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Ellen Finnegan blaze tragedy: Tearful friends and family at service at Assumption Grammar

By Sara Lyness

Published 17/01/2016

Ellen Finnegan with mass card for her late mother Nicola
Ellen Finnegan with mass card for her late mother Nicola
Tearful friends arrive at the service for Ellen Finnegan at Assumption College in Ballynahinch where she was a pupil
Friends sign a book of condolence
Friends sign a book of condolence
Ellen Finnegan with mass card for her late mother Nicola
Ellen Finnegan with mass card for her late mother Nicola
Collect image of Ellen Finnegan with mass card for her late mother Nicola
Pictured is the service held for Ellen Finnegan at Assumption College in Ballynahinch where she was a pupil
Pictured is the service held for Ellen Finnegan at Assumption College in Ballynahinch where she was a pupil
Pictured is the service held for Ellen Finnegan at Assumption College in Ballynahinch where she was a pupil
Pictured is the service held for Ellen Finnegan at Assumption College in Ballynahinch where she was a pupil
Pictured is the service held for Ellen Finnegan at Assumption College in Ballynahinch where she was a pupil
Sunday Life News Ellen Finnegan with dad Bartley Finnegan in the butcher's shop.
Ellen Finegan
The flat in Castlewellan where Ellen Finnegan died
Friends and family lay flowers close to the scene.
Ellen Finegan

A service has taken place at Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch for Ellen Finnegan (19) who died in a fire at her home in Castlewellan

Many of Ellen Finnegan's former classmates at Assumption College in Ballynahinch wept this afternoon as they gathered to remember her.

The beautiful 19-year-old was killed in the early hours of Saturday morning when a blaze broke out in a bedroom in her Lower Square home in Castlewellan above her family’s butcher shop at around 4am.

Described by friends as an “angel” — Ellen died at the scene of the fire after paramedics tried in vain to revive her.

It is the second tragedy to hit Ellen’s father Bartley, who is a well known and respected butcher in the Co Down town, in just three cruel years which have seen him lose his wife and only child.

On January 16 2013, Ellen’s mother Nicola died at the family home with her loved ones by her side following a three-year cancer battle.

She was just 49 years old.

A memorial notice placed in the Down Recorder at the time said of the late Mrs Finnegan: “Nicola enjoyed life, never taking it for granted, and with her larger than life personality, her presence never went unnoticed.

“Niki’s kindness, good nature, and her laugh are hard to forget. It was a more than privilege to have known her.”

Describing Mr and Mrs Finnegan as devoted parents to Ellen, the notice said: “Their family was complete when daughter Ellen, was born.

“She was the core of Nicola’s existence, and enriched the lives of her and Bartley immeasurably.”

As news of Ellen’s shock death spread throughout Castlewellan yesterday, devastated friends gathered in tears to lay flowers and cards at the scene in memory of the young woman local SDLP councillor Laura Devlin described as “a highly intelligent, strikingly beautiful young lady with a quick wit and sharp personality”.

People in the close-knit town were also quick to flood social media with hundreds of tributes to popular Ellen.

One wrote on Facebook: “Just heard this poor Bartley a true gentleman hasn’t had it easy, RIP to his beautiful girl. God will give you the strength to get through this x.”

Another said: “Tragic doesn’t even begin to cover this terrible news. Rest in peace with your beautiful mummy Ellen. Thinking of Bartley and the whole family at this most difficult time.”

Other tributes read: “This is heartbreaking poor Ellen RIP in heaven with your mummy. Your daddy was always so proud of you. You were the apple of his eye!”

It’s not yet clear what caused the fire that claimed Ellen’s life, but 22 firefighters were needed to bring the blaze under control.

Fire service group commander Max Joyce said at the scene: “It’s a tragedy for the family and a tragedy for Castlewellan, which is such a close-knit community.

“Essentially the blaze itself was contained to a bedroom just over the butcher’s and there was a fair bit of heat coming off it.

“Our breathing apparatus teams managed to make their way through, fought their way through, to get to the young girl.”

MP for the area, Margaret Ritchie told Sunday Life the tragedy will have a “profound impact” on the close-knit community, particularly among young people there.

“My most sincere thoughts and condolences are with the Finnegan family at this time, particularly given the tragedy they have already endured.

“That Ellen and her mother should have died on the same day is unbearably poignant,” she said.

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