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Friday, 19 September 2014

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Parents of Carlisle teenager killed on holiday overwhelmed by support

The heartbroken parents of Carlisle teenager Tom McNeill say they have been “overwhelmed” by the love and support shown at his funeral this week.

McNeill funeral photo
David and Sallie McNeill and his brother Jack

Hundreds of people gathered at St Peter’s Church in Kingstown to say goodbye to the popular 17-year-old, who lost his life after tragically falling from a balcony on holiday in Bulgaria.

Tom’s parents, David and Sallie McNeill, and his younger brother Jack, 15, said: “We were overwhelmed by the love and support shown at Tom's funeral.

“He would have been so proud and our heartfelt thanks go to everyone who has sent cards, flowers and messages of support.

“The hundreds of young people who attended were a credit to themselves, their parents, Richard Rose Academy and the city of Carlisle.

“Words are inadequate but thank you to everyone.”

Memorials to Tom, who lived on Hether Drive, Lowry Hill, are now being planned.

David, Sallie and Jack would like to install a memorial bench and plant a tree at Tom’s former school, the Richard Rose Central Academy, and at Stanwix Cemetery, where he was buried on Monday.

Tom’s coffin, adorned with sunflowers, was brought into the church at 1pm on Monday to the song Gold For Ever by The Wanted.

The order of service showed a picture of Tom and some bright sunflowers and the words “Our darling boy”.

The Rev Tudor Boddam-Whetham told mourners it was a “day of sadness” but also “one of thankfulness for all the memories”.

He said: “Death is always a tragedy, whether it comes slowly or suddenly.”

Mr Boddam-Whetham said that prayers for Tom had been said in homes and churches around the world. Thousands more have paid tribute on the social networking website Facebook.

Family friend John Metcalfe read the eulogy and said Tom had given his family “17 perfect years”.

The congregation was told how Tom, who went to Kingmoor Infant and Junior Schools, wanted to go to the Richard Rose Central Academy (RRCA) because that’s where his cousins went.

“He was a real family man,” he said.

Following in family tradition Tom, who worked at Walby Farm Park, enjoyed the theatre but preferred a backstage role, encouraging his brother to take front of stage.

Mr Metcalfe said: “He was never jealous of Jack. He encouraged him to go out there and show them.

“Tom had an unflappable and calming attitude backstage.”

In a recent StagedRight Theatre production of West Side Story Tom had been in charge of one side of the stage.

David is principal of the school and was directing the show.

Mr Metcalfe said: “One of the scene changes was quite difficult involving a bed being moved on and off the stage.

“Tom suggested to his dad that he go under the bed to guide it onto the stage. David wasn’t sure at first but Tom insisted it would work and it did, so he did appear on stage even if no-one saw him.

“David was very proud of him.”

Mr Metcalfe talked of happy memories with his grandparents – plucking grey hairs from the head of his grandad, making mint sauce and devouring their grapes leaving just the stalks.

He said: “At school Tom was cast as a hopping hippopotamus but he couldn’t hop so he played the part of an elephant instead – the lead elephant, of course.”

Tom enjoyed playing football and in his younger years played for teams in Stanwix and Dalston.

He also showed promise as a sprinter and did well in his GCSEs.

“He had an aura of success,” said Mr Metcalfe.

Mr Metcalfe said: “Tom and Jack became quite well known in Lowry Hill as they were regularly seen carrying their own goalpost nets to a field where children played.”

In recent times he had been a member of a gym with his friend Jordan Robson.

Tom had been studying IT, product design and creative media at RRCA.

Mr Metcalfe said: “A year ago he met his girlfriend Tasha who became an important part of his life.

“And he was a real pal to Alfie, the family dog, who he liked to rough and tumble with.”

Tom had enjoyed a recent holiday to New York with his family fulfilling his lifetime ambition – to buy a hot dog from a street stall.

The family had also recently visited Mexico.

Mr Metcalfe said Tom’s “bright, sincere and welcoming smile” was a wonderful memory to keep hold of. Slides of Tom were shown to the music Come What May from the musical Moulin Rouge.

The slides showed pictures of Tom relaxing on holidays with his family, at his school prom and playing at home with his dog.

Hymns sung during the service included Lord of All Hopefulness and Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace.

After prayers, Tom’s coffin left the church as Lay It Down Slow by Spiritualized was played.

After the service, part of Kingstown Road was closed for a time as hundreds of mourners walked in the road to Stanwix Cemetery.

At Tom’s graveside, a sea of yellow balloons were released into the sky.

Refreshments were served at The Gosling Bridge.

The McNeill family asked for people to make donations in Tom’s name to a charity of their choice. Alternatively, donations could be given towards the planned memorials.

The Cumberland News attended the funeral with the permission of the McNeill family.

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