'First lady of Ballymoney' Mollie Holmes dies at 101 after life of service
A remarkable retired mayor, who was still actively involved in community life despite passing the milestone century mark, has died at the age of 101.
Mollie Holmes OBE, who was one of Co Antrim's best known citizens and often referred to as "the first lady of Ballymoney", passed away yesterday.
Mrs Holmes was the first Freeman of Ballymoney Borough, a former councillor and mayor, and charity activist. She was honoured by the Queen in 1978.
She entered local government in May 1955 as the first female member of Ballymoney Urban District Council.
She remained an elected independent member until May 1985, where after 30 years' service she stepped down from the office of mayor, which she had held for eight years in a row.
In a newspaper interview last spring Mrs Holmes revealed that as she approached her 101st birthday last August she still devoted herself to public service and was delighted to be called upon to perform an official opening of a shop in the town.
Many political representatives paid tribute, including deputy mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Council Darryl Wilson.
"Mrs Holmes made an invaluable contribution to Ballymoney and the surrounding area by dedicating over 30 years to public service," he said.
"Mrs Holmes also filled the position of chief citizen faithfully and honourably for a period of eight successive years, which is an achievement in itself.
"The legacy left by Mrs Holmes has inspired me and will continue to inspire others for generations to come."
She was born in 1914, and in 1978 met the monarch when she was awarded an OBE.
Speaking last year, Mrs Holmes said: "I met the Queen and some of the others, Princess Anne, over the years.
"The Queen gave me the OBE in 1978, and she came to Ballymoney when I was in charge of Girls' Brigade cadets in 1953, and we had to stand at Ballymoney Train Station when she came out."
When interviewed on her 100th birthday in 2014, Mrs Holmes said: "I've had plenty of life and have enjoyed life and all that belongs to it.
"I've no regrets. I've had a wonderful life.
"If I've been able to bring pleasure to someone less fortunate then me, I can retire happily."
Among other tributes was one from Finance Minister Mervyn Storey, an MLA for North Antrim.
He said Mollie was a "much-loved part of life" in the town for over 60 years.
"She was the absolute embodiment of public service, having devoted nearly her entire life to the betterment of the community and the people of Ballymoney," he said.
"I count it a privilege to have known Mollie and to have helped celebrate some of the major milestones in her life over the last few years."
DUP MP Ian Paisley said: "Mollie was a wonderful and inspirational lady who played a key part in the life of the town and district. I met her on many occasions. Mollie was an institution and will be irreplaceable as a character of the district.
"I know many will hold their happy memories of her company and presence. I wish to extend my sympathy."