Red High 25 group in fundraising drive

Red High 25 group in fundraising drive

11 September 2019

NEARLY 25 years on, the loss of Ballynahinch teenager Mark Quinn is still keenly felt today — by his grieving family, schoolmates and his fellow soccer players.

The 18 year-old took his own life on December 29, 1994, with his funeral service one of the biggest his home town has ever seen. 

Earlier this year, Mark’s former classmates at St Patrick’s Grammar School in Downpatrick joined together to fundraise in support of community mental health initiatives in his memory coming up to his anniversary.

The former students, now grown men, many with sons of their own, all found that Mark’s death hit them in different ways then and throughout the following years.

The group, known as Red High 25, decided that they wanted to raise money to help support other young men who may feel in despair.

Mark’s family is fully behind the initiative and other planned events which will go to support Ballynahinch Counselling Services and The Edge Youth and Community Centre. 

The gesture comes with the knowledge that Ballynahinch has one of the highest suicide rates in the district.

World Suicide Prevention Day was marked yesterday and Department of Health officials announced plans to reduce suicide rates in Northern Ireland by 10% over the next five years.

Speaking of behalf of her parents, Peg, and the late Hugh Quinn, and siblings Lynda, Michael, John, Patrick, Jarlath, David and Jemma, Mark’s sister Katie Cassidy said they were “overwhelmed” to have been contacted during the summer holidays by Mark’s school friends from the Red High.

Katie said: “Their effort to keep Mark’s memory alive while also raising awareness about mental health issues is more relevant now than ever. We as a family remember Mark everyday but to know that these young men thought about him often too brings us a great deal of comfort.”

Mark was the youngest of the family of nine. He showed great promise as a soccer player, playing locally for Ballynahinch Olympic and catching the eye of Norwich City.

Well-liked and respected, and much loved, Katie says that her family never realised that Mark was suffering with mental health issues.

Katie said: “Mark was an extremely engaging young man who got an A in his 11 plus. We called him the brain box of the family, teasing him about going to the grammar school which after the eight of us, that was quite a novelty.

“Our wee man’s funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Ballynahinch and held on New Year’s Eve. If he only knew how much he was loved. It was truly heartbreaking.

“Why, why, why was our overwhelming thoughts? Before Mark died, we had rarely heard of the word suicide. Now, sadly, any of us would struggle to speak to anyone who hasn’t been affected in some way.

“Mark was outwardly a happy young man, who always had a smile on his face. He was always laughing and his friends knew him as Quinny. He loved his family and friends.”

Katie said that Mark was buried in his Olympic strip and his jersey number 11 was retired by the club shortly afterwards.

Ballynahinch Olympic has continued to honour Mark every year at their awards night presenting the Mark Quinn memorial cup to the young player of the year. 

Katie has also made a plea for those who feel life is a struggle to talk to someone.

She said: “If anyone reading this is struggling, please let someone know. Talking can make all the difference, we wish we knew then what we know now.

“The pain and devastating reality of living without your son, brother, nephew or uncle truly causes physical pain. But there is also help in dealing with the loss of someone to suicide. In the early days after Mark’s death when our faith was extremely tested, we received tremendous support from our parish community.”

Katie also asked for support for the upcoming football tournament at St Patrick’s Grammar next Saturday, September 21 and for Ballynahinch Olympic’s annual fundraising effort.

She said: “We hope everyone will come along to the Red High next weekend to enjoy the football tournament. It’s sure to be good day and all money raised will go to Ballynahinch counselling services and The Edge, as we feel that the Edge contributes enormously to the youth of our town.” Ironically, Mark would have been 43 years old on September 28 a week after tournament.”

Former schoolmate, Conor MacNamara, spoke on behalf of the men involved in the fund-raising initiative.        

He said: “So far the lads have raised over £4,000 with great support from past pupils, ex-teachers and of course Quinny’s family. 

“These are different times now compared to 1994. Mental health awareness is something that people are much more open about these days. It has a high profile in the media too which makes it easier for people to hold up their hands and admit that they are struggling with their own mental health. 

“In particular, young people feel a lot of pressure from unhealthy relationships with social media.

“But still, suicide is still very high in Ballynahinch, Downpatrick and other parts of the county. Please feel free to contribute to this magnificent cause.”

For updates visit @RedHigh25 on Twitter and to support