BIRTHDAYS were always a special celebration for Jonny Smith and his close-knit family – with fond memories of parties, presents and cake.
But all that changed one devastating evening in May when popular Jonny was killed in a horror crash on Maybury Road caused by the driver of a stolen car.
Grieving mum Ellen McDaid spoke for the first time of her colossal loss at the planned unveiling of a memorial plaque to her Hearts supporting eldest son at Tynecastle on Friday.
An emotional Mrs McDaid told how family landmarks are now changed forever and released a touching video of Jonny’s 29th birthday last October – it was to be his last.
She said: “We were singing happy birthday to him and the cake had different numbers on adding up to 29 – he joked ‘how old am I?’”
Mrs McDaid turned 51 last month while one of Jonny’s brothers Callum reached 26 last weekend – but there were to be no big family celebrations this year.
“That whole week I was inconsolable,” said Mrs McDaid. “Just the realisation he wasn’t there, that he was never coming back.”
Callum added: “I wrote mine off, treated it like just another day. I’ll have another one next year.”
The pain was all the greater given for his 25th, big brother Jonny had taken Callum, recovering from a serious back injury, to Hampden Park to watch Scotland play.
“The last three or four weeks I’ve realised it’s real. There was so much going on when it happened. The police were in every single day,” said Mrs McDaid.
“We had to make arrangements for the funeral when we got Jonny back. He was buried nine weeks ago – only nine weeks has he been buried.
“I go home and I think when it’s over, it’ll get back to normal, but it’ll never be over. Gaven, Jonny’s brother said it’s like he’s lost his left hand.”
Jonny was killed while driving home from Callum’s shortly after 12.30am on May 25.
Mrs McDaid recalled the traumatic moment she learnt he was dead, returning home to Clermiston after a drive to Callum’s in a frantic search for her son.
“Kenneth [Jonny’s dad] opened the door and said ‘it’s Jonny, he’s dead.’ I just took off and ran away.
“I fell in the pathway screaming. The boys had to lift me up and put me in the house.
“You don’t think it’s real for starters. Me and Kenneth had DNA taken away to prove it was Jonny.
“It took two weeks and all that time you don’t know for sure. Maybe, maybe, maybe it might not be him – but I’m not daft.
“There was a man who looked a wee bit like him on Facebook and I thought, it’s him, it’s him but you know it’s not.
“I’d see a wee car like his and I’d go to wave but have to hold my hand back.”
Mrs McDaid also shared a photo of Jonny on his 12th birthday – proudly wearing his beloved Hearts strip.
Such memories are what remain, while Mrs McDaid keeps a daily vigil at a memorial on Maybury Road and at Jonny’s graveside in Corstorphine Hill Cemetery.
“I go down there everyday and to the cemetery. I’ve even put some lights up. I think Jonny would wonder what I’m doing.
“Hundreds of people have left messages there. I take the flags home when they’re full of messages and keep them all and put some fresh ones up.
“I know it sounds mad but it’s where he took his last breath. I get a lot of comfort from being there, the last place he was.
“It’s been 15 weeks now, 15 weeks of misery. The memorial helps me, it helps me more than going to the cemetery.
“He was a boy who loved Scotland. He loved how Scotland is still green. I go to where he died and I look out over the grass and trees, it’s beautiful.
“When the sun sets it reflects on his name. It feels like the right place where he died – which is ridiculous because he shouldn’t have died but he would’ve appreciated the view.”
Aside from tenderly tending to the memorial, mobile hairdresser Mrs McDaid regularly posts on social media to maintain the Justice For Jonny campaign.
“I write things every day. Sometimes it’s really hard and I’m crying while I’m writing something,” she said.