Magilligan community rallies to help family in Boxing Day fire

The family of a young boy seriously injured in a house fire in Magilligan on St. Stephen's Day have paid heartfelt thanks to the local community for their support since the terrifying ordeal.

Friday, 13th January 2017, 9:02 am
Updated Friday, 13th January 2017, 10:07 am
Rhys Mullan.

Stephen Mullan, his partner Miriam Ramsey and his children, Ben, Leah, and Rhys, were caught up in the blaze at Seacoast Road, Magilligan, which broke out at 4pm.

Nine-year-old Rhys suffered burns to his face, neck, shoulder, arm, chest and back.

The brave St. Aidan’s PS student is receiving treatment in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, where he has undergone a series of skin grafts.

St. Aidan's, Magilligan GAc at the busy fundraising car wash in Magillligan last weekend. Photo: Cathy McDaid

Since the blaze, Mr. Mullan said they’ve been overwhelmed by the support from family, friends and strangers.

“When you say the words ‘thank you’, it doesn’t sound like much, but I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart,” said Stephen.

Among those who have rallied to help the family are Roisin Anderson and Kelly Canning, friends of Rhys’ mum Annette.

The big-hearted pair organised a fundraising raffle, raising close to £3,500 in less than two weeks. They secured prizes from local businesses and knocked the doors of hundreds of homes to sell tickets.

Louise McLean and Ben Mullan with Alistair Seeley, motorcycle road racer, handing over the signed poster to Ben who saved his little brother Rhys' life. Photo: Stephen McLean

“When we heard what happened, it was such a shock,” said Roisin. “You just can’t imagine what it’s like, so we had to bite the bullet and do something. People were so generous. People wanted to help, and when they bought a ticket they would give an extra tenner. It was unbelievable.

“We had anonymous donations of an iPad, which Rhys lost in the fire, and a television. The PTA at St. Aidan’s PS also replaced Rhys’ Xbox. We can’t thank people enough. Every time I think of it, I get choked up,” said Roisin. “We hope it will help the family replace some of their belongings. Rhys is such an inspiration, a real wee superstar.”

Roisin said St. Aidan’s GAC in Magilligan held a car wash at their grounds last Saturday, raising £450.

Other fundraising is ongoing thanks to Annette’s cousin, Stephen McLean and his wife Louise who’ve set up a Facebook page - Help Rhys Recover - which includes a number of updates each day on Rhys’ condition.

Stephen Mullan (centre) with his son Ben and daughter Leah, receiving a cheque from Kelly and Roisin Anderson and Kelly Canning. Photo: Cathy McDaid

Mr McLean, a local businessman and amateur photographer, is running an auction with prints he has made of UK and Irish photographers’ work. Louise said they’ve had an “overwhelming response” to the fundraiser.

She said they’ve received dozens of pieces of work from photographers all over Ireland and Scotland which they’ll auction on February 5 at the Sperrin Social Club in Coleraine. They’ve set up a JustGiving page at justgiving.com/crowdfunding/s-lmclean

“Rhys has a long road to recovery and we hope this will help. I know they will come through this as they have good family support and Magilligan is a brilliant community. The response has been phenomenal,” said Louise, adding: “Annette is very thankful. She said to me that she is more than thankful for the support.”

Mr. Mullan was on hand to receive the cheque for £3,970; the proceeds from the raffle and the car wash.

St. Aidan's, Magilligan GAc at the busy fundraising car wash in Magillligan last weekend. Photo: Cathy McDaid

“It was very emotional,” said Stephen. “People have been so kind. I was told a couple, aged in their eighties from Drumsurn, made an anonymous donation. The support has been unbelievable.”

Mr. Mullan, on behalf of the family, thanked everyone for their support. While too many to name individually, he paid special thanks to Roisin Anderson, Kelly Canning, Louise and Stephen McLean; St. Aidan’s GAC, and The Point Bar in Magilligan for the collection they held.

Mr. Mullan revealed he has found temporary accommodation thanks to the generous owner of a holiday home in Magilligan.

“We are starting all over again, from scratch, but we’re lucky. It could have been much worse. Rhys is doing better, Ben is coping well, and it was Leah’s birthday on Tuesday,” said Stephen.

“Thank you doesn’t sound like much. The words ‘thank you’ will never be enough.”

Louise McLean and Ben Mullan with Alistair Seeley, motorcycle road racer, handing over the signed poster to Ben who saved his little brother Rhys' life. Photo: Stephen McLean
Stephen Mullan (centre) with his son Ben and daughter Leah, receiving a cheque from Kelly and Roisin Anderson and Kelly Canning. Photo: Cathy McDaid