‘Vivacious, charismatic and energetic’ Morgan (17) remembered at funeral
Funerals of Morgan Barnard, Lauren Bullock and Connor Currie take place
The coffin of Morgan Barnard is taken into St Patrick’s Church, Dungannon for his funeral. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
St Patrick’s Church in Dungannon, Co Tyrone was packed to capacity on Friday for the first of the three funerals of the three young people who died in a crush on St Patrick’s night while queuing to attend a disco in the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown.
The community in Dungannon and its wider area was turning out in strength to show sympathy and solidarity to the families of Morgan Barnard (17) Lauren Bullock (17) and Connor Currie (16) whose funerals respectively are taking place in Dungannon, Donaghmore and Edendork, all in Co Tyrone.
The first funeral in St Patrick’s Church, Dungannon was for Morgan Barnard where the chief mourners were his parents Jimmy and Maria, who is pregnant and his siblings Calvin, Robyn, Regan and Elyssa.
The chief celebrant was Fr Aidan McCann who said the new baby “will know his or her brother by the stories of love they will hear about him”.
Fr McCann, speaking to the mourners, scores of them Morgan’s schoolmates in their St Patrick’s Academy uniforms, painted a picture of Morgan as a lively and popular teenager.
“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,” he said.
“Morgan was a person of character who had a great sense of humour with an abundance of wit; always a smile on his face. You could never pass him on the corridor in school and no doubt anywhere else without getting a warm look or a quick joke as he passed,” he said.
“Morgan had a strong personality and didn’t care too much about the opinion of others revealed in his various hair styles or indeed lack of hair, hair colours and his flamboyant choice of shirts,” added Fr McCann.
“He was constantly breaking his glasses and his mother was constantly having to buy him new school shoes as he wore them out playing football. He was also a humble young man who would always listen and be there for somebody if they needed him,” he said.
Fr McCann also spoke about how one of Morgan’s great loves was the Irish language. (On Thursday one of his teachers recounted on BBC how one of his favourite phrases was “fadhb ar bith” - no problem.)
Mourners attending the funeral Mass were conscious of the awful coincidence that Morgan’s grand-uncle, Patrick Barnard also was killed on St Patrick’s Day - in 1976 - while also about to attend a disco in Cookstown.
Patrick was just 13 and one of four people killed in an Ulster Volunteer Force bomb attack outside the Hillcrest Bar in Cookstown. Among the four Catholics killed in that sectarian attack was Patrick’s friend, James McCaughey, also aged 13.
Among the large attendance was the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone as well as Sinn Féin leader and deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill.
Fr McCann said that in the face of the suffering of the three families people would ask “why does God allow this?” He said, “We must remember that God is not far removed from us in our sufferings and sorrows. In Jesus, God himself has suffered and was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief as the Book...God understands our sorrows and he himself wept over them when he cried at the death of his friend Lazarus. The shortest line in the entire Holy Bible is ‘Jesus wept’.”
The Catholic primate, Archbishop Eamon Martin, who is attending the three services, said confronted with such grief and such questions “all that really matters, and makes a difference, is love and friendship and compassion”.
“And only faith can dare to speak into the darkness of these days to offer a glimmer of light and hope in this valley of tears,” he said.
Archbishop Martin added that “here in Co Tyrone this week - as families, parishes, schools and communities - we’ve been 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,” he told the Dungannon congregation.
Some of the young mourners wore Hawaiian shirts in deference to one of Morgan’s favourite forms of apparel.