Community stunned as student dies of 'suspected meningitis'

THE community in north Antrim and beyond has been stunned by the death of a young University student from Glenshesk who died on Saturday from a suspected case of meningitis.

Wednesday, 29th September 2010, 1:30 pm

Sympathy has been expressed to the family and friends of Feargal McCaughan (18) of Duncarbit House, Glenview Road, whose funeral was due to have taken place yesterday (Tuesday) in Ballycastle.

His family requested that, if desired, donations in lieu of flowers should go to Meningitis Research, c/o PJ Dallat & Sons, 65 Market Street, Ballycastle, BT54 6DS.

Feargal, a former student at Cross & Passion College in Ballycastle, was a talented hurler who had associations with a number of GAA clubs in the Ballycastle and Armoy areas and was also a member of The Glens Young Farmers' Club where he had excelled at public speaking.

He had his whole life ahead of him and was embarking on a university degree course to study Business Studies at Jordanstown.

Feargal was the son of Brian McCaughan, the former principal of St Mary's Primary School on Rathlin, who is now principal at Braid Primary School in Aughafatten near Ballymena.

Feargal's mother Una is well known as a health care professional in north Antrim and sympathy was expressed by health visitors in Coleraine, Ballymoney and Moyle.

Feargal was a talented sportsman and sympathy was also expressed by McQuillans GAA Club in Ballycastle; Carey Faughs; Glenshesk and Glen Rovers.

A spokesperson for Glen Rovers GAC said: "Feargal was highly respected and a role model and had just graduated to the senior team. His sad passing has created a great void in our club and he will be sadly missed by all his team mates and all associated with Glen Rovers."

A minute's silence was held for Feargal at the County Hurling Final in Belfast on Sunday which involved Loughgiel and Cushendall.

Feargal was a brother of Eamonn, Bronagh, Kevin and Nuala and was a relative of Niall McCaughan, a former Town Centre manager in Ballymoney.

A Requiem Mass was due to be held for Feargal at noon on Tuesday at St Patrick's and St Brigid's Church, Ballycastle, with interment in the adjoining cemetery.

Feargal shared a house with other students in the Belfast area and a University of Ulster spokesperson said other students have since received medical treatment including antibiotics and steps were being taken to contact all 1st year classmates.

The university said it extended its sympathies to the McCaughan family and said they would do all they can to support them.

The Meningitis Trust charity said in a statement: 'Although secondary cases are rare, we are urging everyone in the area to be aware of the signs and symptoms'.

They said symptoms are similar to common illnesses like the flu and can include a rash.

The charity said: 'The symptoms can appear together and some may not appear at all. They include fever (possibly with cold hands and feet), headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, drowsiness, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and confusion.

'In babies, an unusual cry, dislike of being handled and refusing feeds are also signs that can point to meningitis. If in doubt, always seek urgent medical advice,' said the charity.

Ballycastle councillor Cara McShane said the teenager's family are "well-respected" in the local community.

"This news has really hit everyone very hard," she said.

"It is devastating to lose someone so young, who was so active and healthy.

"When you hear that it was meningitis, it is really worrying for everyone. My thoughts and prayers are with the family."