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RIP Funeral for James Harrison (17) to be held in Galway after tragic cliff fall

It is believed that James slipped and then fell out over a cliff at the scenic, coastal location popular with walkers and much-loved by James and his family.

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James Harrison photographed on Sunday. Photo provided by family members

James Harrison photographed on Sunday. Photo provided by family members

Mourners gathered at Tobar Cross on Monday afternoon in sympathy with the Harrison family following the tragic death of 17-year-old James Harrison at Bull’s Head on Sunday. Photo by Declan Malone

Mourners gathered at Tobar Cross on Monday afternoon in sympathy with the Harrison family following the tragic death of 17-year-old James Harrison at Bull’s Head on Sunday. Photo by Declan Malone

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James Harrison photographed on Sunday. Photo provided by family members

Aodh Ó Coileáin has said that his 17-year-old nephew, James Harrison, died on Sunday as he had lived: "on the edge of the world, searching for new frontiers".

Aodh and his brother, Micheál, this week led tributes to their nephew after James's Sunday-afternoon walk with his adoring family turned to tragedy at Ceann an Daimh (Bull's Head), between the townlands of Cinn Áird and Na Dúnta (Doonties) in Lios Póil, Co Kerry.

It is believed that James slipped and then fell out over a cliff at the scenic, coastal location popular with walkers and much-loved by James and his family.

His uncle, Micheál, explained that James was an experienced hill-walker with a strong knowledge of the area, and had ventured on a little while his family stopped to take in the surroundings. He only went "around a corner" and out of view briefly at a part of the location that would not have been considered especially dangerous.

But when James failed to return and his family could not see him, they contacted emergency services. This was at 1.40pm.

His body was recovered from the water at the bottom of a cliff-face by Valentia Lifeboat just before 3.35pm, following an extensive operation involving Valentia RNLI, Gardaí, and members of the Irish, Dingle, and Valentia Coast Guards. Shannon Rescue Helicopter 115 had located James at 3.08pm, with a small 'Y-craft' deployed to recover the boy from a location at which the helicopter team and a larger craft could not access him.

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Keen footballer: The late James Harrison was a committed member of many sports clubs, including Salthill Knocknacarra GAA

Keen footballer: The late James Harrison was a committed member of many sports clubs, including Salthill Knocknacarra GAA

Keen footballer: The late James Harrison was a committed member of many sports clubs, including Salthill Knocknacarra GAA

His family was brought to Dingle as James's body was carried to Dingle pier, where he was formally identified and pronounced dead. He was transferred to Tralee, and a post-mortem examination took place at University Hospital Kerry on Monday. Local Gardaí told The Kerryman that they continue to investigate the matter but are treating the incident as a tragic accident.

James, a Galway native, will be laid to rest today in Rahoon Cemetery, Galway city, following Requiem Mass at St Ignatius Church, not far from the family home in Devon Park, Salthill.

James's mother, Máire, hails from Dingle, West Kerry, where the Ó Coileáin family is held in deep regard. Her brother, Aodh, said James had been a beacon during previous tragedy for the Ó Coileáin/Collins family.

"He spent the first year of his life in the company of his late uncle, Tadhg Ó Coileáin," he told The Kerryman.

"Tadhg, who lived in Cinn Áird Thiar, died of a brain aneurysm, aged 31, two weeks short of James' first birthday. James grew with us in a devastating period for our family. I think it was this which made him extra special to all of us."

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Mourners gathered at Tobar Cross on Monday afternoon in sympathy with the Harrison family following the tragic death of 17-year-old James Harrison at Bull’s Head on Sunday. Photo by Declan Malone

Mourners gathered at Tobar Cross on Monday afternoon in sympathy with the Harrison family following the tragic death of 17-year-old James Harrison at Bull’s Head on Sunday. Photo by Declan Malone

Mourners gathered at Tobar Cross on Monday afternoon in sympathy with the Harrison family following the tragic death of 17-year-old James Harrison at Bull’s Head on Sunday. Photo by Declan Malone

"He was enthusiastic about everything," Aodh's brother, Micheál, told this newspaper. "He gave 100 per cent, whether it was a game of chess or a game of soccer. He was very competitive - in a good sense.

"He played rugby, football, soccer, tennis, he swam, he surfed, he was a very good sailor. Literally everything he turned his hand to - he was gifted. But he also had application. He didn't take his gifts, be they sport or academic matters, for granted."

Micheál added that, following Tadhg's passing, Cinn Áird had become a focal point for the Ó Coileáin family, extended and more immediate. Máire; her husband, Matthew; and their children, James, Daniel, and Aoife, travelled there from Galway very regularly, and had been in Cinn Áird since December 26.

"They came to Dingle each year with a bucket list; it could be visiting Colm Murphy's cows and watching the milking, or it could be climbing mountains," he said. "They also created a very fine soccer pitch at the lawn in the home in Cinn Áird, and there have been some very competitive games there."

He added that James had been out surfing on the day prior to the accident, at the beach in Cinn Áird, An Béal, further testament to his broad range of interests, sporting or otherwise.

Aodh agreed with Micheál that their nephew was a born leader, and when he asked something of someone, be they young or old, they followed.

"As he got older, he brought friends with him from Galway, never realising what they'd signed up for," he told The Kerryman. "James would shake them [from] their beds at 4.30am and have them on the Stricín [a nearby hill] by sunrise.

"He spent some of his Transition Year in the United States and in France and was making arrangements to visit Sri Lanka.

"Academically gifted as well as playing minor football for Galway, he played Spanish guitar - many options beckoned. He packed so much into his days.

"His tragic and unlucky accident near an Dún at Bull's Head on Sunday last has shocked us to our core, not only because it cost him his young life, but because his sure-footed step was so secure, well seasoned, and travelled. Arising the morning after his death, his mountain, an Stricín, was shrouded in a milk-white cloudy sheet. It was as if it covered its head.

"One who understood and revered it had left the world's edge."

James is mourned by parents, Máire and Matthew; siblings, Daniel and Aoife; grandparents, Tim, Eileen, Penelope, and David; aunts, uncles, cousins, and relatives in Ireland and England; and many friends.

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