Three communities in Donegal have been plunged into mourning following the untimely deaths, from illness, of well-known referee Liam Brown of Donegal town, 34-year-old mother of three Melissa Hamilton of Killygordon and 16-year-old Ryan McCrudden of Killybegs.
Liam Brown of Clarendon Drive, Donegal town passed away in the early hours of yesterday morning after having been diagnosed with cancer less than a month ago.
The Mayor of Donegal town and manager of Donegal’s 1982 All-Ireland under 21 winning GAA Football team, Tom Conaghan, paid tribute to his friend.
“Liam’s death has come as a shock to everybody and is a big loss to the town. He was an unbelievable character who wouldn’t have ever made much of a fuss about the fact that he was a referee. It was something he did in his own time, as far as he was concerned.
“He was also quite popular as a referee, which isn’t always that common. He would have been a great asset in terms of his knowlege of the sport.
“Liam was also a great community man, all you had to do is ring him and he would be available to do whatever you asked of him.
“He would have refereed 4-5 children’s games every week and on August 21, just a week before he fell ill, he refereed a Division 2 League match in Fintra, between Killybegs and Kilcar.
“Liam was also a fantastic table quiz master, for years, raising funds for any good cause, and of course the local GAA benefited tremendously from this as well.
“He would have been a great help to me, not only in football, but in the run up to the council and mayoral elections, along with his wife Mary. “They were also very helpful in community projects. For example, Liam and his close friend Jack Ramsey painted the cross in the famine graveyard very recently, which the town should be very proud of.
“Liam worked in the factory at Magee’s for years and he made many lifelong friends there. His wife Mary and their son Mark are also very well-known in the town, as Mary works in Dom’s Pier 1 and Mark works in Lidl.
“Our hearts go out to them at their loss which I’m sure has been made all the more difficult to bear because it happened so quickly.
“It was all very sudden, it was unbelievable. The day he took really ill was the day of the Donegal v Dublin semi-final and he couldn’t go. The next day he went to the doctor and was diagnosed with cancer.”
Paddy Meehan, also a friend of many years, said Liam “lived for sport”. He added: “Liam was one of the founding members of the Donegal Rugby Club in 1973. He played rugby, soccer and gaelic and also refereed all three sports very well.
“The Browns are one of the old families from Donegal town and have been here for over a hundred years, I believe. His father Willie was a big community man and I think Liam got that from him.
“Liam’s brother Noel pre-deceased him some years ago, also with cancer.
“All our thoughts and prayers are with Mary, Mark and all Liam’s extended family and wide circle of friends at this time.”
‘Shocked and numb’
Melissa Hamilton (nee Connolly) passsed away in Letterkenny Hospital last Thursday night after a short but brave battle with cancer.
News of her illness spread just weeks ago, after she gave birth to her third daughter.
Cllr. Patrick McGowan, a close friend of Mrs Hamilton and her family, said yesterday: “Everyone here is thoroughly shocked and numb. You can see it in their faces. Melissa’s illness was discovered just weeks ago and things happened so fast. We’d only become aware that she was ill and then we heard that she was not going to make it.
“There was a massive turnout at the wake at Melissa and Seamus’s home in Sallywood, and the funeral at St. Patrick’s Church, Crossroads, was one of the biggest the parish has seen in many years.
“Melissa was always a very positive person and her death is a very, very sad loss not only to her family, especially her husband and three young daughters, but to the community as a whole.
“A veil of sadness has descended here and it was reflected in the weather at her funeral on Sunday. It was as if everyone’s grief was pouring down in the rain.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Seamus and the girls - Jessica, Darcy and Grace, Melissa’s parents Charlie and Celia Connolly and her brothers Garvan and Nigel.
“We will all do whatever we can to help support them through this terrible time and in the days to come.”
‘A lively young lad’
Ryan McCrudden of Ballyara, Killybegs passed away at home on the evening of Wednesday, September 7. He had struggled with leukaemia for many years.
Thomas Pringle TD, paid tribute to the young man. “Ryan was a really lively young lad who was very much into football and rallying when he was younger. He was always the joker in the class and was very popular with all his schoolmates.
“The whole community was devastated to learn that Ryan had lost his fight with leukaemia.
“When you see such a young life being lost to disease in this way, it’s so very, very sad and it really hits home.
“The entire community came together to help support Ryan’s family over the days of the wake and funeral in Bruckless on Friday morning.
And, of course, they will remain very much in our hearts, minds and prayers in the days to come.
“Our heartfelt sympathies go to Ryan’s parents Paul and Philomena, his sisters Lisa, Kelly and Nicole and his brother Shane.”