Belfast Telegraph

Katherine Neill's mum pays tribute to talented teen who died week after passing A-level exams

Restaurateur Michael Deane arranged for a chef to visit Katherine's home to prepare favourite meal in her final days

By Laura Abernethy

The mother of a teenager who died from cancer a week after receiving her A-level results has paid tribute to her "beautiful daughter with a massive smile".

Katherine Neill was just 18 when she passed away at her home in Banbridge on Thursday, surrounded by her family.

In the days since her death, the family have raised over £8,000 for a cancer charity in her memory.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, her mum Roisin remembered her "very special daughter".

"She had this big, massive smile," she said,

"Even when she was really, really sick, she would say she was fine and smile. She has left a very big void in our lives."

Roisin said the family have been amazed by the thousands of pounds which have been raised.

Just the week before her death, Katherine received her A-level results and achieved an A and an A* grade, despite spending the last year in and out of hospital.

The talented teenager was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma in July 2015 and although she was heartbroken that she had to give up the ballet dancing that had been part of her life since she was four, she was determined to try and keep her life as normal as possible.

The Banbridge Academy pupil was too unwell to study at school so with the help of local charities, she was tutored at home and was able to sit two A-levels in Maths and Psychology in June.

Roisin explained: "Her tutors were fantastic and we live right beside school so her friends would come over a few times a week at lunchtime or during their study periods and really kept her in the loop. She was still very much a part of school life. I think that kept her strong and positive throughout the last year."

She also passed her driving test and had a huge party in March to celebrate her 18th birthday, in between spells in hospital.

"She was so talented and clever," Roisin added. "She never complained and didn't want anyone's sympathy. She just said this was something that was happening and she just got on with it. She was a really determined young woman and just wanted to be doing what her friends were doing."

In June, Katherine, Roisin, her dad Gary and brother James (16) were told that her cancer was too aggressive and could not be cured.

Her mum said: "At that time, Katherine knew it was incurable but she said she was still going to make the most of her time. In the past few weeks, she wanted to go to her favourite restaurant - Deanes at Queen's - but she wasn't really well enough.

"I contacted Deanes and Michael Deane himself got involved. They arranged for a chef to come to our house and cook her favourite meal - pork belly - and all her friends were there. It was really, really special for them. She had this really big group of friends but they were very close. They got her through everything."

Following her death, her family set up a fundraising page to allow for donations in lieu of flowers for her funeral, which took place on Sunday.

They chose the Boom Foundation, which is a Northern Ireland-based charity for patients battling sarcoma.

They have already raised almost £7,800 from over 250 people in just a few days.

Her mum added: "We never dreamt it would be this much. It has brought us some comfort and it shows the respect people had for her. I have also loved reading all the lovely messages about her on the page. She really touched a lot of people."

To donate in memory of Katherine, visit

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph