‘An inspirational lady who reached out with love’

The late Mattie Thompson.

The late Mattie Thompson.

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TRIBUTES have been paid to Ballyclare woman Mattie Thompson, who passed away on May 22 at the age of 80.

A devoted wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother, Mattie was well known around the town for her ‘Mattie’s Magic Movers’ dance club, as well as her tireless charity work and organising events and day trips for senior citizens for many years.

Born Martha McClean in March 1932, Mattie was brought up in the Park Street area of Ballyclare. She had two brothers and three sisters.

After attending Ballyeaston Primary School, Mattie later went on to train as a hairdresser in Belfast before setting up in her own salon on the Rashee Road - a business that’s still going strong today.

Mattie married Sammy Thompson in December 1954. The couple set up home together on the Rashee Road and went on to have nine children.

For more than four decades Mattie organised tea dances for senior citizens at the Town Hall and later the Sixmile and Valley leisure centres, with the popular club becoming known throughout the local area as ‘Mattie’s Magic Movers’.

Mattie willingly devoted her time to the senior citizens of Ballyclare, organising day trips and parties for the elderly of the town. She was also an active fundraiser for several charities, including Blythswood Care and Action Cancer.

In June 2008, her outstanding contribution to the Ballyclare community over so many years was officially recognised when she was invited to a special garden party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Newtownabbey Borough Council and was awarded for her service to the local community.

A large crowd of family and friends packed into Ballylinney Presbyterian Church on Friday (May 25) for a service of thanksgiving for Mattie’s life.

Rev Emerson McDowell, who conducted the service along with Rev Roy Vallely, commented: “Mattie was a lady who loved her family, her friends and her neighbours. She also loved her Church and crucially, she knew and loved the Lord Jesus. She lived out her devotion to Him by reaching out with love to many people in the town - particularly our senior citizens. She has had a huge impact on many people’s lives and while she has gone to be with her Lord, her loving family and friends will miss this inspirational lady dearly.”

Ballyclare man George Brown, a former member of Mattie’s Magic Movers, knew Mattie and her family for more than 30 years.

“Mattie’s club was very popular, especially with those of us who were into ballroom and old time dancing. It was a very beneficial service for many retired people and senior citizens who looked forward to the fellowship provided by the club.”

Passing on his condolences to Mrs Thompson’s family circle, South Antrim MLA and Ballyclare councillor Paul Girvan said: “Mattie was someone who did a lot of hard work for this town over the years and she will be sadly missed - not only by her family and friends, but also by the wider community.”

Former UUP councillor Vera McWilliam added: “I knew Mattie very well. She ran the dancing club for many years and she was a great ambassador for it and for the town in general. I’d just like to pass on my sympathies to her family.”

Mattie, who was laid to rest at Ballyclare Cemetery, is survived by her husband Sammy, her daughters May, Sharon, Patricia and Leonora, her sons John, Simon and Sam and her brother George and sisters Maureen, Marie and Sheila.