St Mary’s Church in Bocan, Culdaff was packed to overflowing for the Requiem Mass of the popular teenager, who tragically died alongside her friend, Thomas Gallagher, in a road traffic collision in Gleneely in Inishowen on November 6.
Mourners were reduced to both tears and laughter during the funeral Mass, as Alana was remembered as a ‘pocket dynamo,’ who loved music, line dancing, bands One Direction and the Tumblin’ Paddies, her job and ‘second family’ at Simpson’s in Carndonagh and, in particular, her beloved friends and family.
Her heartbroken father, Patrick, flanked by her mother Karen, read a piece of writing Alana composed for school when she was 12 years old, which told how she had been born 14 weeks prematurely.
She weighed just 1lb 15 oz, was ‘lighter than a bag of sugar’ and overcame many obstacles in order to live. In the piece, Alana outlined how people made fun of her for being small, but ‘they don’t know’ what she went through.
She added: ”All the good things come in small packages.’
Chief Celebrant, Father Jim McGonagle, who knew Alana well from her time as an altar server, said the death, especially an accidental death, of an 18-year-old girl is ‘very hard to take’.
“It tugs at the heartstrings, especially when that young person had the world at her feet, with all kinds of dreams and hopes for the future.”
Fr McGonagle said he did not have an answer for questions asking why she had been taken so young, ‘nor will we have an answer on this side of Heaven’.
He told Alana’s family how they are not on their own and the community is standing with them, not only on the day of her funeral, but also in the days ahead.
Alana, he outlined, had ‘certainly made her mark’ in her 18 years on earth.
"I have been struggling to find a word that might sum her up. The word I finally came up with was her magnetism. It means that everyone was drawn towards her, attracted to her, young and old. In one of Robbie Burns’ songs, there’s a line: ‘To see her was to love her’ and I think that is true of Alana.”
She had been blessed with many faith friends, said Fr McGonagle, who also described Alana as a ‘live wire, a pocket dynamo, a ball of fire and a prankster’.
She was also a great singer and had been a ‘shoo-in’ for the role of Gretl in a school production of The Sound of Music.
Fr McGonagle said Alana had also touched his life on a personal level, from the day he blessed her at Altnagelvin Hospital ‘as she fought for her new life, being premature’.
He then baptised her, heard her First Confession, and gave her First Holy Communion, before she became an altar server.
"After I retired, I hadn’t seen her for a few years, until one day, as it happens, I was at a funeral dinner in Simpsons and this lassie landed in my arms, as if she was catapulted there. It took me a few seconds to realise who it was – as lively as ever.”
Fr McGonagle said the death of Alana and her good friend Thomas has deeply impacted the Inishowen community and in particular, its young people, especially in Moville Community College, Carndonagh Community School and Gleneely National School, in which Alana and Thomas were pupils.
He issued a word of thanks to the emergency services who were on the scene the night of the collision, the undertakers and the four local people, Dorothy, Brian, Yvonne and Helen, who ‘didn’t just open up their hearts, but their homes to the families’.
Thomas Gallagher, who was laid to rest following Requiem Mass in St Mary’s Church, Bocan on Friday afternoon was also remembered and prayed for many times throughout the Mass, along with the third person in the car who was hospitalised with non-life threatening injuries.
The gifts brought to the altar included a guitar, cowboy boots, a vinyl record, her Simpson’s, Carndonagh uniform, a book of poetry and pictures of Alana with her family and friends.
Alana was a great lover of poetry and had a great talent for it herself.
A poignant poem for Alana was read at the Mass, which said:
“You were lighter than a bag of sugar and every bit as sweet
With tiny fingers and those smaller than small little feet
A fighter from the very start of life
What a battle you had
‘Little miracle,’ your mum said
‘A warrior,’ said your dad
Your personality shone from early on
A star in the making
Not coy, you were full of fun and laughter
full of spirit and joy
And now our hearts are breaking
The loss of you too much
The notion we won’t see you again
Or ever feel your touch
We loved you from the very start
We will always hold you dear
But now, you’re our own angel
And we know that you’ll stay near
Heaven will be a happier place
Now that you are there
You’ll be in our hearts forever
And in our every prayer
Stay close to us, Alana
And one day we will meet
Until that day
Our sweet, sweet girl
Our hearts won’t be complete.”
Alana Harkin was laid to rest following Requiem Mass.