Monday 19 February 2018

Two families bid a tragic farewell to beloved sons

Loved-ones mourn football fan and volunteer who lost their lives abroad

James Nolan: was found drowned in Poland
James Nolan: was found drowned in Poland
Mourners arrive at the home of James Nolan in Blessington, Co Wicklow yesterday

RONALD QUINLAN in Blessington, Co Wicklow

IF you ever needed to be reminded of how important it is to tell your loved ones just how much you love them every time you say goodbye, the sight of the family, friends and neighbours of 21-year-old James Nolan going in to offer their condolences to his broken-hearted parents, Essie and Jimmy, at their home in Blessington last night would be enough to remind you for a lifetime.

A cold and unforgiving rain fell over Carrig Glen Green, the ordinary housing estate where the Nolans live at, as James's many friends greeted each other on their way to and from his family home, where yesterday evening his body lay in repose in preparation for his removal to the Church of Our Lady in Blessington village today and funeral tomorrow. Burgage Cemetery where James will be laid to rest is situated just a few hundred metres from his home.

It was last Saturday night when Jimmy Nolan spoke to his son on the phone in Poland where he and a group of friends had gone for the Euro 2012 football championships. Neither of them could ever have imagined it would be the last time they would talk.

James, a second-year environmental engineering student at the Tallaght Institute of Technology, had just learned that he had passed his exams and was thrilled.

It should have been just one more happy episode in the life that still stretched out before him.

Last Sunday night, all of James Nolan's hopes and dreams and those of his parents were brought to the cruellest and most senseless of ends when he fell into a river in the Polish city of Bydgosczc following a night of celebration with his friends.

Last Tuesday, his distraught parents made heart-rending appeals for their son to make contact with them, clinging to the hope that he may still have been alive, but possibly lost or disoriented.

"He's somewhere out there, maybe lost and disorientated. He doesn't speak the language and he's on his own. Someone has seen him or will come across him somewhere," his mother said, holding on to the belief that her son could still show up safe and unharmed.

Sadly, the body of the 21-year-old was recovered from the river last Wednesday, following three days of an intensive search conducted by Polish police and assisted by several senior gardai who were in Poland on official duty at the Euro 2012 tournament. Foul play is not suspected.

James's body was returned home from Poland last Friday night. His parents met the coffin at their Co Wicklow home after it was brought in a convoy consisting of family members from Dublin Airport.

Parishioners arriving for mass at the Church of Our Lady in Blessington signed a book of condolence at the door. While many just signed their name, others who had known James personally left messages for their friend.

"Rest in peace Jam", "Look down on us and keep smiling" and "A new star in the sky" were just some of the messages penned by the deceased student's circle of friends.

The death of James Nolan came as a rural Meath village was mourning the loss of another young Irishman -- also by drowning.

The body of Peter Burke was found last Sunday by the banks of the Maranoa River in Queensland, Australia.

Mr Burke, 22, travelled to Australia to assist with flood- recovery efforts but his life ended when he fell off a railway bridge after visiting friends in the nearby town of Mitchell.

The Kilcloon native had recently completed a six-month volunteer stint with the Queensland Murray Darling Committee (QMDC) and had to cross the Maranoa River to reach the camp site where he was staying.

Unfortunately the town's only road-bridge was closed overnight for essential post-flood repairs and was not due to re-open until 5am on Sunday. Mr Burke decided to use the dangerous railway bridge crossing but tragically lost his life. His body was found by a young boy who alerted police.

Detective Sergeant James Steginga of the local Criminal Investigation Branch confirmed Mr Burke's identity, and after determining there were no suspicious circumstances, contacted the Irish Embassy and Mr Burke's next of kin in Ireland.

"Police from Mitchell Station were called to attend an area below the rail bridge that crosses the Maranoa River at Mitchell in relation to the discovery of a male person's body," Det Sgt Steginga said.

"It is known that the deceased male had used the rail bridge in an attempt to transverse the Maranoa River so that he could return to his campsite located in the Major Mitchell Campsite."

Three other Irishmen in their twenties have died in Australia in recent weeks.

Wicklow man Leigh O'Neill, 25, died in a workplace accident at a quarry near Toowomba, Queensland, on June 10.

Monaghan man Gary Mealiff, 25, died in a motorcycle crash near Gladstone, Queensland, on June 11.

Donegal man Tomas Maguire died when his pick-up truck hit a verge 40km east of Narrogin, Western Australia.

Peter Burke is survived by his parents Jimmy and Esther and his sisters Jane and Claire.

Sunday Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News