HUNDREDS of mourners, including several Super League stars, paid their respects at the funeral of 12-year-old cancer battler Harrison Ledsham.
A packed St Mark’s Church in Harrison’s native Haydock heard heart-rending tributes to a “remarkable hero” who had fought with every ounce of his strength during his year-long battle with bone cancer.
Harrison’s piano teacher Chris Kissock played as mourners entered the church, with Hozier’s Take Me To Church ringing out as his coffin, draped in a flag in the colours of his beloved Saints, was carried past a guard of honour from his local Scouts troop.
Rev Ian Hopkins conducted the service, with tributes read out by family friend Gill Wilton, deputy headteacher of Haydock High School, Dee Griffiths; his former headteacher Andy Howard at Legh Vale Primary School and Stephen Cruse from the charity AIM NW UK, who supported Harrison after he had his leg amputated.
Mrs Griffiths spoke of Harrison’s popularity and his sense of humour, which, she said, had “an inclination to mischief”.
She added: “He was a bright young man, a talented musician, a good sportsman and blessed with a personality which exuded kindness and thoughtfulness.
“Given his popularity it wasn’t difficult to engage support in a fund-raising effort to help him to be the next famous Paralympian. What was amazing was the depth of generosity which came not only from our local community but also from far and wide.
“Haydock has lost a remarkable hero but his legacy will live on in the example he has set and the sense of community he has fostered in us all.”
She also paid homage to Harrison’s parents, Karen and Paul, saying: “The manner with which his parents have helped others to cope in this sad time by modelling their own resilience, warmth, humour and generosity of spirit is an example to us all.”
Among the Saints stars were skipper Jon Wilkin and Paul Wellens.
Mr Cruse, who runs AIM NW UK, spoke of Harrison’s achievements of winning the Pride of St Helens and the Pride of Merseyside awards, plus the AIM inspirational child award and said that he had an infectious smile which lit up the room.
He added: “He was a fighter. He certainly was the most inspirational, courageous, determined young man we have ever had the pleasure to meet.”
A montage of photos was shown throughout, ending with a video of him playing Coldplay’s Paradise on the piano.
There was also a special mention for Harrison’s younger sister, Abigail, who died from Sandhoff’s disease, in 2008 shortly before her second birthday.
Harrison’s coffin was carried out to another guard of honour from his Saints heroes, to Ellie Golding’s How Long Will I Love You.