Cookstown tragedy funerals: Connor Currie was ‘a gem’ who always thanked teachers

The''funeral of 16-year-old Connor Currie at St Malachy's Church in Edendork, Co. Tyrone.  Connor died along with Morgan Barnard (17) and 17-year-old Lauren Bullock after an incident at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on St Patrick's night. ''Photo: Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
The''funeral of 16-year-old Connor Currie at St Malachy's Church in Edendork, Co. Tyrone. Connor died along with Morgan Barnard (17) and 17-year-old Lauren Bullock after an incident at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on St Patrick's night. ''Photo: Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Teenager Connor Currie was ‘a gem’ who said ‘thank you’ every time he left both the kitchen table and the classroom, mourners at his funeral have heard.

The funerals of three teenagers who died after a crush in the queue for a disco are taking place today.

Connor Currie, 16, from the Dungannon area, who died after events at the St Patrick's Day disco.

Connor Currie, 16, from the Dungannon area, who died after events at the St Patrick's Day disco.

Lauren Bullock, 17, Morgan Barnard, 17, and Connor Currie, 16, died outside a St Patrick’s Day event at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, County Tyrone.

The crush happened as hundreds of young people were waiting to get into the event on Sunday night.

Connor’s funeral took place today in Saint Malachy’s Church, Edendork at 2pm.

As the Mass began, items to remember Connor’s life were brought forward. Connor’s mother and father, Ciara and Eamon, and his brothers Sean, Cormac and Cahir presented a family photograph, a Saint Patrick’s Academy blazer, an Edendork football club jersey, Connor’s football boots and a football trophy.

The first reading was from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: “For everything there is a reason, and a time for every matter under heaven; A time to be born and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to break down and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance...”.

In his homily, Father Donaghy said that Connor’s neat and tidy bedroom reflected the fact that he was hoping to become an accountant.

He said: “The readings we have just listened to bear a strong resonance with the life of Connor Currie. The first reading lists a whole series of emotions and experiences, positive ones, negative ones and even neutral ones. Thankfully Connor lived through a lot of the more positive experiences: he knew an abundance of times to laugh and even some times to dance; over the years of his young life there was a lot of time to build up his academic success and his sporting skill; plenty of time to keep in his memories of good times with family and friends – treasured times together. Most of all Connor knew a great amount of time to love and to be loved, most especially within his own family where despite his young age he had a remarkable capacity to look after his younger brothers Sean, Cormac and Cahir: so much so that he could be left to look after them and even prepare food for them when their parents went shopping or on some short trip.

“The times with Connor were good times. In recent days Connor’s parents and close family have been greatly comforted by the good memories shared with them by Connor’s classmates and team-mates and teachers and friends.

Friends have recalled how he lit up a room as he entered it and his infectious smile warmed everyone’s hearts.

Teachers remember him as a courteous and appreciative young student, always in the habit of saying thank you as he left the classroom - though he maybe let that be the passport that got him through an odd bit of mischief as well!

“At home that ‘thank you’ was a constant habit as well - he always spoke those words as he left the kitchen table. Unlike the usual reputation of teenage boys he was quite fussy about the tidiness of his room, the wardrobe hangers well used and clothes neatly folded in the drawer, no clutter in the room and everything in its place. He knew he was loved at home – as his parents said to me ‘he was a gem’.

Away from home he was a star as well, a conscientious student who had his sights set on doing accountancy, the office desk and computer set-up in his bedroom a sure sign that he was preparing for a life of paperwork, computers and figures.

“He was a star on the football field as well - the trophy brought up at the start of the Mass just one token of the commitment and skills he was developing.

And there’s always bits of a teenager’s life that the parents don’t get to see, so it has only been in the last few days that Connor’s friends shared with his parents some video shots on their phones of Connor practising his dance moves – and improving those skills as well!

“There’s a thing too about Connor that maybe his friends didn’t know - he was actually born in Armagh and lived in Portadown until he was about seven years old. He recently went to the McKenna Cup Final with his Tyrone top on but before leaving he let his Armagh-born mother have a peep to see that he had an Armagh top on underneath the Tyrone one - Connor was going to be a winner either way!

“And a winner indeed he was: a winner of a loving family; a winner of many loyal friends and team-mates; a winner in school life and on the sports field - and a winner above all, of a place among the ranks of God’s children.

Connor happily shared in the faith of his family, the loyal and sincere faith passed down through the generations. So we can indeed, in the words of the second reading, “think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children”. Connor as a child of God is drawn in trust and faith into the eternal company of heaven.

“For us, of course, he is gone all-too-soon, but we listen to the promise of Jesus in the gospel that He goes ahead of his faithful people to prepare a place in the everlasting peace of heaven. God opens His arms in welcome to Connor. May his kind soul find eternal rest in the happiness of our eternal home.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.”

Tyrone footballer and local primary school teacher Niall Morgan read a Communion Reflection:

“When tomorrow starts without me

And I’m not there to see,

When the sun may rise and find your eyes

All filled with tears for me:

I wish so much you wouldn’t cry

The way you do today,

While thinking of the many things

We didn’t get to say.

When tomorrow starts without me

Please try to understand

That an angel came and called my name

And took me by the hand:

When I walked through heaven’s gate

I felt so much at home

When God looked round and smiled on me

And said: “this is eternity, the joy and peace

I have for you; today your life on earth is past

And here life starts anew”.

So when tomorrow starts without me

Don’t think we’re far apart

For every time you think of me

I’m right with you, in your heart.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin, in his final commendation, likened the sudden tragic death of Connor of St Patrick’s Day to that of the saint himself, who was abducted from his own family.

He said: “Saint Patrick was only sixteen years old when he was cruelly wrenched away from his family, friends and loved ones by kidnappers who sold him into slavery in Ireland. He wrote about that lonely time, and about the terrible loss and fear his family suffered, not knowing where he was and probably asking themselves endless questions: Where is he now? Why did this happen? How will we cope? What if...?

“Since the terribly tragic events in Cookstown on Saint Patrick’s night we’ve all been asking those kinds of questions - and none more so than the families of Lauren, Connor and Morgan. Words fail us at times like this. 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.

“The young teenager, Saint Patrick, in the depth of his pain and isolation, wrapped himself around with prayer: “Christ on my right, Christ on my left”, he prayed. “Christ in mouth of friend and stranger”.

“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.

“Thank you all for being here today to offer your prayerful presence and support. In the days ahead, we will cherish the memories of these precious and gifted young people whose lives have been so suddenly wrenched from among us; we will continue to hold their families, and each other, close in love and faith, praying as the young Saint Patrick did, “Christ behind me, Christ before me. Christ to comfort and restore me”.

“Saint Paul says: ‘Take comfort in knowing that everyone who died in Christ shall rise to new life and be with him forever’.

“God rest Morgan and Lauren and Connor and surround you, their loved ones with a blanket of love and faith, until one day, in the joy of heaven, we will see their smiling faces again. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha.”