Memorial service on the Isle of Man remembers Oldham police officer who died in a motorcycle accident

A memorial service was held on the Isle of Man to honor an Oldham police officer who died almost 50 years ago after a horrific accident during a motorcycle race.

PC Denis Hamer joined the Isle of Man Constabulary (IOMC) from Lancashire Constabulary in 1975, moving to the island with his wife Rosemary.

He had previously served in the RAF for a year from 1968 and worked as a police officer in Ormskirk from 1969 until his transfer.

Denis and his wife Rosemary moved to the island to enjoy the quality of life on offer and fell in love with them immediately.

A newspaper article written by PC Hamer and his wife Rosemary after their arrival on the Isle of Man

But on September 7, 1976, Denis was on duty for racing during the Manx Grand Prix motorcycle race at Union Mills.

His post was at the junction of Strang Road, next to the Methodist Church and Post Office.

Tragically, one of the riders lost control of his motorcycle, hitting Denis and fatally injuring him. He was 26 years old.

PC Denis Hamer

PC Denis Hamer

Rosemary moved back to Britain not long after and had never visited the island again, the emotions such a visit would evoke were too strong. Since then she has remarried.

Following a public appeal by the Isle of Man Police Historian online site, the force contacted Rosemary and Denis’ nephew, Andy Townsend.

Chief Officer Dean Johnson, the force’s historian and head of the Special Constabulary, was in regular contact with the family before arrangements were made to place a plaque at a church service.

The memorial service was held at Union Mills Methodist Church, a few yards from where Denis was killed and where he was originally taken for first aid.

Rev. Steve Ingrouille, with the assistance of IOMC Chaplain Rev. Jo Dudley, planned and conducted the short service, which was held in the chapel due to inclement weather.

A whistler, former police officer Paul Davenport, played the Manx national anthem and the royal anthem, adding a haunting poignancy to the event.

The IOMC standard was also in attendance, demonstrated by Special Constable Glyn Harper.

In attendance were members of Denis’ family, Rosemary, her husband Harry, Denis’ sister Joyce Townsend and their three sons Andy, David and Jim, and Jim’s partner Pauline.

The Lieutenant Governor, Lieutenant-General Sir John Mortimer KCB; DSO; MBE unveiled the memorial during a short break in rain.

A former officer in attendance said that “standing in the rain for five to ten minutes is not much to ask considering Denis was sacrificed.”

Also present was Justice and Home Office Secretary Jane Poole-Wilson, former and current police officers – many of whom knew Denis and were even on duty on that fateful day, former marshals who were on duty and members of the Union Congregation Mills Methodist Church.

The latter had also prepared a wonderful buffet of homemade cakes and sandwiches and provided plenty of tea and coffee to keep everyone warm.

From the left;  PC Hamer's nephews David Townsend and Andy Townsend, his widow Rosemary Ashton, Rosemary's husband Harry Ashton, Chief Officer Dean Johnson (IOMC historian and head of the IOM Special Constabulary), sister Joyce Townsend, Jim's partner Pauline

From the left; PC Hamer’s nephews David Townsend and Andy Townsend, his widow Rosemary Ashton, Rosemary’s husband Harry Ashton, Chief Officer Dean Johnson (IOMC historian and head of the IOM Special Constabulary), sister Joyce Townsend, Jim’s partner Pauline

The Plaque

The Plaque

Rosemary said: “I was very worried about going back to the island as I couldn’t bear to come back since Denis was killed. I’m so glad I did.

“I feel very relieved now and feel like I could happily come back”

Joyce added, “I can’t believe how kind everyone was. It was amazing”

After the service, Andy said, “It was a good event for everyone. The memorial is in a place where people can go and remember what happened.

“From what I’ve been told, my uncle was really outgoing, helpful and very ambitious.”

Andy added that he was glad his mother Joyce had the opportunity to see a memorial to her brother, something that Alice and Jim, Denis’ late parents, were unable to see.

He also commended Chief Officer Johnson and his family for helping make the service possible.

The memorial was made by Castletown island mason TE Cubbon and is made of black granite with gold relief.

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