IT was one last proper, big goodbye to a “lively girl” for the hundreds who gathered on Portobello Beach last night.
Up to 800 friends, parents and teachers – and some who didn’t know her at all – huddled in freezing winds to pay tribute to teenager Kelsey Hogg.
The 15-year-old had been rushed to hospital by ambulance just five days earlier after collapsing from a suspected asthma attack.
The Portobello High School student was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, but could not be saved.
A close-knit group of friends, left reeling by Kelsey’s tragic death, decided in the following days that the best way to pay tribute to her would be to organise a vigil on the sands of Portobello.
They posted the event on Facebook on Tuesday night, inviting anyone who wished to pay their respects to the deceased teenager to gather from 7.30pm. Last night’s response was enormous.
A crowd of mostly teenagers defied the chilly weather to bring flowers, listen to stories about Kelsey and release Chinese lanterns in her memory.
Close friend Laura Foster – one of six pupils to organise the tribute – had gone to dancing classes with Kelsey since the age of five.
The 15-year-old said she wasn’t surprised at the size of the turn-out, adding: “Kelsey will be laughing at us because we’re all standing here freezing. But she meant so much to so many people, and she knew so many people, that everyone’s here to show their respect to her.
“She was our best friend. I think this is just a good chance for all of us to actually say a goodbye to her. It’s a proper, big goodbye.
“For everyone that’s ever known her, spoken to her, been close to her, it was for them to say goodbye to her as well and for us all to do it together. I think that’s what she would like and it would mean something to her.”
Laura revealed she had been chatting to her friend through Facebook just hours before Kelsey collapsed at her home last Sunday night.
She said: “She seemed fine at the time, so it just shows you how dangerous asthma is. A lot of people don’t realise how bad it actually is.
“I said I was going to see her tomorrow in French and we weren’t going to go because we had a speaking test. I texted her to ask ‘why are you not in?’ That’s when we found out.”
There were 94 asthma deaths in Scotland in 2011, including three children aged 14 or under.
The condition is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways, restricting air flow in and out of the lungs.
Kelsey’s first year of secondary school was spent at Leith Academy, meaning students from that school who knew her, like 14-year-old Caitlyn Black, also headed to the tribute in their droves.
Six buckets bearing the Asthma Foundation logos were used by organisers to collect donations, which will be given to Kelsey’s family.
Classmate Jack Fairbairn, 16, said the beach tribute had helped to pull the school community together.
He said: “Some people may have fallen out and I think it’s just brought everyone closer together.
“There’s people here from all over the place. Some people that don’t even know her that are just coming down to show respect.
“She was probably the funniest, most cheeriest girl I’ve ever met in my life. She never made anyone unhappy. She never moaned, she was just really great.
“The class won’t be the same without her.”
Kelsey’s boyfriend Michael Parker, 16, had known the teenager for a year. He said: “To be honest, she’s the most amazing person I’ve ever met.”
Speeches from Kelsey’s closest circle of friends were followed by a minute’s silence before a minute’s applause.
The tribute was also organised by fellow Portobello students Jodie Kane, Steph Davis, Morgyn Smith, Hannah McLaren and Georgia Darge.
Steph said: “We feel that Kelsey was special and she deserves all this. She was so young – she didn’t deserve to pass away.”