Friday 20 April 2018

Sister of tragic rugby star Nevin tells of family's agony after farm accident

Emma Spence, sister of late Ulster rugby star Nevin (below) with one of the paintings from her new exhibition, ‘Their Fields’
Emma Spence, sister of late Ulster rugby star Nevin (below) with one of the paintings from her new exhibition, ‘Their Fields’

Ivan Little

The sister of Ulster rugby star Nevin Spence, who died alongside his father Noel and brother Graham in a farm accident four years ago, has spoken out about the family's agonising decision to remain at the farm where tragedy struck.

The three men died as they attempted to rescue their pet collie dog from an underground slurry tank on their farm on September 15, 2012.

Emma (31) almost died herself after she battled to save "her boys" - and had to be rushed to hospital after she too was overcome by the poisonous fumes. She went down into the tank and with the help of others pulled her father up a ladder but lost consciousness as she tried to save Graham (30).

Not surprisingly, the days, weeks and months after the tragedy were harrowing as the surviving Spences agonised about their future.

"We could have sold up and got enough money to buy a nice house to start our lives again somewhere else. But we resolved that we didn't want to walk away from this place, which was home and a massive part of the boys' lives," said Emma.

"Mum also talked of the blood, sweat and tears that went into the farm and she said that money couldn't buy walking down a back lane and going to a river that is on your own doorstep.

"My dad and Graham worked the farm and were passionate about it and while Nevin may have been a full-time rugby player, he loved the farming just as much. At night-time here he milked the cows and the joke was that his best work-outs would be standing out in the yard," she said.

Emma, a gifted artist, has now used the land that her father and brothers loved as the inspiration for a new exhibition dedicated to them.

She has called the collection of 31 oils on canvass 'Their Fields'.

But she revealed she will miss her dad and brothers even more at the opening of the new exhibition.

"They're their fields and I won't know what they think of the paintings and no-one else's opinions matter. But I suppose the three of them would be proud that I was pushing on with life and that I was trying...," she said.

The artist also admitted that there were, and still are, plenty of down times as well.

"I remember the first spring after the accident. It had always been a happy time, seeing the cows going out into the fields after the winter. But that first spring tore me apart because Dad, Graham and Nevin weren't there. Now, with the passage of time, I think of the joy that the boys got from something like that. It still hurts but I am trying to accept that this is life.

Irish Independent

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