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Ellen Finnegan blaze tragedy: Tears flow as teachers and pupils gather to say prayers

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 18/01/2016

The service held for Ellen Finnegan at Assumption College in Ballynahinch where she was a pupil on January 17, 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The service held for Ellen Finnegan at Assumption College in Ballynahinch where she was a pupil on January 17, 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
Ellen Finnegan who died in the house fire

A congregation of teenage girls sobbed as a framed portrait of Ellen Finnegan was brought into the small chapel at Assumption Grammar School, Ballynahinch yesterday.

Current and past pupils came together at the school the 19-year-old left for the last time on Friday.

Placed in front of the altar, Ellen's friends had chosen the image of their friend who tragically lost her life in a house fire over the weekend.

>> Ellen Finnegan: 'She was as lively as ever that night... I could hardly believe next day's news' << 

Some of the girls in the chapel had thoughtfully included the memoriam card of Ellen's devoted mother Nicola, who herself died on the same day as her daughter three years earlier from bowel cancer.

Mother and daughter shared the same dark hair, large eyes, big smile and good looks as well as a strong connection with the school.

Mrs Finnegan had attended the school as a boarder, as did her sisters Pauline, Patricia and Michelle and both mother and daughter were close to the pupils and past pupils of the school and its teaching staff.

For many of the teenagers at the special prayer service, the appearance of the framed photograph was a visual reminder of the shocking news that the vibrant girl that they had seen at school just two days before was never coming back to them.

Dressed in their casual wear and bereft of their normal outside school make-up, Ellen's friends looked very young and completely bewildered by what had happened just 24 hours earlier.

Described by one teacher as one of the school's "dearest", Ellen was one of the students at the long-established school that everyone knew and liked.

After prayers led by Fr Conor McCarthy, the students were encouraged to spend time remembering Ellen and to talk with other friends and teachers.

Many signed the Book of Condolence which will be passed on to Mr Finnegan.

Mr Finnegan was said to be staying at his sister's house and was too distraught to return to his family home where the fire broke out.

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