ULSTER rugby player and fellow farmer Rory Best paid an emotional and heartfelt tribute to his teammate Nevin Spence at a packed service at Ravenhill at the weekend.
Rory, who lives in Scarva, spoke to a crowd of thousands who had turned out to pay their respects to 22-year-old Nevin, his brother Graham and their father Noel following their tragic deaths on their farm near Hillsborough last week.
The three men died after being overcome by fumes from a slurry tank at their Drumlough Road farm.
Sunday’s service followed their funeral last Wednesday, which saw rugby stars and politicians among the mourners.
Rory said there had been many good things said about Nevin since his untimely death, and added some of his personal memories to those tributes.
“Nevin’s love for the game of rugby and his positive attitude was infectious,” he said. But Rory added that Nevin, who won more than 40 caps for Ulster, had left a mark on the team that “runs deeper than rugby”.
Rory said he has fond memories of Nevin’s sense of humour in particular. “Nev would tell a ridiculous joke and then be beaming from ear to ear,” he said. “No-one could work out whether he was a comic genius or told really bad jokes.
“He would give the boys tips on their love life.
“‘All you need is a girl who looks like Cindy Crawford and is able to calf a cow in the middle of the night,’ he’d joke.”
Rory then paid tribute to Nevin’s family, who also possessed his positive qualities.
“The entire Spence family all shared Nevin’s humility, bravery and determination,” he said. “These traits set him apart on our squad.”
It was that “relentless positive attitude” that proved a testament to his upbringing and to the man himself, Rory said.
“Nevin was a team player, the sort of player every team needs but few are lucky enough to find.
“His memory will continue to shape Ulster rugby for years to come. Nev, we will miss you but we will never forget you,” he said.
Investigations by the Northern Ireland Health and Safety Executive are continuing into the accident, from which Nevin’s sister Emma Rice was saved by a neighbour after she rushed to the aid of her father and two brothers.