MOURNERS wept as a piper played during 12-year-old schoolgirl Brooke Reid’s heartbreaking final journey through her home area, the Ballykeel Two estate in Ballymena, on Sunday afternoon.
Hundreds of people lined the streets to pay their last respects as Brooke’s funeral cortege passed close to her home where the windows have been boarded up following the mid-week fire tragedy in which she died.
A funeral service was held at the home of her grandparents Billy and Patricia McMaster at Inchkeith Road in the Ballykeel One estate ahead of Brooke being taken to Ballee Cemetery.
The cortege passed through the nearby Ballykeel Two estate where balloons had been tied to almost every lamp post in tribute to Brooke.
The cortege then passed close to the Remembrance Garden in Ballykeel where there is a special floral tribute to Brooke with a message saying: ‘Fly high with the angels Brooke our hearts are broken’.
A floral tribute in the hearse also simply said ‘Angel’.
Earlier on Sunday, Brooke’s grandfather Billy McMaster said in a special message: “Please Lord grant me the power to get through today, bless each and everyone of my family and princess Brooke, entire family circle.
“I’m totally brokenhearted but I just want to say a massive thank you to the community and people near and far for your sincere kindness. Especially Rev Marty McNeely Ballykeel has been such a fantastic help throughout this hard and difficult time for us all.
“Love you so much and I will deeply miss you my angel Brooke (granddaughter) 💔💔I know you are with me, I hope I do you proud by the send off I give you.
“Have fun up there with all your family loved ones, don’t forget to tell them about your pjs/bathroom curtains 😘Love you pet 😭😭😭”.
Rev Dr Martin McNeely said that what they had witnessed was an “incredible coming together” of people following the tragedy which claimed the schoolgirl’s life, amid what was “a very dark moment in the history of the estate”.
Rev McNeely recalled how Billy McMaster had said that the Ballykeel estate was frequently “in the headlines for the wrong reasons” but that “the true Ballykeel, the Ballykeel that has united behind this grieving family, was on show today; the family were overwhelmed with the love shown to them”.
The funeral service was told that Jessica McKay and her friend Brooke had a shared love of the social media program Tik Tok, of scribbling into the steamed-up school bus windows.
There were three different churchmen involved in the service – Rev McNeely, the Church of Ireland’s Rev Mark McConnell of St Patrick’s parish, and Pastor Thomas Todd of Ballykeel Pentecostal Church, the News Letter reports.
Brooke went to clubs at all different churches, and was a committed member in particular of the Campaigners – a Bible study group with the pentecostal church.
Pastor Todd told mourners that Brooke had been a “fun loving” girl who enjoyed buying carrots for a horse that lived nearby, and had dreamed of becoming a vet. She also followed her father Geoff in his commitment to the Harryville Homers football team.
Afterwards, Rev McNeely told the News Letter: “I think today we saw two things. One was again shock and trauma in our community. But we also saw an incredible coming together of the community in support of the family.
“That sense of unity with the family was very, very tangible. As a preacher of hope and Christian minister, in the middle of it all I live and pastor in the hope that we can see better days.
“But for now, it’s a very dark moment in the history of the estate.”