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Dublin: 15 °C Monday 17 June, 2019
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"I looked up to you more than you can imagine, the king of tomfoolery."

The funeral mass for Berkeley victim Niccolai Schuster was held today.

“ONE OF THE easiest and most important things to give a child is roots, the most difficult thing to give them is wings. They are equally important.”

THE MAIN ROAD in the South Dublin village of Rathgar was turned blue and red today for the funeral of Berkeley victim Niccolai Schuster.

Blue, the colour of the 21-year-old’s secondary school St. Mary’s, and red, the colour of his football team, Bayern Munich.

Hundreds of young people wore both colours as they guided Niccolai’s coffin into the Church of the Three Patron’s in Rathgar this morning.

Some wore Munich jerseys with the name ‘Nicko’ or ‘Schuster’ across their shoulders.

Funeral - Niccolai Schuster. Pictured Hundreds crowded inside and outside the church in Rathgar. Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

One student carried a large blue flag bearing the school’s five pointed star emblem as the coffin made its way slowly down the Rathgar Road.

The sporting camaraderie was a constant throughout as Fr. Richard Olin presided over the funeral mass.

Mourners overflowed into a lush garden attached to the church on what was an otherwise beautiful sunny day in Dublin 6.

Niccolai’s friend Rory McPhillips gave a taste the young man’s passion for his friends, his family and sport.

Two large collages of photographs of Niccolai with his friends were placed either side of the casket.

“Ten collages would not have sufficed,” said Rory.

Others brought local sporting memories to the altar. A photograph of the Beachwood football team that Niccolai coached and a Bushy Park Rangers jersey, a team he had helped to set up.

Ruby Walsh’s jockey colours and a racing programme were also placed beside the coffin.

“We often wondered where Niccolai sourced his tips from,” Rory said. “They often seemed to work better for him than for the rest of us. It’s safe to say Cheltenham week won’t be the same for any of us.”

Two other friends brought Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Mi-Wadi. Nicc’s favourite hangover cure explained Rory.

Funeral - Niccolai Schuster. Pictured His coffin was draped in the scarves of St. Mary's and Bayen Munich. Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

‘Hi Bull’

“The word that best describes Nicc was magical,” began Niccolai’s father John Schuster.

“He was exotic, always up for a laugh and he’d a great sense of the ridiculous. He called me ‘the Bull’. I would walk in from work and he’d look up from the Playstation and say ‘Hi Bull’. All I had to do was look at his face and the world seemed so much better.”

“He had the purest of souls, and he kept his innocence. I was privileged to have Nicc as my son.”

His father described the unimaginably painful moment when the family heard that their son had died in the balcony collapse last week.

Niccolai and his brother younger Alexei were “inseparable”, said John.

“When Alexie got the bad news, he was sitting at the kitchen table. He jumped up and raced into the garden. With his hands held high, and looking to the sky, screaming with all his might, ‘I love you Nicc’.”

Niccolai Schuster funeral Source: Niall Carson/PA Images

Niccolai’s father also joked about his sporting relationship with his son and how they coached Alexei’s Transition Year football team. Father as manager and son as coach.

To howls of laughter inside and outside the church, he described their working relationship:

There was no doubt in his mind as to who called the shots. He sacked me three times over the course of the year.

The bereaved father said his son had “no fear” and his love of travelling was unquenchable:

The picture of Nicc standing on the rooftop swimming pool in Bangkok with his arms spread depicts Nicc’s openness.
That picture talks to me, he is shouting from the rooftop in Bangkok, ‘I am Nicc Schuster and I am here to make new friends!’. And that’s what he did.

“This tragedy will increase the nervousness for parents of children leaving these shores,” he continued.

“I would like to send a message to the parents of Ireland. Let your kids go, do not let this incident deter you. Let your children have freedom, it will give them life experience.”

‘King of Tomfoolery ‘

Niccolai’s younger brother Alexei is in fifth year in St. Mary’s. He bravely spoke about the bond between them.

He laughed that, when getting in trouble recently in school, the teacher joked that the last person she’d written a docket for was his older brother Niccolai.

“For some reason I was bursting with pride to be likened to him.”

“I looked up you more than you can imagine, the King of Tomfoolery. I gained respect in the school and nightclubs I’d gone to, just for the simple fact that I was Nicc’s brother and they thought I must be like him. I can only hope to be half the man you were Nicc.”

“Some say to me that what struck them about our family is that we are more than that, but four best friends that did everything together. With my Mum attempting to keep her three children, myself, my Dad and Nicc in line. Only to give up and join in.”

“Now I know that I will never fear the next life because I will be reunited with my best friend Nicc.”

Funeral - Niccolai Schuster. Pictured The Church of the Three Patrons in Rathgar. Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

The Lion King

Music throughout the Mass was sung by the St. Mary’s Parents Choir of which Niccolai’s mother Graziella Schuster was a member.

The choir has also sung at the funeral of Eoghan Culligan yesterday.

She thanked the choir for their support and especially for their medley of songs from The Lion King, “Nicc absolutely adored it,” she said.

“Nicc never liked anyone to be sad or down around him and he always tried to bring them out of themselves. For that I am very proud,” Graziella told the church.

“As many of you know, Nicc loved practical jokes. Especially frightening the living daylights out of me.”

“Over the last two years, Nicc and I became particularly close and spent a lot of time together. The Playstation was in my office and he would play away as I was working, the two of us chatting away.

Nicc, sorry lads, regaling me with funny stories of what he and you had all been up to on your last night out.”

Graziella also sent a message to her son Alexei, someone she says was “the one particular love” of Niccolai’s life.

“Nicc will forever be Alexei’s outrider, protecting him and revelling in all the good times to come for Alexei.”

One of the easiest and most important things to give a child is roots, the most difficult thing to give a them is wings. They  are equally important and John and I gave Niccolai both. God bless and you my darling boy, you will be forever in our hearts. Thank you.

Read: Olivia Burke’s father wants today to be a celebration of his daughter’s life >

Read: ‘Eoghan was our translator, sense-maker and peacemaker. He was our wiser brother’ >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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