COLOURFUL balloons were released into the sky at the funeral of a toddler.

Mourners were also asked to wear colourful clothes to commemorate and celebrate the short life of Nicholas Robinson, who suffered from a rare degenerative brain disease that had left him a prisoner in his own body.

Three-year-old Nicholas, of Beech Road, Great Harwood, was struck down with Alper's Disease 18 months ago. The illness slowly robbed him of his ability to walk, talk and even smile.

Nicholas lost his battle last week and died with his family by his side. At his funeral, held at St Bartholomew's Church, Nicholas's uncle Andrew Robinson said his nephew's life had been a rhapsody of love.' He said: "Nicholas was a bright star that brought light into our lives, casting out beams of joy."

The small coffin had pictures of trains and was carried on the short journey from the family home into the church, followed by a procession of mourners carrying balloons.

The nursery rhyme Here we go round the mulberry bush' was played as the coffin, with a bouquet of yellow roses lying on top, was brought down the aisle.

Nicholas's mother Stefanie Robinson, 25, read the poem All is well' before the vicar, the Rev Sandra Purvis, directed the congregation out on to the green.

People gathered in a semi-circle with Nicholas's mother in the middle. Clutching a red heart-shaped balloon, she said: "May these little balloons of love, spread the love of Nicholas."

Over 100 balloons were then set free. Friends and family had rallied around the tot during his illness and set up the Nicholas Appeal charity to raise money for medical care. Local celebrities had been moved by Nicholas's plight, with Rovers players Matt Derbyshire and Paul Gallagher attending charity events to raise money.

Fundraising efforts will now help Derian house and the Rainbow Trust, who gave support throughout Nicholas's illness.

Visit www.thenicholasappeal. to support the cause.