Thousands gathered on Wednesday in Co Down for the funerals of three Spence men who all died trying to save each other from a slurry tank. Emma Spence, daughter and sister to the men, delivered an emotional eulogy at the service.
The Belfast Telegraph reports on the Spence tragedy that has gripped the community not only in Ballynahinch in Co Down, but around the entire country.
On Saturday, father Noel Spence and his two sons Graham and Nevin perished while attempting to rescue their pet dog who had fallen into their slurry tank. Emma Spence bravely attempted to save her father and brothers, but was pulled from the tank by neighbors as she was overwhelmed with fumes.
Emma’s actions are remembered as brave as she was able to pull her father to the ladder in the tank in order for neighbors to help him out and resuscitate him, unfortunately unsuccessfully.
Left behind grieving are the Spence women - Noel’s wife and the boys’ mother Essie, sister Laura and Graham’s wife Andrea.
At the funeral - which was attended by thousands of people - Emma Spence bravely spoke of her father and brothers.
"I am reading this but these are the thoughts of my mum, Laura, Andrea and me," Emma told the congregation at Ballynahinch Baptist Church.
"Dad. He was the one you probably saw taking up half the Drumlough Road with the tractor. He's the one at 58 years of age still had the most natural bright blond hair any woman would kill for.”
"He is the one that greeted you with a thump on the arm. He is the one who christened you with a new nickname no matter who you were.”
"To me he was the one sitting at the kitchen table with his coffee made in only mum's best china cup listening to my every worry and telling me the truth whether I wanted to hear it or not.”
"Graham. He is the one that worked in the background. He's the one who adored his Andrea and his kids (Georgia and Nathan) - his little princess and his wee mate.”
"He is the one that came to life when talking about farming. He's also the one who had about 15 apps on his phone to check the weather forecast. To me he is the one who protected me as I grew up. To me he is looking at me when I look at Nathan and I look at Georgia.”
"Wee Nev. He is the one who sarcastically got nicknamed the superstar at home. He is the one who did not love the limelight but handled it like a pro. He is the A grade pupil. He is the one who would discuss or debate any Christian-related subject.”
"To me he is the baby. To me he is the one mum had the organic blueberries and prize-winning steak ready for when he called."
Emma went on to describe them as ordinary men made extraordinary by God.
Reverend Rodney Stout offered his own words in remembrance of the three men. He described Noel as probably teasing God upon entering Heaven, how Graham would watch Andrea from afar while together in Church before they eventually got together, and how Nevin would share his faith with everyone and anyone.
The three coffins were adorned with orange, red and white flowers when they were taken from the hearses. Nevin, who was only 22 years old, had his No. 13 Ulster rugby jersey draped on his coffin as well. Teammates of his served as pallbearers, while the rest of the Ulster squad followed behind.
Coach Mark Anscombe and director of rugby David Humphries joined star players Rory Best, Stephen Ferris, Paddy Wallace, Johann Muller and others in paying their respects to the tragic end of the three Spence men.
Rugby players and coaches made their way from around the country to take part in the funeral services. Former and current Irish coaches Eddie O'Sullivan and Declan Kidney were also on hand.
Kidney said, "I don't think I have ever seen such strength in a family, It's such a tragedy.”
"We all think we have problems but having seen that I don't think we have."