Max Wall died ‘listening to the voice of a father who loved him’, funeral Mass told

St Michael’s College student on phone to parent while walking to ferry in Ios, Greece, when he fell ill, says priest

Max Wall, one of two south Dublin 18-year-olds who died on a post-Leaving Cert holiday to Ios in Greece, was walking to a ferry and speaking to his father on the phone when he collapsed, his funeral Mass has heard.

“He died listening to the voice of a father who loved him,” Fr Paddy Moran told the congregation at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook on Monday. “Max died as he lived, loving those around him.”

Max and his classmate at St Michael’s College, Andrew O’Donnell, had recently graduated from the Ballsbridge secondary school and died in separate incidents while in Ios at the start of this month. They were part of a group of more than 80 students from the school who travelled to the island following their exams.

Andrew O’Donnell is believed to have fallen on a rocky hill on the outskirts of the island’s main town of Hora after he became separated from a friend while walking home after a night out. His body was discovered the following day. Just hours later, Max Wall collapsed near the island’s port and was later pronounced dead.

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Initial postmortems conducted by Greek authorities indicated that Andrew O’Donnell died from head injuries related to his fall and that Max Wall’s death was linked to a heart problem.

Max’s father, Niall Wall, told mourners it was the “most profound cruelty” that Max had been “robbed of a bright future”.

“Max was full of life,” he told the packed church. “He had a real thirst to see the world and experience as much of it as he possibly could.”

He said Max was a keen debater whether the topic was sport or politics and that his son’s knowledge of the things that interested him was “truly staggering”.

Symbols representing Max’s life were brought up to the altar during the Mass by some of his schoolfriends. These included a Manchester United jersey and signed Leinster Rugby jersey to represent his love of sport, a pool cue to symbolise how he enjoyed spending time hanging out with friends, and a St Michael’s College annual to mark his time spent in the school.

Msgr Ciarán O’Carroll told the congregation that Max had made a “positive and valued” contribution to all who knew him. “The world has lost a little colour with his passing,” he said.

Mr Wall said Max was “an amazing brother to Charlie, they were true best friends” and that St Michael’s College, where he started as a junior pupil aged four, had a “special place on his heart”. Max was a “cheerleader extraordinaire” when it came to supporting the school team on the rugby pitch, his father said, and was “kind, polite and respectful” to his parents.

“We will love him forever,” said Mr Wall.

Max’s mother, Fiona, said: “Max, our darling boy, we love you forever, we miss you forever. You were a force of nature and your memory will live on.”

Fr Moran, chaplain at St Michael’s College, recalled looking out on to a sea of “young energetic men ready to take on the world” at the recent graduation ceremony for this year’s class. Now, he said, much of this same group was gathering in “the most tragic of circumstances” to grieve “a loyal friend to so many. Our hearts are broken.”

Three years ago when he needed to undergo major heart surgery, Max approached the risks with great stoicism, mourners were told. He was planning to study business and become a successful businessman.

Known as Giggsy to his friends, Max “did not hide from life”, said Fr Moran, adding that the world “was a better place when Max was in it”.

Fr Moran read out several messages written by St Michael’s College pupils recalling Max in recent days. One said that he “had a way of lighting up a room”, while another described him as “the funniest man to walk the Earth”.

“You always put others before you, even on the island you offered to pay for my flight home,” one student wrote.

The priest appealed to others who had travelled with Max and Andrew to not let the death dent their youthful idealism.

“Don’t leave the best part of yourself back on Ios,” he said.

Andrew O’Donnell’s funeral Mass will take place on Wednesday in the same church.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times