Lives Remembered

Betty Rainsford: Pioneering journalist was small in stature but a force of nature

Betty Rainsford

BETTY Rainsford was a pioneering female journalist at a time when the profession was almost entirely dominated by men.

During her career at the Belfast Telegraph she blazed a trail for other women and was particularly well-regarded for her coverage of the arts.

Betty joined the paper as a general reporter in 1956 and initially covered a variety of stories, although she recalled being told she would "not be sent to the courts or any all-male gatherings”.

Despite the conservative social mores of the time, she was not afraid to address controversial issues when the opportunity arose and was appointed women’s editor of the paper in 1961.

Before entering journalism she had worked for the Committee for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts, a forerunner to the Arts Council, and over the years she promoted many up-and-coming writers and reviewed hundreds of plays.

Although small in stature, she was a force of nature and had a natural spark which made her great company.

Former colleague Ivan Little recalled her telling how she once secured an interview with reclusive Nobel Prize-winning playwright Samuel Beckett.

She had employed the old-fashioned method of finding out his address in Paris and simply knocking on the door in the hope of convincing him to speak.

She retired from the Belfast Telegraph in the early 1980s but was reunited with many former colleagues in 2011 when they organised a 90th birthday party for her.

Betty Isobel Rainsford (née Lowry) died aged 99 on Christmas Eve and her funeral service was held at St Columbanus Church, Ballyholme.

Rector Simon Doogan spoke warmly of her "self-deprecating Ulster modesty and simple, old-fashioned Christian humility" which meant she "never wore her considerable professional achievements on her sleeve".

Betty was predeceased by her husband Lt Col (Ret) Bathoe Rainsford.

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