Jack de Bromhead (13), who died following a horse racing accident at the weekend was “full of the joy of living,” his funeral Mass has heard.
Jack “was becoming quite an expert, maybe a budding horse whisperer, who had an intuitive grasp of equine nature, and every day was for him a joyous adventure in living,” chief celebrant Monsignor Pat Fitzgerald, parish priest of St Paul’s and Butlerstown, Co Waterford, said.
From early morning on Wednesday, hundreds of Jack’s friends lined the route to the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Butlerstown and stood outside his former school at Scoil Mhuire, Butlerstown. Three tractors led the funeral procession, flanked by stable staff of trainer Henry de Bromhead. Jack’s friends from the pony and showjumping worlds, dressed in their silks, lined the church entrance.
President Michael D Higgins was represented at the Mass by his aide-de-camp, Lieut Col Stephen Howard, with Comdt Stephen McOwen representing Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Stable jockey Rachael Blackmore was one of many racing personalities represented at the funeral, including Robbie Power, Davy Russell, Charlie Swan, Brian Gleeson, Ed Chamberlain and Ralph Beckett.
Representatives of Kilkenny College, where he was a pupil, and his former schools, Newtown and Scoil Mhuire, were also present at the funeral, along with members of Butlerstown GAA and Waterpark rugby club.
Jack’s life was remembered during the Mass with symbols that included his riding whip; goggles, a rugby ball, togs, his grandfather’s hunting horn, and runners.
In his homily, Msgr Fitzgerald said Jack’s death was both “unthinkable” and one that has “captured the hearts of a nation”.
He “revelled in the life and opportunities that surrounded him” including the tractor, cattle, ponies and horses where he lived, according to the parish priest, who concelebrated the Mass with Fr John Delaney, Fr Denis Hooper of Glenstal Abbey and Fr Pat Crean of Kerry.
“But most of all he flourished in his family, with his parents and sisters, who were the bedrock of his happiness. He loved race riding, rugby, Gaelic, swimming, diving, and driving, off the road of course. Every day was for him a joyous adventure in living.”
Jack’s twin sister Mia described him as “the best brother ever. I got so lucky when you were born with me”, while his younger sister Georgia said he was the “kindest, bravest and most caring big brother that I could ask for. He was never scared to stand up for people and was always there for you no matter what.”
Jack’s parents Henry and Heather delivered the eulogy for their “one-of-a-kind” only son, and thanked the congregation for coming, noting the support the family has received since the teenager’s death was “unbelievable”.
Henry spoke of Jack’s love of tractors, ponies, and horses before concluding: “One of the greatest comforts that Heather and I have in his passing is he knows how much we loved him. All our kids know how much we love them, and we know how much that he and his sisters love us.”
Jack’s grandfather Andrew Moffat, who was present with his wife Marian Davenport at Rossbeigh Strand on Saturday last when the tragedy occurred, described the harrowing moment that cost Jack his life, recalling “the tragic accident in the dark murky waters of the Atlantic off Rossbeigh Strand.
“His horse came down, Jack was thrown, and in an instant, a fateful blow to his head. Our 13 years with our beloved Jack will never be forgotten by his family, and all our friends and colleagues.”
The teenager died at the Glenbeigh races on Rossbeigh beach in Co Kerry last Saturday.
The incident during the 2.5km race as the horses made their turn into the tide at the southern marker. The event was immediately cancelled.
More than 11,000 people watched the live stream of Jack’s funeral online and many mourners who could not be accommodated due to the large turnout stood outside the church.
Jack’s remains were carried from the church to the sound of Coldplay’s A Sky Full of Stars before a member of the de Bromhead family sounded the hunting horn.
The family asked for people attending the 13-year-old’s funeral to wear bright and light coloured clothing “in celebration of his spirit”. Dozens of teenage boys present wore their riding clothing in Jack’s memory.