Two brothers who died in a house fire have been described as ‘shining lights’ at their joint funeral.
Talented musician Jack Sykes, aged 12, and his aspiring athlete brother Paul, just nine, were killed by a blaze at their father’s home in Penistone, near Barnsley, last month.
Yesterday heartbroken family and friends gathered at St John the Baptist Church, with dozens more mourners braving the heavy rain to form a ‘circle of love’ outside.
The centre of the town fell silent as two white coffins were carried inside. The boys’ mother, Claire Sykes, led the mourners – many dressed in bright colours – into the church.
Father David Hopkin led the hour-long service for Jack and Paul, which featured tributes, songs and fond memories.
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Andrew Platt, headteacher of Springvale Primary where Paul was a pupil and Jack was a former pupil, spoke fondly of the brothers.
He said: “I think we’d be doing both them and Claire a disservice if they were to be remembered for the tragic nature of their death.
“Instead, let’s try to remember the shining light that was their lives.”
Jo Higgins, principal of Penistone Grammar School, read tributes from teachers and classmates of Jack and went on to talk about his talent as a trumpet player.
At the same time as the funeral, a service was also being held at the school.
Jo Hannar, the boys’ cousin, shared stories of them growing up and said she will always remember Paul for his ‘cheeky smile’ and Jack for his ‘glass-half-full view’, and both for their ‘love and generosity’.
Father Hopkin said the boys had been looking forward to Christmas and had already been through the Argos catalogue to write their lists.
He said: “They were both very caring and loving towards each other, quite literally right up to the end of their lives.
“The last words spoken by the boys were words of love to their mum as she dropped them off at school.
“On the Wednesday morning, as always, they would both respond to their mum’s words ‘love you’ with the words ‘to infinity and back’.
“Today the circle of love formed around this church is a beautiful gesture.”
He added: “It is so important we find a voice today as a community together, and that we say to this town and to the world about us that we are not being defeated in the face of what human beings are capable of.”
Paul died in the blaze on Tennyson Close, Penistone, but Jack was pulled out alive and survived for five days before succumbing to his injuries – smoke inhalation and 56 per cent burns.
The boys had been visiting their dad, Paul, 44, who was separated from their mum and who also died in the blaze, when the fire started.
Fire and police investigators ruled the fire was started deliberately and an accelerant had been used. They have said they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the tragedy.
Mother’s funeral poem to sons jack and Paul:
To Jack and Paul
I love you both so very much
And I loved you equally the same
No matter what each day would bring and even when you fought
We remained united in heart and thought
We shared a bond which was deep and true
Unbreakable to the end
And when I held you in my arms I never wanted to let you go
We shared love and laughter tears and distress
Triumphs and disasters
Two lovely boys just trying to do your best
I have to let you go now and it’s breaking my heart in two
Run now with the angels Paul
Jack keep playing your heavenly music, difficult I know because I’m keeping your trumpet safe with me
Our parting like this has broken lots of hearts, mine most of all
But through memories and love you’ll remain safe in our hearts forever more xx