The people of Birr are in mourning this week following the news that one of the town's most loved residents, little Tommy Kelly Shaw, passed away on Tuesday when his long battle with illness came to an end.
A student of St Brendan's Primary School, Tommy's bravery in the face of adversity, positive attitude and warm personality touched everyone who came into contact with him and tributes have poured in since the news emerged of his untimely death.
Tommy's funeral on Thursday mornng was one of the biggest in the Birr area for years, an indication of the affection that he and his family are held in their locality, according to celebrant Fr David Carroll.
“There was a great reverence and silence all over the place today. At the church and in the walk to the graveyard. All you can do is stand with the family, they were the ones who we were praying for most today.”
Noting that little Tommy “lit up” everyone who met him, Fr David said that he hoped his family find some comfort in the large number of people that turned out to pay their respects.
“Our hearts go out to them. Everyone is praying for them in their own way.”
Cllr John Carroll said that the entire community was devastated when the news emerged of Tommy’s passing.
“It’s an awful tragedy. He was a little boy who had been adopted by the community.
“I hope his family get the strength they will need and and that people stand with them at this difficult time.”
The staff and pupils at St Brendan’s PS issued on a statement on the school’s website in which they expressed “deepest sympathies” to Tommy’s family.
"Our Junior Infant sadly passed away after a long and brave battle with illness.
He will always be a super hero in the hearts and minds of St Brendans PS.
It is with great sadness that the school community extends its deepest sympathy to all of Tommy’s family and friends."
Tommy celebrated his sixth birthday in January with a large party in Dooly's Hotel surrounded by family and friends.
At the celebration, a group of local musicians released a single, ‘Family’, in his honour.
After news of Tommy's passing emerged on Tuesday afternoon, one of the musician's involved in the single, Martin Bennett, posted an emotional tribute on Facebook to the late Tommy Kelly Shaw.
"A real hero left us today. He's touched the hearts of everyone, and I was lucky enough to meet him several times.
"Him and his lovely family. They're all warriors. This kid was amazing. Happiest and most loving gentle kid you could meet.
"We have learned a lot from Tommy, how to not give up, how to live, despite everything that was against him he was unstoppable, and mostly how to love and how to cometogether and support one another. Thank you Tommy and rest well buddy. You played blinder," the musician concluded in a post that was widely shared and read in recent days.
Tommy Kelly Shaw will be sadly missed and never forgotten by his loving parents Keith and Lisa, sister Shanna and brother Darragh, grandparents Michael and Ann Kelly, Billy and Yvonne Shaw, great grandmothers, uncles, aunts, cousins, relatives and a large circle of friends from near and far.
Mourners at Tommy's Funeral Mass in St Brendan's Church, Birr on Thursday morning wore brightly coloured clothes as requested by his parents to celebrate the life of a very special, little boy, who touched the hearts of so many people in his six short years.