Mayor hosts Carrickfergus fundraiser who continues to inspire as she faces personal health challenge

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
A Carrickfergus woman’s remarkable fundraising in the face of adversity has received civic recognition.

Clara Smyth, who faces her own health challenge, has been an innovative supporter of charity over many decades.

Her tireless efforts for worthy causes saw her hosted recently in the Mayor’s Parlour by Mid and East Antrim Borough’s outgoing first citizen, Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna and Knockagh Councillor Bobby Hadden.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

One of Clara’s earliest initiatives in the 1990s - with the support of Whiteabbey Primary School - was raising funds towards research into and treatment for Perthes disease. Her daughter Cathy was suffering from the rare childhood condition that affects the hip.

Clara Smyth signs the visitors' book as the Mayor, Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna (third from left) looks on, included are Cathy, Johnny and Jill Smyth.Clara Smyth signs the visitors' book as the Mayor, Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna (third from left) looks on, included are Cathy, Johnny and Jill Smyth.
Clara Smyth signs the visitors' book as the Mayor, Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna (third from left) looks on, included are Cathy, Johnny and Jill Smyth.

Cathy explained that her mother “has always been very thoughtful and caring, and always looking for opportunities to give back”.

After running a furniture business in east Belfast from the 1970s, Clara decided to step back from this around the year 2000, which allowed her to start volunteering in Northern Ireland Hospice twice a week on Somerton Road.

Cathy added: “She was based in the ‘Day’ Hospice department, where she helped with the hairdressing, giving patients a wash and blow dry to help make them feel better about themselves, among other general jobs or anything that needed done.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Further charity fundraising followed through a make-up brand’s commission-based personal selling. Clara signed up but agreed that all of her earnings would go directly to the NI Hospice.

Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna welcomes Clara Smyth and guests to the Mayor's Parlour.Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna welcomes Clara Smyth and guests to the Mayor's Parlour.
Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna welcomes Clara Smyth and guests to the Mayor's Parlour.

“She used her sales background, and ability to form relationships and friendships with everyone, becoming one of the most successful consultants in Northern Ireland and over the space of five years, raised over £75,000.”

During the lockdown period in early 2021 her husband, John, was in hospital and with strict restrictions in place, she was unable to visit for 14 weeks. Clara started chatting with people outside at her home at Carrick Marina, and leaving out some new garden ornaments.

Always thinking of a fundraising opportunity, she turned her public-facing garden into a project in support of the Islandmagee-based charity, Hope House Ireland, which provides cancer patients and their families or carers with a place for rest and recuperation, during or after their treatment.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Many fellow residents, support her with the fundraising efforts, along with the visitors to the marina who love to pass the garden and see the various displays on show which changes seasonally."

Clara’s biggest efforts are around Christmas time and her 2023 display included an 8ft polar bear statue called ‘Tucker’. Along with the help of her family, she created a social media page about the garden to spread the word and as of last month, the total was approaching £22,500.

In April 2022, Clara was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and she underwent two major operations with extensive recovery periods, followed by six cycles of chemotherapy. "While her particular cancer is not curable, it is treatable and continues to be monitored by the hospital,” added Cathy.

Throughout her treatment, Clara was adamant they would still continue the fundraising efforts. If anything, Cathy noted, “it spurred her on more as she now could relate exactly to those who have gone through cancer treatment and knows first hand the benefit and need for places like Hope House to provide a retreat and rest for those with cancer and their families”.