The small rural community of Gortnaghey in Co Londonderry fell silent on Friday as family, friends and loved ones came from far and wide to say their final farewell to Ryan McCaul.
The Church of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady was packed with mourners heartbroken at the tragic death of the 31-year-old from Drum who lost his life as he made his way to work on Monday.
Ryan’s car was involved in a collision, just two miles from his home in Drum, on the main Londonderry to Dungiven road.
A large contingent of Ryan’s colleagues from E&I Engineering attended the funeral.
Local GAC, St. Colm’s, provided a guard of honour and wore their club jerseys.
Ryan’s mum, Edwina, held a photo of her son as she walked into the chapel
Dungiven Parish Priest, Fr Séamus Kelly said those who knew Ryan, an engineer with E&I engineering in Burnfoot, Donegal, were filled with “great sadness”.
He said it was only last week he attended the funeral of a parishioner and a friend of his in his last parish in Culmore in Derry.
“Loretta Douglas tragically lost her life at the entrance to our Parish of Dungiven close to the Ponderosa and, now today, we celebrate the funeral mass for Ryan who lost his life at the exit of Dungiven Parish close to the Foreglen,” said the Parish Priest.
Fr Kelly said as he administered the last rites to Ryan “it was heart-breaking to look at young man leaving this world in the mouth of Christmas”.
“I was talking to the family these last few days and they told me that Ryan was always the life and soul of the party,” said Fr. Kelly.
“He was only 18 months old when he was diagnosed with Cancer. Until he was about six years of age, he was in and out of hospital being treated for new tumors.
“Ryan was unfortunate to have been involved in a number of close shaves, both on his dad’s motorbike and in cars, and even while walking in London.
“However, his worst accident was in 2004 when he ended up in a coma in hospital. After much prayer and care he made a miraculous recovery. He then suffered twice from Meningitis and, as a result of this, he lost his hearing.
“Despite his deafness, he went on to get his degree at university in engineering. Ryan was a very determined lad and was brilliant at lip reading, so much that once he noticed two people and he could see that they were badmouthing a friend of his so he went over and left them with red faces.
“He was very outgoing and involved in the community. He did major fundraising for Action Cancer by going to America and running in two marathons.
“Later Ryan received a cochlear implant and got his hearing back again. Edwina his mother was telling me if she had reason to give out to him; he would say ‘that’s enough’, and unplug his hearing aid and smile back at her.
“He has always been very close to his family, his younger sister Ciara and younger brother Rory. When his parents Edwina and Kieran went to New Zealand last year he missed them so much that he made a surprise visit at Christmas just to be with them in New Zealand.
“He was just that kind of lad - always thinking about others.”
Fr. Kelly added: “There is great sadness in our hearts today as we say our final farewell to Ryan. ... On this day we must say our last farewell to Ryan. We must hand him over to God and this is not easy especially for all the family.”