst case scenario (i.e. that I wouldn’t even have a last show to say a proper goodbye to my listeners) but I found that my determination to suck it up and deal with it, was washed away by a tsunami of emotion when I read, “I was contacted by Nige Rae who broke the news to me that Gail has just had a fatal accident on her bike and has sadly passed away.” It was just so far from anything I was expecting to read that it took me completely by surprise.
I couldn’t help reflecting that it would have taken Gail by surprise too; she never had the opportunity to say an extra special fond farewell when she finished her last show, less than fifteen hours before she died. However, generally speaking it’s only truly unfortunate individuals who have been diagnosed with terminal conditions, who have the kind of foreknowledge that allows them to put their affairs in order and say their goodbyes (if they are so inclined), the best the rest of us can hope is that we manage to say and do the important things while we can, because few of us ever know when our time will arrive – particularly if it doesn’t come about as a consequence of ‘natural causes’.
That said, I’m sure that most of us if we were offered the choice, would opt to die suddenly riding the motorcycle we love, rather than little by little while cancer and chemo fight to see which can wear you down first. Everything I’ve read written by anyone who really knows Gail, suggests that she definitely would have plumped for option one, but you can never be sure with mothers and as she leaves a teenage daughter behind, she might well have chosen to have just a little more time with her, whatever the cost. However, the awful but reassuring truth is that when Gail was enjoying her final ride along the B6479 on her BIKERfm liveried GSXR, she would have been feeling so thoroughly alive that those kind of choices would never even have crossed her mind.
I have always believed that the truest measure of the time that someone spent walking – or riding – among us, is the amount of genuine sadness their passing causes, and if that is the case, the thousands of messages that have appeared right across the Internet since Gail’s untimely death, speak volumes about a woman who was absolutely brimming over with life, love and filthy laughter
Although – as everyone else attests – Gail was friendly, helpful and supportive when I first started on BIKERfm and seemed to make one cock-up after another, I’ve never really been a racing fan so after our initial contact we rarely had reason to speak. Nonetheless I offered to write a few words on behalf of my fellow BIKERfm presenters, all of whom were equally shocked by the tragic news, and the colleagues below provided me with their personal tributes to add her obituary.
I first met Gail when she invited me to her home during her show, so I could learn the broadcasting ropes. You know how it is when you meet someone and you feel like you’ve known them forever? That’s what it was like. We had a great laugh during the show and chatted until gone 3am when I had to force myself to go home.Gail told me that she didn’t know anything about road racing when she started but loved the attitude of it all. There is no doubt that she was passionate to the core about her racers, they all meant so much to her and whenever any of them were hurt, she’d be in pieces. Her passion was reflected in her interviews and in the way the riders responded to her – they always had time for her and shared many laughs. She had a mischievous sense of humour and a wicked laugh. I had a huge amount of respect for Gail and after reading all the comments on her Facebook wall, it’s obvious that everyone else who met her felt the same way.
Gail was a wonderful mum, she showed Amber the world with an open mind and a warm heart.
I am blessed to have known our Catlass; she will be sorely missed by all.
x Naomi x
When I first joined BIKERfm with Gaz the first show I listened to from start to finish was Gail’s Road Racing Show. Gaz and I had been podcasting to build our confidence before joining the station and we did a report on the Bike Racing we both enjoyed as part of our show. I knew there were two racing shows on BIKERfm and I listened in out of curiosity more than anything else, to see if we had been doing the sport justice with our efforts. From the first few minutes of listening to Gail I knew we weren’t even in the same league.
Gail’s enthusiasm and love for Road Racing was evident right from the word go, you knew that she had been doing lots of preparation to put the show together, but it also had the one element that set it apart from everyone else – Gail Richards herself. Her easy going and friendly personality shone through in her interviews and put her guests at ease as she teased juicy gossip out of everyone she interviewed. It didn’t matter if it was a young rider new to the sport, or a grizzly old veteran well used to giving interviews, Gail always got more information than anyone else simply by being herself.
The very best interviews were always given by those lucky enough to be invited to her home to broadcast live from the Bingley studio. It’s hard enough to put a show together from interviews done at the various events she attended, but it’s a whole different experience to be a host as well as having to wear a broadcaster’s hat at the same time. Gail managed both with ease and everyone whom she invited to do a live show will tell you how much they enjoyed the evening they spent with her, which traditionally finished with a curry from her favourite take away.
Nobody else could have got away with even a fraction of what Gail accomplished during her time with BIKERfm; you knew when she was really getting stuck in when she burst out with what was quite possibly the dirtiest laugh you ever heard after she’d elicited a tasty morsel of gossip from an unwitting or unknowingly disarmed guest. That was no act, it was Gail being herself and that was what made her such a successful Road Racing Show presenter; it hurts so much that we will never hear that filthy laugh again in person.
Sleep well, Gail. Our thoughts and prayers go out to your daughter Amber, your Mum and all your family as we prepare to say our final farewell. We will miss you always.
TT week won’t be the same this year, there will still be epic racing by brave men and women taking on the most challenging road course in the world but I’ll not be listening to Gail report it on BIKERfm this year, because sadly she lost her life this weekend doing what she loved, riding her GSXR750.
“Can you hear me, am I streaming?” That’s how TT week started for me last year, with Gail Skyping me to find out if I was tuned in and could hear her. I was working on BIKERfm at the time as an afternoon DJ and Gail knew I’d be tuned in to anything to do with the TT. Although we never actually met we shared a passion for road racing and GSXRs.
It was the start of a brilliant week of morning catch ups, laughs, and me broadcasting to the TT paddock to let her know that we could hear her. I’m just gutted we never got to meet in person and I only knew her via the Internet but she left an impression with her love of the sport and the enthusiastic way she went about broadcasting it to the world!
Keep it lit Catlass! GSXRs are the coolest bikes in biker heaven too.
I got to know Gail ‘The Catlass’ Richards simply because I used to hand over the BIKERfm baton to her on a Friday evening at 8pm. She guided me through the early days, with endless encouragement and laughter! We never actually met face to face but we’d have our weekly Skype catch ups, covering vehicle hassles, work, kids, animals, men… so over time we got to know a lot about each others’ lives. She was one of the few women who understood how hard it is to juggle a love of bikes with being a single mum. Her passion for road racing, bikes, and people was immense. I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers her in tears at the TT last year when one of the racers she knew was injured. She cared so much.
Well, I’ll miss our friday night catch ups but I’m glad that I got to know her through them, and my heart goes out to her family and close friends, and especially her Mum and Amber.
What can I say about Gail that hasn’t been said a million times over? Her amazing sense of humour was the thing that stood out for me. We only met, in person, a few times but we Skyped and chatted on Farceboo, quite often. She was always fun to be around. Full of, and larger than, life with an infectious laugh, she always had an answer for anything. Gail lived her life! Really lived it, with no holding back. She died, as she lived, enjoying life on her beloved bike. To say that she’ll be missed is an understatement, she touched so many lives, wherever she went and spread happiness in her wake.
If there is an afterlife, she’ll have arrived sliding sideways or with an incredible wheelie, shouting “Woo hoo” and being greeted by the road racers who’ve gone before her. Fare thee well and bright blessings Catlass, the world is a duller place without you!