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Long lost formal dress of Northern Ireland woman found in charity shop

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Rachael Finlay in her first prom gown with gran Carrie

Rachael Finlay in her first prom gown with gran Carrie

Rachael Finlay in her first prom gown with gran Carrie

A Co Tyrone woman has told of her surprise after a formal dress she lost more than a decade ago turned up in a charity shop.

Rachael Finlay was delighted when she spotted the gown hanging up in the Cancer Focus Northern Ireland store in Newtownstewart 12 years after it went missing.

The dress has extra poignancy because Rachael was wearing it in one of the last photos she had taken with her granny Carrie Finlay, who passed away from cancer a few years later.

Rachael (27), from Victoria Bridge near Strabane, works in special education and is also a respite carer for adults with disabilities.

She explained: "I was about 15 or 16 and a friend asked me to go to her school formal with her. It was a late invitation so I hadn't much time to buy a dress and I just couldn't find anything.

"Eventually I saw this dress but it was quite expensive, over £200. It fitted like a glove and I felt like a princess in it. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was meant to be and nothing else compared. My lovely parents splashed out and bought it for me, I was that desperate.

"At the formal my friend accidentally knocked over a candle and a flame flared up. Everyone jumped back and I caught my dress on something and ripped the netting.

"Later on I brought the dress to a dressmaker to have it repaired. She was to send away for some material to fix it but somehow time went by and I never picked it up. I lost touch with the dressmaker, so I suppose she eventually had a clear out and gave the dress to charity."

She thought that was the end of it - until recently dropping into the Cancer Focus shop in Newtownstewart.

"There hanging up was my dress with a price tag of £10 on it. Apparently it had just been donated," she explained.

"I recognised it straight away because the tear is still in it. I was totally amazed."

Rachael was delighted to get the dress back to keep for its sentimental value.

"It's still torn and damaged and it's a size 6, so it doesn't fit me anymore, but I love having it as a reminder of my granny," she added.

"She was very much one of a kind, she loved McDonald's and drove a sporty Honda Civic! It's her 10th anniversary this year."

Belfast Telegraph