Mark was so much more than a soldier

Tributes forming the centrepiece of the service of thanksgiving for Private Mark Connolly, of Methil (picture by Norman Myles)
Tributes forming the centrepiece of the service of thanksgiving for Private Mark Connolly, of Methil (picture by Norman Myles)

Family and friends of the late Mark Connolly grieved for a lost loved one but remembered the fun-loving side of his nature at a memorial service in Methil on Saturday.

More than three years after the death of the former Black Watch Private, over 100 people gathered at Wellesley Parish Church in Methil for the service of thanksgiving.

His funeral the previous day in Forfar was marred by unsavoury scenes involving mourners – the legacy of a bitter legal fight between his wife, Stacy Connolly, and his mother, Linda McComiskie, over where he should be laid to rest.

However, after calm was restored at Newmonthill Cemetery,following the intervention of police, Mark was buried with full military honours.

Afterwards, Wellesley minister the Rev Gillian Paterson gathered Mark’s family and friends around the grave for a short religious service, during which they prayed for him and his family as they recalled a fun-loving, happy-go-lucky, polite young man.

At the Methil service the next day, the minister reflected on Mark’s 24 years, sharing how much he had loved his time at Denbeath Nursery, Denbeath Primary and Buckhaven High Schools.

Mark had a gift and a passion for art, particularly drawing and sketching, which he developed, along with his interest and skills as a guitar player. The congregation heard some of Mark’s favourite music, including Metallica, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Blink 182, as well as singing ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Abide With Me’.

Before and after the service, a slide show of pictures of Mark from when he was born were shown to the gathered company and this brought many smiles, as well as tears, said Ms Paterson.

She added: “We gathered in the church to remember a lovely young man – a talented and dedicated soldier who had served his Queen and country with loyalty and respect.

“But Mark was so much more than a soldier. He was a loving son, brother, grandson, husband, nephew and cousin, as well as a good friend to many people from the area.

“It was a privilege to lead the service and to provide an opportunity for his family to grieve fully for him.”

Private Mark Connolly’s army career included spells of duty in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009, he suffered serious arm injuries in an explosion in Afghanistan which killed one of his comrades.

On May 14, 2011, he was fatally injured by a single punch from fellow soldier Pte Paul McKay, as violence flared in an army bar in Germany after a military driving course. McKay was later cleared of manslaughter after a court martial ruled he had acted in self-defence.