Belfast Telegraph

Una Finnegan was so bubbly and always had a big smile... tributes to climber lost in avalanche

By Anna Maguire

Una Finnegan was unique among her peers.

The 25-year-old, who was working as a junior doctor in an Edinburgh hospital, took a year out of her five-year medical degree course to complete a Masters.

It was her choice of Masters that said so much about her character.

“She was unique in that she took time out of her medicine degree to do a Masters in the anthropology of health and illness.

“Not a lot of medics do that course, but Una chose it herself,” Dr Ian Harper, Una’s former lecturer at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said.

“Anthropology is the study of people. “Una was very much a people’s person. She was a very caring, humanitarian person.”

As with her school studies, Una excelled in the one-year Masters course, obtaining a distinction in her dissertation, which focused on how people deal with a cancer diagnosis.

Una eventually hoped to work as a GP, following in the footsteps of her mother Mary.

“I think it was her warmth and generosity that I will remember about her,” Dr Becky Marsland, another of Una’s lecturers, added.

Friends and teachers who spoke to the Belfast Telegraph alluded to the doctor’s appetite for life.

“She was extremely alive — very vivacious and very thoughtful,” Ms Marsland said.

“She was lovely, warm and open — and very, very popular in the (university’s) department.”

Una, who was one of twin sisters, returned to Edinburgh earlier this year after completing the last year of her medical degree at Newcastle University.

She had been climbing with five friends in Glencoe in Scotland’s Highlands when an avalanche swept across the Bidean Nam Bian peak, burying the group under two metres of snow.

Una was one of four climbers killed in Saturday afternoon’s tragedy.

On Monday morning her parents Mary and Owen travelled to Scotland.

At the family’s snow-coated home in Coleraine, her sister welcomed journalists in from the cold, but said the family was not making any comment as yet.

At Ballymoney’s Dalriada School, where Una was a leading light in her year, vice-principal Nicola Madden spoke of a numbness among staff.

“I was head of sixth form when Una was in sixth form here.

“She was just a very bright, capable person,” she recalled.

“She was one of our best pupils.

“In her sixth form, she went to Moldova as part of a humanitarian trip, working with orphans and street children.”

It was at Dalriada School that Una and her sister developed their mutual interest in climbing, through the school’s Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

“She was an all-rounder. She had a real sense for life,” Ms Madden added.

Dr Tom Turner, a former GP in the Coleraine area and a family friend, said: “Una was somebody who had her life in front of her and it was taken away. It cannot be any sadder than that.”

Quotes

Dr Becky Marsland, Una’s former lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, said: “She had a real sense of humour and imagination in her thinking. She had remained in contact with all of us. She was coming to give a talk about anthropology quite soon. Her choice in a Masters course definitely showed her interest in people and her intellectual breadth.”

Nicola Madden, vice-principal of Dalriada School in Ballymoney: “She excelled academically. She was a lovely, bubbly young girl, with a great sense of humour and a real sense for life. She always had a big smile.”

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