Brandon Walker: 100s turn out to farewell brave teen

Brandon Walker's coffin is carried in. Picture: Neil Hanna
Brandon Walker's coffin is carried in. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Hundreds donned football scarves and tops in a poignant farewell to Hibs fan, teenager Brandon Walker, who died of a rare illness a week after going to the doctor.

Hundreds of mourners turned out to say a final farewell to the 14-year-old at the chapel beside Seafield Cemetery, while a large crowd stood outside to listen to tributes from within the church.

Brandon's mum Bernadette. Picture: Neil Hanna

Brandon's mum Bernadette. Picture: Neil Hanna

Brandon’s hero, Hibs midfielder John McGinn, and head coach Alan Stubbs, along with ex-player Paul Kane, were among those who came to pay their respects.

Around 350 gathered for the Humanist service, a symbol of the community spirit which had offered strength to Brandon’s family, following his death from a heart and lung condition affecting just one in 55 million.

Young friends of the Trinity Academy pupil, many of whom carried single white roses, wore green hoodies with his name on them.

The youngster’s coffin – decorated with a floral football and boots, a palette of green and white – was carried in to the chapel by his devastated father Davy, brothers and other relatives, while pop song Eyes Shut by Years and Years was played over the speakers.

You were my life, my heart and my soul, but now you’re in heaven scoring all the goals.

Gemma Gordon

Brandon’s mum Bernadette wept in the December air and his sister, Gemma, was visibly distraught as they made their way in to the chapel.

Humanist celebrant Tim Maguire said the Granton youngster was an “amazing young man who had lived an extraordinary life”.

He said the young Hibs fan could be summed up with a line from the film Blade Runner: “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burnt so very, very bright.”

Mr Maguire said Brandon was “Hibs mad, energetic, courageous, sometimes challenging, but a much-loved and very loving young man”. He joked that from an early age, he “had a disposition to learn the naughty words” and “loved to wind people up”.

Brandon Walker. Picture: contributed

Brandon Walker. Picture: contributed

And his obsession with football, and his beloved Hibs, stemmed from an early age; his only ambition in life was to play for the club and his talents attracted the attention of scouts when he was just 11.

Brandon’s sister Gemma Gordon, who described her “baby brother” as like a son to her, bravely read a poem she had written.

“You were my life, my heart and my soul, but now you’re in heaven scoring all the goals,” she said.

The mourners were then told to pause for reflection, while chart hit Running, by 
Naughty Boy and Beyonce, was played.

Hibs midfielder John McGinn. Picture: Neil Hanna

Hibs midfielder John McGinn. Picture: Neil Hanna

Hibs midfielder McGinn’s presence at the funeral was particularly significant as he had visited the youngster at the Sick Kids in Edinburgh just days before his death. Mr Macguire said the visit, arranged by Paul Kane, was “one of the best surprises of [Brandon’s] life.”

The youngster first went to the doctor on November 27, complaining of feeling sick and lethargic.

He had also been having difficulty breathing while walking any distance, which was also causing his fingertips and lips to go blue.

But it quickly emerged that what was hoped to be a routine medical complaint was far more serious, and Brandon died on December 4, having been transferred to Great Ormond Street hospital in London to await a lung transplant. The service heard that a doctor from the specialist children’s hospital had written Brandon’s family a letter saying that she had never met anybody like him, and had never felt so attached to a patient.

Mr Macguire said: “He went out on a high and got three of his biggest wishes – an iphone from Gemma, meeting John McGinn and flying over Wembley Stadium. We mourn not only for the life that was, but also for the life that might have been.”

A Just Giving page, initially set up to help pay for travel costs for Brandon when he was feeling better, has raised more than £6000.

Some of the funds were used for the funeral, while the remainder will go to Great 
Ormond Street.

kaye.nicolson@edinburghnews.com