14-year-old Creeslough victim was ‘a little lady with a big heart’, funeral told

14-Year-Old Creeslough Victim Was ‘A Little Lady With A Big Heart’, Funeral Told 14-Year-Old Creeslough Victim Was ‘A Little Lady With A Big Heart’, Funeral Told
Explosion at Donegal service station, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By PA Reporters

Mourners have heard that one of the youngest victims of the Creeslough blast, Leona Harper, was “a little lady with a big heart” and a “little miracle”.

The 14-year-old girl died in the Creeslough service station explosion along with nine others.

A red tractor formed part of the funeral procession as it made its way to St Mary’s Church in Ramelton, while members from Ms Harper’s school and rugby club lined the streets.

Among the mourners were President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s aide-de-camp Claire Mortimer, as well as Creeslough priest Fr John Joe Duffy.

President Michael D. Higgins arrives at St Mary’s Church in Ramelton, Co Donegal for the funeral mass of Leona Harper (Brian Lawless/PA)

Representatives of the Irish Rugby Football Union, the fire service, ambulance service and An Garda Siochana were also in attendance.

The congregation heard that Ms Harper was “a little lady with a big heart who lived a full life”, who was “quiet, no trouble and always helpful”.


Parish priest Father Michael Carney told those gathered that Ms Harper’s mother Donna had given permission for the story to be told of why she was described as “their little miracle”.

“When Anthony, big bro, was born, Donna was told that there was no prospect of her conceiving another child.

“But seven years later something unexpected happened: Leona arrived – hence the little miracle. You, her mum and dad, talk of your daughter as a gem.

“It’s often a line and a term we use about somebody that we love. But given how unexpected and welcome Leona was to you in your life, your little daughter was indeed a precious gem.

“Think of gems – gems shine, gems sparkle, and gems attract us.

“Leona shone brightly and beautifully throughout her short life, sparkled with energy and fun and attracted so many friends to her circle.”

Mourners heard that Ms Harper’s two brothers were “so special” to her: Anthony, her “protective” big brother and Jamie, who appeared as “a unit” with Ms Harper in many people’s minds.

Family members and mourners help carry the coffin of 14-year-old Leona Harper, who died following an explosion at the Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal on Friday, as it arrives at St Mary’s Church in Ramelton (Brian Lawless/PA)

The priest told mourners of the many varied interests Ms Harper had, including music and dance, animals and the outdoors, fishing, a developing interest in fashion and a passion for tractors.


She was described as a “gifted” rugby player and had recently been inspired to take up boxing by the successes of Kelly Harrington and Katie Taylor.

Fr Carney described her as “no shrinking violet” who could speak her mind and had “a maturity beyond her years”.

“Leona, like a butterfly, was emerging from the cocoon of girlhood and developing into a young lady of promise,” he said.

The congregation heard that although Ms Harper’s life was “short and brief”, it was “packed to the brimming”.

“Leona brightened her world with a gentle but feisty character, a unique personality, a distinctive array of talents and interests which for you, who loved her, were both memorable and life giving.

“It would be a casual oversight of a young person’s life to say they left us before they had achieved anything substantial.

“Leona may have lived a little life but she lived a very full life.

“Its brevity will make her contribution to her family, to her friends and to her schools all the more radiant and brighter.”

Fr Carney told the gathering that communities across the county were “reeling” from Friday’s tragedy in Creeslough which brought “clouds and fog” on Muckish Mount to mind.


“The cloud of this awful tragedy which has robbed us of so much weighs heavy on our county, communities and homes.

“We are lost in a fog of grief and sadness so painful it hurts. The scale of the tragedy is so unimaginable it is almost unreal. But the names, faces, stories and yarns make it so very real.”

He continued: “Put simply, we have a gaping wound, we are in pain and the nice, neat, ordered and happy ways of our lives have been kicked over and shattered like glass on a paved floor.”

Fr Carney read out the prayer Footprints by Ryan David Clark at the end of the mass as requested by Ms Harper’s parents. The song Angel was also played during the service.

A round of applause was given after the priest thanked the emergency services, particularly the digger driver for his work during the hours after the explosion, on behalf of Ms Harper’s mother.

Ms Harper was baptised and made her first communion in the same church her funeral was held in.

A flag of the Liverpool football team, which Ms Harper supported, was put up outside the church ahead of the service.

A Liverpool FC flag is flown as members of Letterkenny Rugby Club join mourners outside St Mary’s Church in Ramelton, Co Donegal for the funeral mass of Leona Harper (Brian Lawless/PA)

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