Brotherly love as BGT star Mark to be cheered on by his inspiration
The severely disabled brother of a Crossgar man who sang an emotional tribute to him on Britain's Got Talent has travelled to London to cheer him on in tonight's live semi-final.
Declan McMullan, who can only communicate by blinking his eyes to spell out words for his family to understand, has urged people here to vote for his talented sibling Mark (23) as he performs in front of a TV audience of millions.
Mark, who is currently working as an architect and studying for his Masters in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, stunned the BGT judges earlier this month with his powerful rendition of Bring Him Home from the musical Les Miserables. He dedicated it to Declan (26), who has suffered from locked-in syndrome since he had a cardiac arrest and 'died' for half-an-hour in March 2012.
He is effectively trapped inside his own body, but is aware of everything that is happening around him.
Four years ago a video of Mark singing the same song to Declan in a Crossgar pub went viral and led to an appearance on RTE's Late Late Show, where fellow guest, the Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe, who starred in the movie version of Les Miserables, was visibly moved by the talented Co Down man.
BGT judge Simon Cowell, who was close to tears, was full of praise for Mark and told him he'd brought meaning to the song that he hadn't thought about before.
He added: "You managed to combine a real tenderness with that song with a strength in the second half of the performance."
Mark got four 'yes' votes from the judges and a standing ovation from the audience.
Cowell predicted he had a bright future, saying: "I wouldn't be surprised off the back of that performance that you start getting calls from West End producers and possibly Broadway, because you are that good."
Cowell went into the audience to meet wheelchair user Declan and his parents John and Brenda. Cowell said that Declan was lucky to have a brother like Mark. The McMullans were special guests on ITV's This Morning programme the day after Mark's appearance on BGT and Brenda told Eamonn Holmes that Declan had been completely star-struck by Cowell.
The McMullan family, including Declan and a carer, arrived in London last night and met up with Mark who journeyed down from Newcastle.
The singer has spent a number of weekends in London rehearsing for the show.
But John says his song choice is a closely guarded secret.
"The show's producers have been very strict about that," he explained.
"No one will know what he's singing until he goes on stage at the Hammersmith Apollo."
He said Declan was "extremely excited" about the BGT semi-finals. "He's buzzing. But it's only now that the show is fast approaching that we are all reaching fever pitch," he added.
"This has been going on for months now and there's been a lot of secrecy around Mark's performances."
Bookmakers have listed Mark at 14/1 to reach Sunday night's live final.
A choir from a Lancashire primary school and a police dog, which its handler says can read minds, are among the favourites to win.
ITV film crews have been shadowing Mark to prepare a video that will precede his appearance tonight.
John says the support he has received from home has been "amazing".
In advance of the semi-final social media has gone into meltdown with good luck messages for Mark.
One woman said that she had set up a fan club for Mark… in New Zealand.
Family friend Paul Fitzsimons, who filmed the first video of Mark singing Bring Him Home in the pub, has produced a number of follow-ups telling the back story of the two brothers.
And he has also produced another video with messages from well-wishers.