'I think of his mother, and of her terrible loss . . . it breaks my heart'
A SMALL Leinster flag amid all the Ulster flags, jerseys and scarves fluttered on the fence beside the main pitch at Ravenhill in east Belfast yesterday. It was placed by Don Healy who drove up from Dublin to express his sympathy to the Spence family on behalf of himself and his son, the Irish prop Cian Healy.
“Our sincerest thoughts and prayers are with you,” he wrote in the book of condolence in the clubhouse, adding in reference to Nevin Spence, “You will be sadly missed by Cian.” Don placed a bunch of flowers on the fence: red and white flowers for Ulster, blue and yellow for Leinster.
And that’s the way it was at Ravenhill, a steady stream of people of all ages, from all backgrounds, queuing up to sign the book of condolence and to express their horror and sadness at the unspeakable misfortune that befell the Spence family. Among them were the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
There was a particular focus on the potential future Irish great Nevin Spence, but people were conscious that this was a family tragedy and the heartfelt sympathy was directed to the whole family.
In the Stormont Assembly there was some talk of the need for greater emphasis on farm safety after the terrible accident in which three Spences died in the family’s slurry container. But yesterday sympathy towards the family took precedence.
The funeral service for Nevin Spence (22), his brother Graham (30) and father Noel (52) will take place at Ballynahinch Baptist Church tomorrow afternoon.
Hundreds of people will attend the funeral to show solidarity with Noel’s widow, Esme; his daughter Emma, who despite being caught up in the tragedy on Saturday survived her ordeal and is now out of hospital; his second daughter Laura; and Graham’s wife, Andrea and young children Nathan and Georgia.
Back at Ravenhill, rugby fan Margaret Johnston said words could not express the depth of the tragedy. “I have a son Nevin’s age, and I think of his mother, and of her terrible loss, and the loss of all the family – it breaks my heart.”