November 27 2014: Clutha: ‘Sometimes I think that this hasn’t happened’

The Evening Times, November 27 2014

THE family of Clutha victim Mark O’Prey will hold a festival on the day he would have celebrated his 46th birthday.

They want to celebrate Mark’s life and his love of music on August 14 with a gathering for his huge group of friends at the family home.

Mark’s dad Ian told the Evening Times the family had received a lot of support from his “exceptional” son’s pals.

However, there is still uncertainty surrounding Mark’s death – and Ian, wife Mona as well as Mark’s sisters Louise and Barbara, believe they will never find out the answers.

Dad-of-one Mark, from East Kilbride, had visited the Clutha on November 29 last year to see his favourite Glasgow ska band, Esperanza.

The 44-year-old, whose nickname was Ops, went to the bar with his friend to buy a drink at around 10.30pm.

As his pal was outside having a cigarette, the police helicopter plunged through the roof.

Pathologists later found Mark died of a head injury.

Speaking from the family home, near East Kilbride, Ian admits the year has gone by in a “daze”.

He said: “Sometimes I think: ‘This hasn’t happened.’ But then we’ve just had to get on with it.”

On November 8 family members gathered at their local pub to listen to Ska bands.

Ian, 67, said: “Mona was crying her head off at the Village Inn, she was quite overcome, because this was Mark and so much of his life.

“He was really into his music in a big way. We used to all go to the Clutha together as a family.”

Ian had wanted to hold a day of music on Mark’s birthday this year but the pain was still too raw.

They are now planning for this event to take place next year.

“Bands are going to come down and play,” he said.

“We’re starting to work out details. It will be like a rave.

“We’re going to get a huge marquee. We’re going to have Mass as well.

“There will be a ticket thing and the money will go to a charity.

“I’m looking forward to it. Mark had so many mates. They still come down here.”

His strong network of friends is evident in the garden of his parents’ converted farm house.

Around 100 pals planted a tree in memory or Mark.

At the bottom of it, there is a plaque placed by his friend Lisa Farrell with the words: “Until we dance again, sleep well, stay free.”

Ian said Mark, who worked as a window cleaner, was “44 going on 12” and added: “I think he took after me, I’m like Peter Pan, too”.

MARK’S love of music took him to gigs across the world.

“He was just a big wean,” said Ian. “He used to go to his festivals and sleep in tents.

“He was a right punk fan. When he was younger he was into Sid Vicious.”

Mark’s son Liam, 16, is similar to his dad, according to Ian. The teenager is expected to visit Mark’s sister and mum-of-three Barbara, 39, at her home in Lochgilphead to learn from her husband, who works in forestry.

Ian said: “Mark would have loved to see Liam doing that.”

Although there have been positive moments, the f amily is still haunted by the handling of Mark’s death.

Ian, who had seen his son that afternoon, said: “He was there from Friday night to Monday morning.

“Why did it take so long to remove him? He was 3ft from the door. We were at the Procurator’s Fiscal’s office and I asked the pathologist: ‘Could my son have been alive for a long time?’ “He said he could have been but he would never have recovered from his injuries. So I asked what time the paramedic saw him roughly.

“They said they couldn’t answer it because the paramedic wasn’t wearing a watch. I walked out.”

Ian also feels let down by the council. He says his daughters were dismissed when they inquired about receiving money from the Clutha Fund and received a two-paragraph letter of reply from the Lord Provost saying they would not receive a share.

The family received £2300 for funeral costs.

Ian said: “I don’t think we’ll ever get the truth.”

On the anniversary of the disaster, the family will go to Mass and a memorial service in Glasgow.

They will never come to terms with what happened but know Mark would have wanted them to be happy.

“There wasn’t a bad bone in his body,” said Ian.

“He would have wanted me to be happy, but I feel emotional. It’s a gigantic loss.”

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