Hundreds attend the funeral of A1 crash victim

Eugene McNally
Eugene McNally

Laurencetown man Eugene McNally, who was killed in a crash on the A1 last Tuesday evening, has been described as a ‘loving husband, father and grandfather.’

Fr Gerald Powell was speaking at the funeral at St Colman’s Church on Saturday when hundreds of mourners attended.

Eugene, (56) had recently retired after more than 30 years as a firefighter and was a former Newry Fire Station Watch Commander.

Fr Powell said, “In his final years he achieved a long time dream and he built his own home, pouring hours of his own labour and love into its completion, a testament to the labour and love he poured into every aspect of his life.

“We must follow the lead that Eugene left us, a living example of the concept of faith, we must keep working at it, we must not give up, no matter how difficult, now is the time for Eugene to rest and for us to work.”

Eugene was born on June 23, 1959 in Liverpool, he was married to Christine and had three children Linzi, Laura and Paul. He attended Tannaghmore Primary School, and St Paul’s High School in Lurgan.

“Tragedy, unfortunately befell Eugene and his family at a young age with the passing of their father Patrick in 1979,” the priest continued.

“As typical of his character, Eugene did not allow the pain and hurt of this loss to overshadow his life, but rather it added to his determination to do better.”

He married his wife and childhood sweetheart Christine at the age of 21, and had three children Linzi, Laura and Paul and was grandfather to three.

He joined the fire service on June 21, 1982 and served in Belfast, Lurgan and Newry.

“Eugene was not a deeply religious man, however he truly taught his children and grandchildren the meaning of faith by the way in which he chose to live his life,” he contoinued. “Family was his centre.

“He put the needs of his family before those of his own, his goals in life inextricably tied to those of his children, he comforted them through cut knees, cancer and broken hearts, he provided shelter of both the physical and emotional kind and most of all he was present within his family.

“If called upon, no matter the hour or the emergency, he came, he helped, he was there.

“It is therefore lucky for those of us who knew him that, in Eugene’s eyes, the distinction between family and friend was slight. When he became your friend he became your family, and if you needed him, no matter the hour, no matter the emergency, he was there.”

He spoke of one of Eugene’s great loves of cycling.

“He was unselfish also with this passion, participating in numerous charity cycles over the years to raise funds for others in the community he served,” he said.

“He was particularly happy to be able to raise funds for the Southern Area Hospice who helped care for his mother in the weeks before her death in 2012.

“Another love of Eugene’s was the art of socializing, if an achievement or an event called for a celebration, he was there - front and centre. He would gladly welcome you into his home and openly offer his hospitality, except if it involved him having to part with any of his beloved Jameson’s whiskey….every man has a limit.”

The priest went onto to say, Eugene ‘never stopped nor gave up’.

“He was not a man who could be persuaded to rest and was happiest when he had a project to complete or a problem to solve…even if sometimes he may have brought some of those problems upon himself,” the priest said.

Two other people were involved in the crash, both aged in their 30s, were treated in hospital. One was later discharged from Newry’s Daisy Hill Hospital while in the days following the crash the other was said to be in a stable condition in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital.

Mr McNally had recently retired after more than 30 years as a firefighter and was a former Newry Fire Station Watch Commander.

NIFRS Southern Area Commander, John Denvir said, “Eugene was a well-respected colleague who was greatly admired for his dedication to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.

“Eugene was well known within the local area, so his death will be greatly felt across the community. It’s a very sad day for our station and the organisation.

“We will always remember him for his work within the local community and his commitment to helping others. Eugene was also a very keen cyclist, who helped to raise money for many local charities in the area. Eugene was heavily involved in the recent cycling event held at Lurgan Fire Station in memory of a former colleague. His kind-hearted manner made him an extremely popular Firefighter at Newry Fire Station.

“Firefighters across Northern Ireland work very closely together – we’re like family - so news like this impacts everyone.”

Mr McNally is survived by wife, Christine; son, Paul; daughters Linzi and Laura; grandchildren and wider family circle.

Two vehicles were involved in the collision, which happened at about 5.30pm.

Both carriageways of the A1 were closed between Newry and Loughbrickland afterwards.

Inspector Stephen Humphries said at the time: “A silver Mazda 3 and a blue Volkswagen Caddy were involved in the collision.

“I would ask anyone who witnessed these vehicles in the area prior to the RTC to contact Ardmore Police Station or the Collision Investigation Unit at Sprucefield on the non emergency number 101.”