MOURNERS at the funeral of Catriona Irwin (24), found dead at Hillsborough Forest Park last Tuesday, heard how 'a very bright and dazzling light' had been extinguished.
The former Dromore High School pupil and accomplished showjumper, who apparently took her own life, had not been seen since the day before her death and was found by police who had been searching the park area for her. Catriona's death, which a police spokesperson said was not being treated as suspicious, came a little under seven weeks after 14 year-old Kerry Moulds, a Dromore High School pupil from Drumlough, was found in the same park after taking her own life.
In a moving tribute at Catriona's packed funeral in Lisburn's Seymour Street Methodist Church on Saturday, family friend, Dora Beacom, described the young Hillsborough woman as "a unique, mischievous and party-loving character" - "a loud, passionate, spirited, boisterous and, at times, confrontational character," whose determination knew no bounds.
"Those characteristics were what made Catriona the Catriona we all knew and loved," she said.
Dora remembered Catriona as a "true party girl" who loved, and lived, life to the full, while never flagging in her enthusiasm and dedication as a successful equestrian, with a massive collection of trophies and rosettes.
The young showjumper, who started riding at the age of five, was a member of Iveagh and Kilultagh Pony Clubs as well as Mossvale and Downshire Riding Clubs; she represented Northern Ireland at National Championships in England and, said Dora, "always gave of her best when in the saddle.
"She was so totally passionate about her showjumping."Only days before her death Catriona was still competing, riding in the National Balmoral Championships on her horse, Jenny's Jill; the two, said Seymour Street Methodist minister, the Rev. Brian Anderson, made for a great and very successful partnership.
Mr. Raymond Jess of Mossvale Riding Club said the club was shocked and saddened to learn of Catriona's death.
"She was always a jolly person and a kind person who would have helped anyone in any way she could," he said. "She was well-known and well liked and she will be very much missed here at Mossvale."
Local man Paul Stewart, who knew Catriona and her family, said, "I knew Caitriona through Mossvale Riding Club, as well as her sister and her parents; she was a bubbly young woman who thoroughly enjoyed working with horses. I would send my condolences to her family in these tragic circumstances."
At Catriona's funeral members of Mill Yard Equestrian Centre, where she had her livery, provided a guard of honour as she herself was borne to the cemetery in a horse-drawn carriage. Hers was a funeral of many poignant moments, said Mr. Anderson, none moreso than when, in accordance with Catriona's own wishes, mourners - many paying tribute by wearing her favourite colour, pink, - filed from the church to the sound of the Snow Patrol song, 'Chasing Cars'.
Also during the service, there was a reading by Catriona's uncle, former Presbyterian Church moderator, the Rev. Harry Allen.
Extending condolences, on behalf of the equestrian community, to Catriona's mother Sandra, father James, sister, Becky, niece Chloe, grandfather Edward and entire family circle, Dora added, "Catriona has left a legacy of memories that will never burn out and which, undoubtedly, will continue to be the topic of conversation for a very long time to come."
Burial was at Lisburn New Cemetery Blaris Extension. Donations in lieu of flowers, if desired, to Mid-Antrim Animal Sanctuary, c/o Ronnie Thompson Funeral Directors, 20 Ballinderry Road, Lisb