WHEN Pat Noonan was a small boy, he was fascinated by his grandad’s Honda 50 parked in the hallway of his home.
“I remember as a kid looking at it and being completely mesmerised with it,” says Pat, aged 52, of Ballyvolane, who is now a father of two and a grandfather of two.”
When he grew up, he remembered that vehicle.
“I bought my first legitimate motorbike when I was 18. It was a Honda 50,” says Pat, a lifelong biker.
How did he afford it?
“I worked part-time in Pouladuff Dismantlers and my late mother put away money for me every week,” he says. “I was able to pay the motor insurance too, which was expensive then.”
He was in seventh heaven.
“The bike cost £300 and it was a wonderful occasion when I bought it,” says Pat.
“It gave me a new lease of life; a sense of freedom. Getting something for myself made me feel grown-up. I was introduced to the Big Boys world.”
Hi life-long love of riding motorbikes, tinkering with them and repairing them, prompted him to build his own unique vehicle which was a labour of love.
Being a skilled carpenter blessed with mechanical skills helped Pat build a one-off hearse, to give fellow bikers and like-minded people an exclusive final ride in peace.
“When I was in school I dreamed of building alternative vehicles,” he says.
“My hobby has always been motorbikes and I could always keep them maintained, being mechanically trained. I got my first car out of necessity at 28 for ferrying kids to school.”
But he never forgot about his childhood dream.
“I had a vision and in my shed a year ago, I saw my dream that I had as a kid came true; it is amazing.”
Is the one-of-a-kind, custom-built tricycle hearse appealing only to bikers for that final ride — that ultimate send-off?
“Only the other day, I got a message from a lady living in the north of the country enquiring about the hearse,” says Pat. “She wanted to pre-arrange her own funeral service. Sadly, the lady is suffering from a terminal illness. She wants to celebrate her life her way. I think now, with alternatives to weddings, christenings and funerals, people are planning personalised celebrations. Having a choice is what life is all about.”
Pat says the unique hearse is available to everyone, not just to bikers, or to motorbike enthusiasts.
“I’m nervous and excited at the same time about unveiling it. Some people will like it, some won’t. But that’s life.”
What sparked Pat’s labour of love?
“I was part of a motorbike cavalcade at the funeral of a very close biker friend a few years ago who died tragically,” says Pat.
“I was at the back of the cavalcade when it came to a stop on the motorway. As I looked above the sea of motorcycle helmets towards the hearse in the distance, it occurred to me that following a traditional hearse is not in keeping with a lifestyle lived around motorcycles. It didn’t seem right. My mate lived and breathed motorbikes. Putting him in a car just didn’t seem appropriate.”
Pat got inspiration and a spark came alive.
“I wanted to break from the traditional funeral hearse and set about custom-building a trike hearse as a tribute to our loved ones, to send them off on their final ride in style. It was in my mind for a few years.”
Pat knows a thing a two about motorbikes. He is a member of Blood Bike South as a director and volunteer rider. “Blood bike volunteers have a lot to give without being asked,” says Pat. “There is a great connection in the motorcycle community.”
“When you’re heading for a good spin up the country or anywhere, people in the biking family will tell you where to go, where to stop, and where to stay. I have family in Donegal and I travel up there a lot when I can on my Goldwing Gl 1800 called Billie.”
Pat bought a magnificent vintage 1988 Honda Goldwing GL 1500 Aspencade, a member of the legendary touring motorcycle family. But he needed something that could carry a coffin. He got to work.
“I bought a 1996 Ford Scorpio Ultima.”
The vehicle is an executive car produced by Ford in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which had been converted into a three-door hearse.
He started working on ways to merge both vehicles.
Could he do it?
“Society tells you there are always regulations and restrictions,” says Pat. “But you can do amazing things within those guidelines and you can follow your dream if you really want to and if you are open to it.”
Pat, with a lot of help from his friends, knew he could make his dream come true.
“There are people there to help you,” says Pat. “I discovered that on the journey of this build. Community spirit is alive and well. A kind word always gave me more motivation.”
He engineered the project that was born in his shed, adding: “I learned and gained a lot from it.”
He lost a few things working in the shed.
“There has been a few 10mm spanners and sockets lost along the way!” says Pat.
But he had other motorbike experts to call upon.
“I had the help of a coded welder,” says Pat. “He was top-notch. We changed our ideas and our design as we went along to make it all work. We had no manual.”
But Pat had a vision.
“I had a picture in my mind. I knew I could make it work.”
Pat removed the rear section of the motorbike and the front of the hearse, and engineered a chassis to affix to the rear of the hearse, including its rear axle, to the reinforced frame of the Goldwing, with a reinforced leading link front end containing the bike’s front wheel.
Pat’s dream was given a life of its own.
“This is a one-off,” say Pat.
The bespoke unique hearse is a sleek jet-black three wheel vehicle stretching 16 feet six inches or just over 5 metres. The coffin slides in the back as it would in a regular hearse. But up front, it’s a motorbike.”
I tell Pat I am dying to see it.
“Come up to Ballyvolane any time, girl; I’d love to show it to you!” says Pat.
“I’m very proud of the hearse. There is certainly nothing like it anywhere in Ireland. As far as I know there is nothing like this type of model anywhere in the world.”
Pat is happy to have achieved his dream, breaking from tradition, offering people an alternative mode of transport for their final journey.
“I’ve had so much help and so many positive comments along the way. It’s great,” says Pat. “I hope it inspires others. I’m delighted now that it’s done.”
Pat knows dealing with death can be difficult for people.
“I know death is a very sensitive subject for people,” he says. “A couple of pals of mine seeking options have approached me about the hearse.
“While it is sad and can be tragic, I think it is lovely for people to have a choice to celebrate death and life in any way they want. Having a choice in all aspects of life is important and realistic. Anyone interested in hiring the hearse can contact their local funeral director.”
Pat thought outside the box.
“Yes, and it took a while!” he says
“In my shed one night I sat back after my cousin, Bernadette, polished the trike-hearse.”
What did he think? “I thought; this really is spectacular!”
Pat’s executive hearse transport service will be provided through funeral directors.
Call Pat Noonan: 087-2230616.