Obituary: Mrs Elizabeth Coulter, former Mayoress of Ballymena

MRS Elizabeth Coulter, a former Mayoress of Ballymena from 1993-96, has died after a long illness. She was 87. 

Mrs Coulter (nee Holmes), was the widow of the late Rev Dr Robert James Coulter MBE, a former Mayor of Ballymena and North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assembly member.

Mrs Coulter’s lineage is one of fine farming stock. She was born on 12 August 1932 as the middle of three daughters to farmer Alexander Holmes and mother, Annie, in Lisnalinchey, Ballyclare.

The young Elizabeth was educated at Ballylinney Primary School until her father took a decision to sell the family farm in light of the fact that he had not been blessed with a son to continue the tradition.

The Holmes family moved to Dundonald and Mrs Coulter’s education continued at a local primary school there, until she graduated to Belfast Secretarial College, and later employment with a shipping company.

In her early years, she became a ‘born again’ Christian and it was her faith which became a bedrock of her life.

Her life as a working girl was short-lived, however, and ended when she married a young evangelist known as ‘Bobby’ in 1956.

They first met when he participated in an open air Irish Evangelical Society meeting beside the sea at Portrush.

She supported her husband as he entered study for the Presbyterian Church, first as assistant minister in Westbourne in east Belfast, moving to the County Antrim rural congregation of Clough, near Ballymena, in 1963.

As the minister’s wife in Clough, she played an active role in the Women’s Missionary Association, the forerunner of the current Presbyterian Women organisation.

Mrs Coulter will be remembered as ‘a people’s person’, which was regarded as one of her greatest attributes.

She took a genuine delight in opportunities to meet men, women and children from all walks of life, who immediately warmed to her when they encountered her compassion and humility.

She possessed the confidence and ability to mix with princes and paupers alike and treat them equally with courtesy and respect.

It was this endearing quality which she took into her role as her husband’s constituency worker when Rev Dr Coulter entered politics in 1985 as a Ballymena Borough councillor for the UUP.

However, rather than her life-long membership of the UUP, it will be the caring and dedicated manner in which she conducted herself as Mayoress of Ballymena from 1993-96 for which she will be remembered most in terms of politics.

A keen cook, her home-made apple tarts were a ‘must taste’ during political talks involving her husband at the family home on the Springmount Road, near Clough village.

Likewise, it was as a mother and grandmother that her caring role was most obvious. She became a very strong source of encouragement to son John and his younger sister, also known as Elizabeth in both their studies and respective careers.

Mrs Coulter, affectionately known as ‘Gran’ to her grandsons Daniel and Adam, was exceptionally enthusiastic about the former’s role as a professional actor, and in helping Adam cope with his severe autism.

The high esteem with which Mrs Coulter was held was clearly demonstrated by the tremendous attendance at her Service of Thanksgiving in Clough Presbyterian Church on Sunday 12th January.

Mrs Coulter was laid to rest with her late husband in the family plot in Clough cemetery. She is survived by her son John, daughter Elizabeth, daughter in law Sharon, son in law Nick, grandsons Daniel and Adam, and young sister Agnes.

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