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Mona Rainey: Dance fan enthralled family with pearls of wisdom

Mona Rainey, who has died aged 75, used to enthral her family with stories of working as a young girl in a pearl factory.

Mona, whose maiden name was McCollam, grew up on Colin Mountain in the countryside above Dunmurry. She left Upper Falls Public Elementary School in her early teens and immediately took up a position in the factory where artificial pearls and other jewellery were manufactured.

The unique little place of work was going strong and doing good business, with shops in Belfast and elsewhere, when Mona arrived. It had been set up in an old linen mill and employed 10 or 12 workers, whose job was to coat the gems and box them.

But by the time, in 1960, when Mona married Sam Rainey, who worked at Langford Lodge for the Martin Baker ejector seat manufacturers, the pearl-makers had gone out of business. She was just 21 at the altar in Derriaghy Parish Church for the wedding ceremony performed by the Rev Paddy Sheppard.

Mona and Sam had met at a dance and it was love at first sight during a slow waltz. However, the couple had only 25 years together before Sam's death in 1985, leaving her to raise her family of three girls on her own.

Mona, who worked after Sam's passing as an assistant in Crumlin Primary School for 27 years, was a devoted member of St Catherine's Parish Church at Aldergrove.

"She never lost her passion for dancing and was a regular at old-time nights at places like Kilwaughter village hall, near Larne," said her daughter, Gwynn.

Mona rarely missed a service or a social occasion at St Catherine's, where her funeral service was conducted by rector the Rev William Orr. She was laid to rest at Gartree graveyard on the Lough Neagh shoreline, next to her husband.

"She was a lady who always had a welcoming smile and a cup of tea ready when you called at her home to hear stories about the pearl works," said St Catherine's senior minister Canon Sam McComb.

She is survived by her daughters, Gwynn Rainey, Elizabeth Bond and Jacqueline Ferguson, and three grandchildren, Rachel, Andrew and Kelcie.

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