Tributes have been pouring in for “vivacious” and music-loving teenager Eilidh MacLeod, who was killed in the Manchester Arena terrorist attack.
The family of the 14-year-old, a keen piper from Barra, confirmed yesterday that she was among the 22 victims of the suicide bombing at the Ariana Grande concert.
Medics say her school friend, Laura MacIntyre, 15, has undergone a number of successful procedures but is facing a long road to recovery, and is thought to have serious leg injuries.
Yesterday, Western Isles election candidate Angus MacNeil, who lives on Barra, revealed that Ms MacIntyre was able to say her name to hospital staff when she arrived but has since been under sedation.
He spoke yesterday as he made his way to Brittany in France to console his daughter, who is best friends with Laura and currently on a family exchange trip there.
Mr MacNeil said that the Barra community had been left “heartbroken” for Eilidh’s parents, Roddy and Marion MacLeod, in the wake of the tragedy, which was meant to be a birthday celebration for their daughter.
Mr MacNeil added: “He (Roddy) was a tower of strength when I spoke to him, despite knowing this news and that his daughter’s body would not be released from the coroner for another week.
“Their pain is unimaginable and the circumstances of it are just awful.
“The parents (of both Eilidh and Laura) are very grateful to Greater Manchester Police and Police Scotland’s family liaison officers. They have all been very professional and supportive and their work has been appreciated by Roddy and Marion.
“This should have been such a nice night for the girls, and they had texted at the end of the concert to be picked up, they were doing everything right.”
The island’s worst fears were realised yesterday morning when Eilidh’s family released a statement confirming her tragic death.
It read: “Words cannot express how we feel at losing our darling Eilidh.
“Eilidh was vivacious and full of fun. She loved all music whether it was listening to Ariana or playing the bagpipes with her pipe band.
“As a family we would like to express our thanks and gratitude for the support and kind messages we have received at this difficult time.”
After speaking with Eilidh’s parents yesterday, her great uncle Donald Manford said: “They have had a harrowing and traumatic experience and that continues.
“We have to accept that our worst fears are realised. The grief is beginning to replace the numbness. The community is heartbroken and the support we have received has been overwhelming. We just want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts.
“In all of that we don’t forget Laura and her struggle, and everyone who has lost someone and who is grieving and suffering the consequences of this outrage.”
On Monday night, Eilidh sent a text to her mum who had travelled with them from the Outer Hebrides, requesting that she pick them up from the Manchester Arena as the US singer was performing her final song.
After arriving to scenes of chaos, Mrs MacLeod walked the streets and searched hotels and train stations across the city as she was unable to reach them by phone.
The other parents of both girls travelled down to Manchester on Tuesday to help with the search – and Laura was found on Tuesday evening.
A candlelit vigil was held on Wednesday night on the Isle of Barra to support the two families.
Yesterday, several friends also left tributes on Eilidh’s social media page.
Heather Campbell, posted a video entitled “the Barra piper girls” and wrote: “Piping with the angels now. Sleep tight, Eilidh.”
Annag Maclean, headteacher of Castlebay Community School, where the girls were in the same year and class, said their “worst fears have been realised”, before adding: “However, Eilidh, what she did and what she was will remain with each of us who knew her so well.”
Western Isles Council convener, Norman MacDonald, said the council’s thoughts and prayers are with the family of Elidh MacLeod, and that they were working to put in place the necessary support arrangements for pupils and staff.
Rev Dr Lindsay Schluter, minister of Church of Scotland Barra and South Uist congregations, said the news of Eilidh’s death has been “devastating”.
She added: “This island community will continue to offer its love, support and prayer to each other.”
Highland Council also paid their respects to the victims of the Manchester attack yesterday with staff holding a one minute silence outside their headquarters at 11am.
Amid the UK terror threat level increasing from “severe” to “critical”, Highlands and Islands police Divisional Commander, Chief Superintendent Pillip MacRae, also reassured members of the public that there was no intelligence to suggest any threat but advised to remain alert and report anything suspicious.