Mourners at the funeral of tragic Dungannon teenager Matthew McCallan heard how he was saving up for a his first as well as other “truly admirable” and “lovely ambitions for any 15-year-old to have”.
The Very Rev Dean Kevin Donaghy presided over the heartbreaking funeral mass at St Malachy’s Church, Edendork, on Sunday afternoon.
Matthew’s coffin, followed closely by his grieving parents Peter and Frances, arrived at the church behind a horse and trap and was brought to the altar to the song ‘Forever Young’.
Fr Donaghy, addressing the large congregation – both inside and out – spoke of Matthew’s life experiences, even for someone so young.
“Thankfully, Matthew lived through a lot of the more positive experiences; he knew an abundance of times to laugh and even sometimes to dance.
“Over the years of his young life, there was a lot of time to build up his talents and skills with everything that was hands on, all things technological and mechanical and agricultural and practical held a fascination for Matthew. He was clearly heading for more of the same.
“Matthew liked plenty of time in the outdoor life, whether on the sports field or the farming field; indeed he had just recently taken out his treasure trove of little tractors that had been placed away safely in storage and put them back on display in his ever so well-kept bedroom.
“Most of all, Matthew knew a great amount of time to love and to be loved, most especially across all the generations of his family who first welcomed that tiny baby of less than 3lbs weight into the world and cherished him with loving care as he grew and progressed in life. The times with Matthew were good times.
“In recent days Matthew’s family, his parents and close family have been greatly comforted by the good memories shared with them by Matthew’s classmates, teammates, teachers and friends.
“Recently in school, Matthew gave some thought and reflection on his immediate and short-term goals and he designed a lovely, colourful page to keep himself reminded of it.
“On it he had inscribed, ‘pass my GCSEs, try not to be late, get a motorbike, try not to get demerits, save up money, buy a car at 16, keep working’.
“Lovely ambitions for any 15-year-old, truly admirable in every way.
“And yet, of course, there was more to life than schooling for Matthew. He loved tractors and lorries and all to do with machinery and mechanics. He loved to get the work boots on. He loved to be about the horses, he loved his football.
“The large display of photos on the kitchen table at home tells about very happy young boy living and drawing through a lot of interesting activities and lively experiences.
Fr Donaghy alluded to a touching tribute the 15-year-old wrote to his parents, which was placed on the altar.
It read: “Mum and dad, I’d like to tell you that you mean the world to me, your loving hearts and the way you care make me feel as special as can be. You encourage and support me in all I want to do. Together you are the guiding light that shines my whole life through.”
While Matthew was undoubtedly a devoted son, he was a young teenager who “could find moments for rascality”, Fr Donaghy recalled.
“One evening, his father went to call him for his dinner and opened the bedroom door and there he was music playing loud, and as he walked into the room, there was this cloud of vape smoke. As Matthew sat on the gaming chair, and he explained when his daddy asked them, ‘what’s that smoke all about?’. ‘Ah, it’s that new type of X-Box, when it gathers a whole lot of dust, it blows it out through the back’.
“So he had that explanation ready, there to hand as well,” said the priest, which brought a welcome laughter to the church.
Matthew’s coffin, which was illustrated with items he loved in life, was taken from the church to the songs ‘I Hope You’re Dancing in the Sky’ and Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Song’.
Crowds gathered both inside and outside the church – emotional palpable in the cold December air.
Matthew was then laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery with those in attendance advised to perhaps pay the family a visit, or a call in the days and weeks ahead, instead of shaking hands at the graveside.
May he Rest in Peace.