Tyrone funerals: ‘All we can do now is try to get through this’
Community shows solidarity with bereft families on day that will linger long in memory
Bereft mourners at Connor Currie’s funeral. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA
The Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, where three teenagers died in a crush while queuing for a disco on St Patrick’s night, was a desolate sight on Friday morning.
A barrier was pulled down in front of the car park. Bouquets of flowers wrapped in cellophane were stacked two and three high along the low wall adjoining the road. Outside, a council employee pulled up in a white van to collect litter that had blown on to the grass, but otherwise it was eerily quiet.
An employee of a nearby hotel said Sunday night was “surreal, like a nightmare”. He realised something had gone terribly wrong at the Greenvale, he said, when a young man ran into the hotel where he worked looking for a defibrillator.
Just how wrong became apparent on Sunday night, “when one phone call to you changed your lives in an instant”, said Fr David Moore, at one of the three funerals that took place on Friday.
He was addressing the parents of 17-year-old Lauren Bullock. The other victims were 17-year-old Morgan Barnard and 16-year-old Connor Currie. Other children were caught in the crush and had to be pulled to safety by their friends.
Those same friends were among the hundreds who gathered on Friday to say goodbye.
Fr Moore said St Patrick’s Day would now be remembered as “the awful day when three beautiful young people, all in the prime of their lives, were overpowered literally in the mad rush of the modern world, and needlessly lost their lives”.
Lauren had a “zest for life” and was “living the dream” before the horror of St Patrick’s night – passionate about cheerleading, she also played football, was a scout and had a dog she adored.
Nobody much wanted to talk about the impact these losses would have on the community. It was far too soon, the toll too great to measure
She had just started learning to drive and was taking to it like a duck to water.
Her funeral, the second of the day, took place in the church in which she had been baptised, across the street from her home in the village of Donaghmore.
The offertory gifts included momentos of her sporting achievements, photographs and a basket filled with some of her favourite things, including a can of hairspray. She was a “girlie girl” who loved make-up. She had a positive outlook and, he said, a “zest for living”, said Fr Moore.
Connor Currie was a bright student and talented sportsman with an “infectious smile”, said Fr Kevin Donaghy at the third funeral. Connor was fastidiously neat and responsible enough to take care of his three younger brothers.
He wanted to be an accountant. He knew how to have fun too – his parents were just this week shown videos of him working on his dance moves.
At St Malachy’s parish church in Edendork, where Connor’s funeral was held on Friday afternoon, the crowds spilled out of the church, lined the avenue, and packed the street below.
So many people turned out to remember Connor during his wake this week that a one-way system had to be put into operation at the family home.
Long before 10am on Friday, mourners had begun making their way to St Patrick’s Church in Dungannon for the first funeral, that of Morgan Barnard. Some of them wore Hawaiian shirts and bright colours in tribute to a young man who liked flamboyant shirts and “various hair styles and colours”.
“To say that Morgan was well liked would be an understatement. He was a vivacious, charismatic and energetic young man who nobody had a bad word to say about,” said chief celebrant Fr Aidan McCann.
Over and over again, during the long, cold day of mourning, there were reminders of how full of life and plans these young people had been. Morgan was “a person of character who had a great sense of humour with an abundance of wit”. He “didn’t care too much about the opinion of others”.
Some of the mourners had attended two, or even three of the funerals. The strain of the past week was beginning to show. Filing into the church at Edendork, boys in school blazers and football jerseys sobbed audibly, holding on to one another for support. At two of the funerals, young people collapsed and had to be helped away.
Primate of All Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin attended all three. “Words fail us at times like this,” he said. “All that really matters, and makes a difference, is love and friendship and compassion.”
He spoke about how the community had pulled together, and would continue pulling together, “circling each other around with love and faith and kindness and compassion. The shocking events of Sunday last have reminded us that life is very fragile; we need to cherish every moment and always look out for each other, and keep each other safe.”
Nobody much wanted to talk about the impact these losses would have on the community. It was far too soon, the toll too great to measure. “It’s like there’s a cloud over this whole area,” said one man.
A woman said she was helping a neighbour with her shopping. That was her way of doing something. “All we can do now is pull together and try to get through this.”