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Clutha: Families united in grief at funerals

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  • by MARTYN MCLAUGHLIN
 

HUNDREDS of mourners gathered yesterday to pay their respects to Mark O’Prey and Gary Arthur, two of the nine victims of the Glasgow helicopter crash tragedy.

Family and friends of Mr O’Prey came together at the 44-year-old’s funeral, ten days after he lost his life in The Clutha bar disaster when a police helicopter crashed into the busy pub.

Pupils from the St Andrew’s and St Bride’s High School, which is attended by Mr O’Prey’s 15-year-old son Liam, were among those at the service in his home town of East Kilbride.

The funeral was the first to be held for those victims who died in the pub when the crash happened a week past Friday.

Last week, Mr O’Prey’s family described him as a “lovable giant” and said they believe he died while trying to help others escape the pub.

His sister Louise said: “He’s a fantastic brother, we loved him so, so much. He’s an unbelievable character, one in a million.

“Mark was an adorable, lovable giant. He was always laughing and would do anything for anybody.”

Father Owen Ness, who led the requiem Mass, said: “Mark in his life’s journey met many other people. On that journey he impressed people. One of the stories that I have heard stands out because it was told to me by two people.

“In his job as a window cleaner, one family told me he used to make circles in the window for the kids to come and look through so that the young children could come and be amazed at the mystery of how the windows were cleaned. That is one example of his concern for and interest in other people.”

Fr Ness said Mr O’Prey had died in a place where people went to be together and to be happy. “That was the place where Mark was happy and that was the place where the journey that he had ended so unexpectedly,” he said.

He told the congregation that he had spoken to Mr O’Prey’s father, Ian, about his fears and hopes for his son in the hours following The Clutha tragedy.

“Late on Saturday afternoon he told me those hopes were unfulfilled,” Fr Ness added.

He summed up the relationship between father and son by recounting a memory of a time when Mr O’Prey had called by unexpectedly to chat with his father. “He now looks upon that as a gift in his life,” he said.

During the Mass, readings were given by Mr O’Prey’s father, Ian, and his other sister Barbara Todd. A special prayer was said for Liam, whose mother Clare Gillies, Mr O’Prey’s ex-partner, was also present. Liam’s registration class and teachers from school were in church to support the teenager.

Fr Ness spoke of the family’s love for Mr O’Prey. He thanked mourners for their attendance, which he said gave the family great comfort.

The congregation sang hymns including I Watch the Sunrise and Lead Kindly Light, and mourners took communion.

Liam was among those who carried his father’s coffin out of the church as mourners sang the hymn Walk With Me, Oh My Lord.

Mr O’Prey’s sister, Barbara, said a final farewell, laying her hand on the coffin while it was in the hearse.

The funeral cortege then departed to South Lanarkshire Crematorium for a service of committal, led by a police outrider.

Scores of mourners lined the streets in respectful silence as the cortege drove off.

A message on the order of service said: “Mark’s mum, dad and all the family would like to express their heartfelt thanks to everyone here today.

“The kindness shown not just by family and friends but from the nation as a whole has been of tremendous support to Mark’s family.”

After the crematorium service, the family returned to St Bride’s Church hall to share happy memories and remember Mr O’Prey.

A gathering was also scheduled at the Village Inn in East Kilbride to celebrate his life and his love of music.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of Celtic Football Club, Peter Lawwell, was among the mourners for the funeral of Mr Arthur. The 48-year-old from Paisley, Renfrewshire, was the first victim of the tragedy to be named by police.

His daughter Chloe, who plays football for Celtic Women’s under-19s team, later took to Twitter to pay tribute to her father. She said: “RIP dad. You’ll always mean the world to me, I promise to do you proud, I love you with all my heart.”

About 300 mourners gathered for a private humanist service at Woodside Crematorium in the father-of-two’s hometown.

Police motorcyclists led the funeral cortege carrying Mr Arthur’s coffin into the crematorium and floral tributes inside the hearse read “Gary” and “Uncle”.

In a statement released before the 30-minute service, Mr Arthur’s family paid tribute to him. They said: “We loved him dearly and always will, we will miss him so much. We will continue to make him proud; he always tried to do his best for us and to be there for us. He was the best dad and it’s devastating that our dad has been taken from us in such a tragic way.”

On Saturday, the first funeral for the nine people who died was held. Around 700 mourners gathered for the service for helicopter pilot captain David Traill, 51, and prayers were said for all of those who died in the crash.

Police constables Kirsty Nelis, 36, and Tony Collins, 43, were on board the helicopter, and the others who died inside the pub were Robert Jenkins, 61, Colin Gibson, 33, John McGarrigle, 57, and Samuel McGhee, 56.

Cpt Traill from Larbert, a veteran of the RAF, was remembered as a “hero of foreign conflicts” and a “leader of men”, who had helped to save “innumerable lives” by flying for Police Scotland and the Scottish Ambulance Service.

At a service in the University of Glasgow’s Bute Hall, his fiancée Lucy and father Iain were among those who gathered to pay respects to the veteran of both Gulf wars. Personnel from the RAF and emergency services turned out, alongside Mr Traill’s family and friends, with Alan Crossan, the owner of The Clutha, also paying his respects.

The funerals of Mr McGarrigle and PC Collins will be held today.

An investigation into the cause of the crash is under way.

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