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Glasgow bin lorry crash victims remembered at cathedral service

Published 22/12/2015

Glasgow Cathedral is to hold a remembrance service a year after the bin lorry crash tragedy
Glasgow Cathedral is to hold a remembrance service a year after the bin lorry crash tragedy

Candles have been lit in memory of those who died in the Glasgow bin lorry crash, on the first anniversary of the tragedy.

A two-minute silence was also held at a special commemorative service in Glasgow Cathedral, attended by bereaved families, injured survivors, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and members of the emergency services who helped at the scene of the crash in Queen Street on December 22 last year.

Seven candles were lit - one for each of the six victims and a seventh for all those injured and affected by the crash.

The names of each of the dead - Erin McQuade, Jack Sweeney, Lorraine Sweeney, Stephenie Tait, Jacqueline Morton and Gillian Ewing - was read out, before a relative or friend of each placed a three-wick candle and on the altar beside flowers taken from the initial tributes left in Royal Exchange Square in the days after the tragedy.

Organised by Glasgow Churches Together, the service was led by the Right Rev Dr Gregor Duncan, the Scottish Episcopal Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway, and the cathedral was full to its 700-seat capacity.

During his reflection, Mr Duncan revealed he was in Queen Street at the time of the crash.

"My situation was many, many worlds away from the terror and horror of being caught up in the day itself," he said.

"No-one but those directly involved in that day and the long days since can presume to know what that was like."

The crash happened when bin lorry driver Harry Clarke lost consciousness behind the wheel and the truck careered out of control.

During the fatal accident inquiry into the crash, it emerged Mr Clarke had a history of blackouts and faints which he had not disclosed to the DVLA, or when applying for the job at Glasgow City Council.

The sheriff who chaired the inquiry ruled the crash might have been avoided if Mr Clarke had told the truth about his medical history.

Mr Duncan said during the service: "What happened in Glasgow a year ago was an accident - we now know an accident waiting to happen, but still an accident.

"Pointless, meaningless, a consequence of human folly and irresponsibility."

Henry Toal and Matthew Telford, the two crew men who were travelling in the bin lorry when it crashed, were among the hundreds of people at the memorial.

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon joined the congregation along with Glasgow City Council leader Frank McAveety and Sadie Docherty, Lord Provost of Glasgow.

Ms Sturgeon read from the Book of Wisdom, and prayers were also said for the bereaved families, witnesses to the crash, the emergency services and members of the public who helped at the scene on the day.

Speaking after the service, the First Minister said: "One year ago today people across Glasgow and Scotland heard the awful news that left the city broken-hearted.

"I would like to take this opportunity again to convey my deep condolences to the bereaved families who lost loved ones in this awful tragedy. Their grief and anguish is unimaginable and nothing we can say will ease their pain.

"However, I hope they can take some small comfort from knowing that they are in the thoughts of so many.

"My thoughts are also with those who sustained injuries in the crash and who witnessed traumatic scenes that I'm sure will live with them for a very long time."

In George Square, the Christmas lights were dimmed a year on from the time of the crash.

Bookings for the Christmas ice rink in the square were not taken between 2pm and 3pm while fairground rides also shut down as a mark of respect.

Glasgow City Council decided bin lorries would not use Queen Street on the day of the anniversary.

A collection of flowers and tributes were left in Royal Exchange Square, where thousands had been laid last year.

One poem attached to a bunch of flowers read: "As we celebrate this Christmas, please spare a thought for those families of the victims who can't hold their loved ones close.

"In our wee Glasgow city we deal with loads of grief, but our city unites in compassion, though some in disbelief."

Candles were also lit in remembrance of the tragedy at the University of Glasgow, where both Ms McQuade and Ms Tait had studied.

A picture of a candle in the university's chapel was posted on Twitter by the institution with the comment: "Remembering Erin McQuade & Stephenie Tait: two members of the UofG family we sadly lost in the bin lorry tragedy.

"Our thoughts and prayers are also with their families and friends and those too of Erin's grandparents Jack and Lorraine Sweeney, Jacqueline Morton and Gillian Ewing, as well as all those who were injured. Always in our hearts."

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