Dad Colin Poland, who died in quarry rescue bid, is mourned at same chapel where he wed his sweetheart
Day of heartache in Mournes as large crowds gather to say a last farewell to victims of drowning tragedy
A father who sacrificed his life for a stranger has been laid to rest in the same church he was married in over a decade ago.
Hundreds turned out for the funeral of father-of-two Colin Polland (39), who died trying to save a teenage boy from the waters of a disused quarry in his native Co Down.
Mr Poland was originally from Newcastle and was last week staying in a family home in the area with his wife, Adele, and teenage children during a mid-term holiday from London, where they have lived for more than a decade.
Mourners at St Patrick's Church, Bryansford, heard how Colin adored his children, Jess and Cora.
He died on Saturday after jumping into the disused Paul's Quarry on the outskirts of Annalong, after hearing the distressed calls of a friend of Dromara schoolboy, Kevin O'Hare (15).
The alarm was raised when the schoolboy got in to difficulty while swimming in the steep-sided quarry.
At yesterday's funeral, Colin's family thanked the emergency services, who were involved in an evening-long operation to recover the bodies of the two young men from the cold water.
His family were gathered in grief just an hour after hundreds had assembled at St Michael's Church near Dromara to pay their respects at Kevin's funeral. Pupils from St Malachy's High School, Castlewellan – where he was a Year 11 pupil – and St Michael's Primary School, Finnis, joined the local GAA club in a guard of honour outside the church.
Fifteen miles away, a wreath conveying the condolences of staff and pupils at St Malachy's High was also among many floral tributes outside St Patrick's Church for Colin Polland. Just one hour separated the funerals and mourners heard tributes to both victims of Saturday's tragedy.
"No-one can have greater love than to lay down his life for a stranger," Fr John-Joe Cunningham told mourners at Mr Polland's funeral. "It was not even a friend, it was not even a neighbour.
"But in Heaven, surely Kevin and Colin will no longer be strangers anymore, but friends.
"Colin's family is a private family," he added. "They did not and have not talked of him as the hero that tried to save another human being."
Mourners also heard that Colin, a life-long West Ham fan, married his teenage sweetheart in the church where yesterday's funeral Mass was held.
"Colin adored his children... and was more than a good son to Thomas, his father, who shared many interests, including a love of music," Fr Cunningham said at the service.
He paid tribute to Mr Polland's infectious personality and mischievous grin. "Colin – or as his friends would call him, CP – was always positive and always smiling," he said.
"He was always happiest when he was with Adele.
"He loved catching up with his friends.
"An ideal night for CP would involve a few pints of Guinness with friends and a bit of music."
The priest added: "He loved attending games at West Ham's home ground."
A highlight of Colin's life was playing at Boleyn or Upton Park himself, while being cheered on by Cora and Jess.
"This was a memory he cherished," Fr Cunningham said.
The death of Mr Polland – who hailed from a large family, well known in the Newcastle area – comes 20 years after that of his mother, Teresa.
There was applause when a mourner, fighting back tears, read out a poem about the ancestral home where Mr Polland had been holidaying with his family last week.
But Fr Cunningham also summed up the anguish in the community following the double quarry tragedy.
"I know of no good reason why a wife, a son and daughter, father, relatives and friends, should be deprived of the love and support that Colin could offer," he said.
"Above all," the priest added, "I know of no reason why all the dreams which Colin and Adele had planned for each other and for their children should now be no more."