A visionary who was deeply loved
The death has taken place of Myrtle Smyth, the Belfast woman whose vision led to the creation of the "Angel of Thanksgiving" statue near the Waterfront Hall.
This magnificent 15-metre sculpture, designed by the distinguished Scottish artist Andy Scott, is a towering female figure made from steel tubes and standing on a bronze-cast globe.
The statue's wide reach and embrace are seen as symbolising the need for thanksgiving across a once-troubled city. It also represents a beacon of hope and progress for Northern Ireland, through giving thanks, and it is especially beautiful at night when it is one of the most dominant features of the floodlit Laganside area. The sculpture was cast by the Beltane Foundry in Peebles and constructed by the PF Copeland Company in Newtownabbey.
Many people worked hard to make the statue a reality, but none more so than Myrtle Smyth, whose vision and drive contributed the major thrust to the project. Deservedly she was the acknowledged patron of the Angel of Thanksgiving, which had strong associations with the original Thanksgiving Square in Dallas, and she was responsible for raising a large part of the funding for the project. The Thanksgiving statue, which has national and international significance, will remain an outstanding legacy from, and a tribute to, a remarkable Ulster woman.
Myrtle Smyth, who was 76, was born in the Donegall Road area of Belfast. Her husband Samuel was in the Royal Marines and the family travelled widely on Service duty to Malta, Singapore and other places. Following her husband's death in 1992, Myrtle Smyth further developed her already-established career as a well-known practitioner, lecturer and author on the healing of Christian Science. She spent long periods in the USA on her work, and travelled the world as a lecturer and giving talks.
One of her fundamental beliefs was in the power of thanksgiving. In her seminal book 'The Song Bird Sings Before the Dawn', she wrote: "I have learned that in the midst of conflict, when it appears that there is no hope and that misery is the rule of the day, one can find reason to express gratitude.
"This gratitude is, in turn, the beginning of the healing of the situation. I know that gratitude helped to end the conflict in Northern Ireland and to bring peace and harmony to my home town."
As a person, Myrtle Smyth was delightful company. She had a great ear for a funny story, a remarkable sense of style and of home-making, and as a close friend noted in one of the several funeral tributes, she was a " wonderful shopper". She was deeply spiritual, feisty, courageous and visionary. Like many visionaries, she was not always easy to work with and she was not afraid of controversy, but she was deeply loved by many people and especially by her family and friends. The range of those who attended her funeral from home and overseas was a testimony to her achievements.
Mrs Smyth is survived by her sons David and Paul, by her daughters Linda, Lesley and Tracey, and by her eight grandchildren. Members of her family are currently establishing the Angel of Thanksgiving Charity to promote and develop the concept of thanksgiving to a wider audience.