IN WINTER sunshine they gathered in their hundreds to mourn the brightest of lives taken by what the Archbishop of Glasgow described as “the worst of nightmares”.
The funeral of three members of the same family killed by a bin lorry in George Square was at St Patrick’s Church in Dumbarton today, where more than 1,000 mourners were told what happened to Erin McQuade, 18 and her grandparents, Lorraine, 69 and Jack Sweeney, 68, three days before Christmas was “random, cruel and meaningless”.
In an overwhelming display of support from the local community every pew in the church was filled and hundreds more mourners stood outside as the funeral mass took place. Erin and her grandparents were killed when a bin lorry went out of control on Queen Street and George Square, killing a total of six people and injuring ten others.
Jacqueline McQuade, Erin’s mother and the Sweeney’s daughter, had gone to withdraw money from a cash machine when she witnessed the fatal accident.
In his sermon Archbishop Tartaglia spoke of the magnitude of the tragedy the family had endured. “This is a family devastated by the tragic deaths all at once of three much-loved members. They were struck down in front of Jacqueline’s eyes. A festive and happy Christmas shopping excursion to Glasgow had become the worst of nightmares. What happened was random, cruel and meaningless.”
He went on to talk of the family’s strong Catholic faith, of how each of the family had worshipped in this church and that the congregation had gathered to ask God to “console broken hearts”. He then posed the question: “so can our faith make sense of such a heart-breaking tragedy?”
Circumstances, the Archbishop explained, could be “cruel and capricious” but not God. He said: “God created us for life and freedom. And in this life we are free. We move as we wish. We are not puppets on a string, not robots controlled from afar. At the same time we are not indestructible, not immune from forces which are too much for us. Our bodies cannot survive everything here on earth. These are the limitations of the human condition.”
Jacqueline McQuade, 43, and her husband, Matthew, 44, were joined in the pews by their three remaining children, Liam, 15, Aiden, 14 and Niamh, six, whose bright animal print coat was the only colour on the most sombre of days.
Among the mourners was Jackie Ballie, MSP, Gordon Mathieson, leader of Glasgow City Council, Ian Murray, the SNP councillor and Michael Matheson, the justice secretary representing the Scottish Government.
The mass was celebrated by six priests, as well as the retired Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti.
Joining them among the wooden pews were dozens of friends of Erin McQuade and Archbishop Tartaglia said he wished to say a special word of condolence to them. “I know how much her death will affect you. Her mum and dad tell me that you brought joy to Erin’s life. They thank you for that.”
He went on to say: “Friendship blessed you all. It is good that you will never forget her and that you will always remember her in prayer. Just as her life was opening up and she was spreading her wings, cruel fate took her away.”
He also spoke of the long and happy marriage of Jack and Lorraine Sweeney, he said friends “agreed that they were just right for each other. They used a phrase which sums it up, ‘They would have ruined another couple’.” He added: “They died as they lived – together. It is fitting that they should share the same funeral Mass. They will be buried in the same grave. And, we pray, they will enter heaven together, hand in hand.”
Elizabeth McQuade, an aunt, read the first reading from the Book of Wisdom which captured the devastation of recent events with the line, “he accepted them as a holocaust”, while Hazel McQuade, a cousin, read the second reading from the letter of St Paul to the Thessalonians which stated, “we shall stay with the Lord forever”.
At the end of the service more than 1,000 mourners waited outside the church as each of the three coffins were carried out. The old maxim age before beauty was reversed and it was the casket containing Erin that led the way, carried by four pallbearers, including her father Matthew.
Archbishop Tartaglia blessed each hearse with holy water and then, as the three hearses drove off, each with a funeral director walking in front, the crowds bowed their heads.
Primary teacher Stephenie Tait, 29, and tax worker Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, were also killed when the council lorry mounted the pavement before crashing into the side of the Millennium Hotel.
Three patients remain in two Glasgow hospitals. A 14-year-old girl and a woman of 64 are in stable conditions at the Royal Infirmary. A man of 57 – thought to be the driver – is in a stable condition at the Western Infirmary.
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