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All the best: Mary-Clare Deane on her favourite things

By Kerry McKittrick

The 48-year-old is the chief executive of the Grand Opera House in Belfast. She is originally from the city and lives with husband, Tom Baker, in Helen's Bay, Co Down.

My best moment

That was my graduation from Queen's University in 1987 with a degree in English language and literature and political science. I was the first member of my family to graduate from university and on that particular day I had anyone who meant anything there at the ceremony. That was also the day I moved from being at school into the big world of work.

It was a wonderful day, the sun shone and we had strawberries and cream on the lawn. I'm the oldest of seven girls and there have been plenty of graduations after me but mine was a novel experience.

My best way to relax

I do love to walk, but my real way to relax is to go shopping – at least I walk miles around the shops while I'm doing that, though!

My best job

Clearly, my best job is this one but I have a very fond memory of being a library assistant at Queen's during my university days. It was one of the nicest jobs I've ever done – the pay was excellent and double what my sisters earned working in Primark. The people I worked with were fabulous, too.

My best song

She by Elvis Costello. I think it typifies women in terms of us being contradictions. If there's one song that's got close to me in terms of my personality it's probably that one.

My best bit of advice

Tell the truth always, and that comes from my school days. At school at St Dominic's, Belfast, we had Veritas all over our blazers and jumpers. My mother and father were very strong on being truthful as we grew up. They said if you tell the truth you can sleep at night and you don't have to worry about getting caught.

I got another good piece of advice from a lady called Ruth Laird, who I worked for in Debenhams. She told me to focus on what I was good at and to use my skills.

My best gift

A gold bangle that my Aunt Theresa gave me when I was 18. It was something very important to her because all of her sisters gave it to her for her 18th birthday. It was the first piece of expensive jewellery I ever had and I wear it all the time. I hope to pass it on to one of my nieces one day.

My best achievement

It has to be my life to date, as I'm proud at what I've achieved. I pinch myself each morning when I see the Grand Opera House in front of me – I think "I'm so lucky it's mine". The staff here are so nice – they work here because they like it, not because of the money.

My best buy

I've bought and sold a number of houses over the years but one house which I bought for £64,000 went on to sell for £270,000. I did some work to it but also the property market went up and I sold at the right time. It's given me some financial security and was my big break. I was very lucky.

My best movie

It's hard for me to admit, but it's The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. It's set in rural Ireland and typifies a lot of what our culture and heritage used to be about. You also can't ignore the chemistry between the actors.

My best book

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I think it has every ingredient you would want in a novel – romance, mystery, plot and the most interesting thing is that you never know the name of the person who narrates the story.

  • For details on the Grand Opera House programme, visit www.goh.co.uk

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