Summer sunshine belied the sadness that engulfed a small rural church on Monday as the family of a young champion event rider said their final goodbyes as she was laid to rest.
Fifteen-year-old Tiggy (Allegra) Hancock, from Bagenalstown, Co Carlow died last Wednesday afternoon at the Greenogue Equestrian Centre in Rathcoole, Co Dublin.
The champion equestrian rider was rushed to Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin shortly after 2pm but was pronounced dead a short time later.
The Kilkenny College student is survived by her parents Jane and Frank, along with sisters, Eliza and Lucy.
The Very Reverends Kevin Ronné and Dean Tom Gordan co-officiated at the ceremony at the Good Shepard Church in Lorum, Co Carlow.
The funeral service leaflet was filled with photographs of Tiggy as a child with her favourite rag doll Rab Rab, with her close friend Josh Williamson, son of retired jockey, Norman and her family.
The service was filled with hymns and poems by poets such as I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, by William Wordsworth.
Her simple wicker coffin was adorned by white, pink and yellow roses and an assortment of flowers, with a photograph of Tiggy horse riding.
Her two sisters gave readings and Eliza said: “I’ll always remember Tiggy as my funny whacky little sister, in every flower and bird. You could always count on her for a Christmas Day swim. Tiggy, I love and miss you so much. I know you are up there smiling down on us always.”
Her sister Lucy in a reflection added: “I could stand here for hours and talk about Tiggy. She and I were best friends even though I was seven years older.
“She was fiercely loyal. She had a strong moral compass. Tiggy was beautiful from her core, her eyes sparkled from within. She was this tiny perfect person. She was stubborn and strong-willed and well able to stand up for herself. We laughed and cried together so many times. I relied on Tiggy so much.
“Above all Tiggy was just so kind. She made the world a better place. Tigster, I miss you more than you could ever understand and love you even more, I can’t wait until the time I can wrap you in my arms and tell you I love you once more.”
Two of her godparents, Linda Kidd and Tom Sommerville, and uncle, Brian Hancock gave readings during the hour-long service.
Rev Ronné told mourners: “Her talent, friendship, sheer lightness of being she brought to every situation. She had a quality of groundfulness, aura of peace and bright-eyed optimism and a zest for life.
“There is a horror at such a gifted and beautiful life at such a young age. Her future was full of dazzling promise in such many different ways.
“Her death is full of shock and cannot be comprehended and perhaps even angered. It challenges even those with religious fervour. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.”
In his eulogy, family friend Tom explained: “I wish I was a million miles away. We would like to thank everyone for so much help over the past number of days – it has been a huge help.
“I’m not sure what Tiggy would make of me standing here today, as I barely know the back end of a horse. I’ve watched her from a distance, barely seeing her once a year. From a tiny scrap of a baby weighing just five pounds, she epitomised the best things come in small packages. Tiggy and her terrier dog Toffee were always side by side through life.
“She was comfortable talking to adults as well as her contemporaries and she lit up every room. She became one of their foremost riders of her generation. I have no doubt we would have seen her competing at a future Olympics. She spent hours and hours practising. Tiggy had so many tributes from so many well known names, such as Rachel Blackmore.
“She could not be defined by equestrian accomplishments. Tiggy was a funny, kind, generous and sometimes opinionated person. We must laugh, talk and cry about her to keep her spirit alive.”
'Our little darling'
Her father finished the ceremony by thanking all of those who have given comfort to the family. “Tiggy is our little darling and it’s wonderful to see how loved she is by all. I’d particularly like to mention the Carlow Pony club, Ballinree, Garyhill, Fenagh and Bagenalstown and many others who have been so good to us including Kilkenny College, her equestrian friends.
“Thanks to the parish of Lorum for being so wonderful to us. Tiggy’s final resting place is in a beautiful spot.”
Meanwhile, Horse Sport Ireland’s acting chief executive Joe Reynolds said riders across the world have been wearing yellow ribbons in her honour.
— Horse Racing Ireland (@HRIRacing) June 19, 2021
“It’s really interesting how the equestrian world has turned yellow this weekend, Tiggy’s favourite colour, the jockeys in Royal Ascot wore yellow ribbons, the Irish event riders in Germany are wearing yellow, the global champions tour wore yellow, the Irish team that are competing in the Nations Cup in Poland are all wearing yellow armbands. Tiggy was a great fan of the German rider Marcus Ehning and he’s worn yellow armband in recognition of that.”
There was a guard of honour involving the eventing riders, pony clubs and Irish Pony Society on the road close to her home Corries House and also at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Lorum.
There were also loudspeakers located outside the small rural church, where mourners gathered outside and in adjoining fields as Covid-19 restrictions allowed a maximum of 50 people to attend inside.
Traffic restrictions were in place leading up to and during the funeral.
Hundreds of people lined the cortège route from the young girl’s home to the church some three kilometres away, after her family asked them to do so.