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Margaret McGimpsey: A kind and caring fosterer who gave home to over 400 children

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Margaret McGimpsey, who has died, was well-known for her work in fostering, and she was appointed MBE in December 2001 for her care for more than 400 children. She was 83.

Margaret Norah Isobel Thompson was born in Belfast on February 22, 1934, and brought up in the Ormeau Road area.

She was the daughter of John and Sarah Jane Thompson, and the youngest of 11 children, with seven brothers and three sisters. A number of her siblings served in World War Two.

Margaret had dreams of becoming a concert pianist, but her life was changed dramatically by the war and her experience as an evacuee was less than happy.

This inspired her to take up a career later on in providing what she regarded as "proper" care for children.

She went to school in the Ormeau Road area, and excelled in sewing. She joined the former Athletic Stores in the centre of Belfast and helped repair the kits of many local sports teams.

In 1956 she married Leslie and moved to Bangor. They had three children - Joyce, Helen and Ashley.

She continued her work as a seamstress, and in 1966 she commenced her role of more than 40 years in fostering after a chance conversation with a friend. During her career, and ably supported by her husband, she cared for more than 400 children, ranging from babies to teenagers.

Sometimes this was a challenging experience, but she and her husband took in their stride. She also became mother to Alan and Sonya, the youngest of the McGimpsey children.

She was the grandmother of 10 children, and she had three great-grandchildren.

One of the highlights of her career was receiving the MBE from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in December 2001.

Margaret once said: "I was separated from my parents as an evacuee during the Second World War, which brought a lot of pain and heartache, because living in such a large family and extended family, I enjoyed looking after my nieces and nephews.

"I knew that there were so many children out there, who felt that I could provide them with love and care.

"I believe that love can change everything."

Her daughter Joyce said: "She had a great sense of humour and was grateful for everyone who walked into her life.

"She was kind, considerate and compassionate, and her doors were always open.

"She was fulfilled by the work she offered to society, and her legacy carries on through all the children she helped, including her own family.

"She will be sadly missed by her family, extended family and a wide circle of friends."

Mrs McGimpsey was predeceased by Leslie in 2006, just short of their 50th wedding anniversary.

Her funeral service will take place tomorrow at Groomsport Presbyterian Church at 11am.

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