Friends grieve for popular young student

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The Independent Online
SO MANY teenagers, so many young people crying in the blustery wet and clutching each other for comfort. Half, maybe two-thirds, of the mourners at yesterday's funeral service of 17-year-old Samantha McFarland, were of school age.

Many would have known Samantha from Strabane Grammar School where she was studying for A-levels, while some were from her church. Others knew her from the Oxfam charity shop were she worked as a volunteer.

They stood together outside the Church of the Holy Trinity, Lislimnaghan, four miles outside Omagh - too numerous to squeeze inside - as they listened to how their "popular and diligent" friend had been killed by an "appalling act of terror".

Some wore their blue school blazers, others wore leather jackets and trainers.

Samantha, who loved music and books, was one of the eight remaining victims of the Omagh bomb who were buried or cremated yesterday. There were 16 funerals on Wednesday, and at times this week it has seemed everyone in Omagh was either on their way to, or had just come back from, such a service.

Every death has had its tragic details and Samantha's was no different. A regular volunteer worker, she had been serving in the Oxfam shop in Omagh's Market Street with her best friend, Lorraine Wilson, when they were evacuated into the path of the bomb blast.

Lorraine, 15, was among those buried on Wednesday. Samantha was to have been the bridesmaid at the wedding of her elder brother, Jonathan, next month. Yesterday, in a reading, her other brother, Richard, told mourners how they would never forget their sister. "Samantha never got her A-levels or to her driving test," he said. "But she passed with flying colours the test of life. She had the love of people of all religions and all ages. She was a very private person and a very sociable person. She touched so many people."

Canon John Hay, the rector of Fintona, who led yesterday's service, which was attended by Northern Ireland's First Minister, David Trimble, and a representative of the Irish government, said he was distraught that so many young people should have to mourn a friend in such circumstances.

"No one should have to witness the things that the young people of Omagh have had to witness," he said. "It's so terrible that the young people have had to go through it. It breaks my heart."

There were similar scenes elsewhere in and around Omagh yesterday. Deborah Cartwright, 20, was cremated at Roselawn Crematorium. Geraldine Breslin, 43, who died as she left Watterson's clothes shop where she worked, was buried at St Mary's cemetery, Drumragh. Julia Hughes, 21, a university student, was also cremated at Roselawn.

Brian McCrory, 54, was buried at Killyclogher. Elizabeth Rush, 57, who died in her shop, was buried at Drumragh. Esther Gibson, 36, was buried at Sixmilecross. Ann McCombe, 49, was buried at Mountjoy Presbyterian Church.