THE grieving family of tragic Kieran "Lally" McColl are facing fresh upset, with a battle with the Canals and Rivers Trust over their plans for a memorial bench for their son.
The McColl family, of Thomas Avenue, Stone, want to site the bench near the spot where Kieran died aged just 21 in May after accidentally falling into the Trent and Mersey canal on his way home after attending the funeral and wake of a friend.
More than £2,500 was raised in the space of just two days in donations from the Stone community for the bench in memory of the popular young man, who would have celebrated his 22nd birthday tomorrow, July 4.
The family had initial positive talks with the CRT's memorials officer, who they say told them the site appeared suitable. But they have now been told the path is "too narrow" for a bench, while setting it back from the path could disturb an established hawthorn hedge. Instead they have been offered a site next to a canal bridge more than 250 yards away.
But mum and dad Denise and Lawrence McColl say that would be no substitute.
"We can't understand why they are objecting to what would be quite a small bench on a really wide area of the canal path," said Mrs McColl.
"We want to have somewhere to sit and reflect where we feel that we are near to Kieran, and a bench further down the canal, just looking out on reeds wouldn't be the same.
"It is not just us - so many of Kieran's friends come to this spot to lay flowers or say a prayer. And we have met complete strangers here too, including elderly people who would be glad of somewhere to sit down. That is true for Kieran's grandfather too, who is 86, and finds it a struggle to get down here.
"It is a beautiful, peaceful spot and it is precious to us now."
Kieran's dad and his two brothers Travis, aged 19, and Sean, 25, visit the site regularly to cut the grass and tidy the memorial.
And one Kieran's best friends, Stuart Jarvie, aged 22, commented: "Having a bench almost half a kilometre from where he died is pointless. You can't speak to him or feel like you are with him if you are that far away."
A spokesman for the CRT commented: "We do have some concerns about the chosen spot for the bench as it's very close to the line of an established hawthorn hedgerow and the towpath is really quite narrow.
"We want people to be able to enjoy the bench in peace on a wider stretch where they won't have to worry about people cycling or bumping past them.
"That's why we've suggested a wider spot a short walk along the towpath which would be more suitable for the bench and also offered to install an appropriate memorial plaque at the family's chosen location to give them a place to reflect.
"We appreciate that this is a really difficult time for Lally's family and we want to work with them."