The funeral service of 18-year-old Ellen Finnegan in Castlewellan has been described as “one of the saddest events ever” to be held in the Co Down town.
The teenager – a pupil at Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch – died in a fire at her family home on Saturday.
After the service at St Malachy’s Church the only child was laid to rest in the family burial ground in Aughlisnafin, outside Castlewellan.
Speaking at her funeral Mass, Father Sean Cahill told mourners that Ellen’s life had been cut tragically short.
The cleric told mourners that everyone’s memories of Ellen “will always be of one young and vibrant”.
“Her classmates, friends and teachers speak of her as lighting up any classroom she entered,” he added.
He said Ellen had an enthusiasm for sport and played camogie, football and ran cross-country.
Fr Cahill said Ellen’s father Bartley could take some comfort that the last words she spoke to him were ‘I love you daddy’.
He said Ellen had been wishing her father a good holiday on a planned skiing trip.
As the funeral procession made its way to St Malachy’s yesterday, team-mates from her local camogie club formed a guard of honour.
A choir from Assumption Grammar sang at the Requiem Mass, where one mourner said “pupils from right across the community were in attendance”.
“The church was packed and there were many standing outside such was Ellen’s popularity,” she added.
On Sunday around 200 pupils, friends and staff attended a prayer service at the school to remember Ellen.
The fire which claimed Ellen’s life was reported about 4am on Saturday. The fire took hold in the property which lies adjacent to their family-run butchers shop.
It came exactly three years after Ellen’s mother had died from cancer.
The fire is not being treated as suspicious. Senior firefighter, group commander Max Clifford, said had a working fire alarm been fitted to the property “I have every reason to believe that she would have escaped, either she would have heard it or the neighbours would have”.
Despite the efforts of fire and ambulance service personnel to revive her, she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Earlier Fr Sean Rogan revealed that only last Wednesday Ellen – who was preparing to sit A levels – had received offers from different universities, including one in Liverpool.
He said the mood among parishioners after her death was “sombre, and full of sympathy and understanding”.
He described her as a “lovely, vibrant, bubbly, fun-loving young student that just loved life and lived life”.
Concerning her father Bartley Finnegan, the priest said: “He’s bearing up. Obviously he’s traumatised as anyone would be with the death of his only daughter in such tragic circumstances following the death of his wife just three years ago.”