Racheal’s surprise reunion with her first formal dress

A VICTORIA BRIDGE woman has had a surprise reunion with a very special formal dress which she discovered in a local charity shop.

Rachael Finlay (27) was delighted when she saw her beautiful dress hanging up in the Cancer Focus Northern Ireland charity shop in Newtownstewart, 12 years after she’d lost it.

The dress was extra special because she 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.


“I was about 15 or 16 and a friend asked me to go to the 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,” said Rachael who works in special education and is also a respite carer for adults with disabilities.

“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,” she said.

“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 said.

“I happened to be in Newtownstewart one day and popped into the Cancer Focus NI shop with a few donations.

“There hanging up was my dress with a price tag of £10 on it. Apparently it had just been donated. 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 six so it doesn’t fit me anymore but I love having it as a reminder of my granny. She was very much one of a kind, she loved McDonald’s and drove a sporty Honda Civic. It’s her tenth anniversary this year,” Rachael added.

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