A Ballycastle family relieved to have two brothers home from Australia - where one had been battling for his life and the other facing jail - has paid tribute to those who helped them through their nightmare ordeal.
Patrick Lyttle (31) has recovered from a head injury and coma after being floored in a one-punch attack on January 3 this year by his brother Barry Lyttle (33) in Sydney where they had met up to see in the New Year.
Patrick, who had previously been ‘backpacking’ in Australia, made a “miracle” recovery and he Barry were able to leave Australia after he was given a suspended jail term.
Now back home in Ireland since Wednesday, the family have penned a message of thanks to the community in Ballycastle where Patrick and Barry moved to as teenagers from Belfast.
Their dad, an ex-middleweight boxing professional in the 1960s, Oliver Lyttle (74), lives at White Hall Heights where, on Thursday, celebratory balloons and bunting were put up on the front door ahead of their arrival back in Ballycastle.
Neighbours said they believed the family was celebrating their return home to Ireland by staying in Belfast for a few days but the brothers’ sister Sinead, who also lives in Ballycastle, inserted a family statement in the parish bulletin which went out to churchgoers this weekend at St Patrick’s & St Brigid’s Church.
The statement said: “On behalf of of my father Oliver Lyttle, brothers Barry and Patrick, sisters Karen, Joanne and Jacqueline, and on my own behalf, I Sinead, wish to etend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported us through this difficult time. For all of you who said prayers, lit candles, sent cards, made calls, fundraised and offered words of comfort, we are eternally grateful.”
In the same church back in January prayers were said as Patrick Lyttle lay on a life support machine thousands of miles away.
In the church carpark on Thursday, Fergal McCarry said the community had rallied round the Lyttle family.
He added: “There was a fair bit of fundraising done, there were a few events to help the family. I’m delighted they are home in Ireland. When Barry got 13 months suspended I feared he might have had to stay in Australia for that time.
“I don’t think there was any malice between the two boys who worked together around Ballycastle doing gardens and stuff. Oliver is a lovely man, you couldn’t get nicer. I’m delighted they are home. There had been prayers said for the Lyttle family in January.”
Patrick McFetridge (31) from The Abbey area of Ballycastle, was a classmate of Patrick Lyttle at Cross & Passion College in the town.
He said: “They should be home as a family. I would say the boys would want to keep to themselves now. This town will let them come back and it will be as if nothing happened. Patrick worked as a landscaper and I was actually in his class at school.
“We would always bump into each other in the town. Both of them are as nice as you could get. Patrick was very sporty and very skilful at hurling and liked the creative side of the game whereas Barry was a bit more straight forward in his play. They are genuinely nice people. What happened in Australia was just one of those things that happen because brothers are brothers. I would say they will just pick up where they left off.”
A Cross & Passion College spokesman said: “We are just delighted that whatever plight they had is over with and that the situation has been resolved. They were here post-16 and were good fellas, they were nice charming fellas. We are just delighted that they have come through it, it is good for the town.”
Paul Cochrane, President of Ballycastle Chamber of Commerce, said: “I’m absolutely delighted they are back, back safe and sound, and that Patrick is fully recovered. I am just glad that they are home and what could have been a bad thing has turned out for the better now. They will be glad to get back to normal. I know their dad Oliver more, he is a lovely man.
“It was just one of those things it could just happen to anybody.
“The community are just glad that both of them are home safe and sound and everything has worked out well for them. I think everybody is just glad they are home and it has turned out for the best for them.”
At White Hall Heights on Thursday afternoon it appeared a homecoming party was set to erupt with a yellow balloon and a yellow, green and blue party streamer attached to the front door of the family home at Whitehall Heights where no one was at home.
Neighbour Margaret McNicholl (36) was tying ribbons to bushes in Oliver Lyttle’s garden and she said she understood the family were staying a couple of days in Belfast before returning to Ballycastle.
Said Margaret: “They were around 17 when the moved down here so I suppose Belfast is their home and there will be celebrating to be doing up there but I wanted to get this place decorated for when they come down here. All his other daughters live in Belfast and the one that lives here, Sinead, is away to London this morning.
“Sinead put the balloon and bunting on the door last night but because she was away today she asked me to put yellow ribbons up and I said I would do that to as a welcome home gesture. I can just see Ollie’s face when he comes home.”
She added: “We are glad it has all worked out. There were prayers, total prayers and fundraising because Ollie had met up with a relative in Australia and I suppose they couldn’t stay there for ever so there was the hotel expenditure.
“Patrick was in a coma and it was looking bad back in January but I think the prayers helped and thank God he is young
and athletic, so that probably worked in his favour.”
“Barry had went over for a New Year catchup with his dad Ollie who was once a professional boxer but the young boys never did boxing.
“When you saw that punch I think Barry had the arm of his father but thank God it has turned out well.
“Paddy could have been a pro golfer but he hurt his back. Paddy lived here with his father and he and his dad did landscape gardening but before Paddy went backpacking he was up in Belfast working in a hotel for a a few months and Barry lived up around Belfast where he was a quantity surveyor.
“The two brothers are now going to go round schools and tell people not to fight. Paddy has totally recovered, it is a miracle, that he has bounced back and there are no injuries left behind. Everybody is delighted, it is good news for a change,” said Margaret