#WOW S1P1: Some of the Most Inspiring Women in Northern Ireland

#WOW S1P1: Some of the Most Inspiring Women in Northern Ireland

May 1, 2019justabelfastgirl

#WOW S1P1: Some of the Most Inspiring Women in Northern Ireland


Some of the links contained within this post are affiliate links which means I may receive a very small amount of money for any books that are purchased. As it’s my birthday tomorrow, any funds made from these purchases are going straight to the Dogs Trust. If you wish to donate to the Dogs Trust in honour of my birthday, you can do so, here.

What is the #WOW Movement?

I don’t know if a lot of you know, but Jacqueline Gold (yes, thee Jacqueline Gold of Ann Summers) has launched an amazing campaign called WOW – Women on Wednesday’s. She encourages female business owners to tweet her with their business and a bit about them. She then picks her top three women and retweets their details to her followers across social media to help build up their businesses. I’ll go into more detail about this on a separate post as it’s a fantastic initiative and more kick-ass women really should know about it.

This inspired me to really sit down and think about some of the most influential women that I’ve come across my life. We all know by now that I have mummy issues, but I don’t want to focus on that in this series. I want to shine a light on some amazing women in business, it won’t be your stereotypical Beyoncé or Michelle Obama (who are both kick-ass women in their own right). No, it’ll be women who some of you may not be aware of, and some you might and they all work in a variety of fields, too so there should hopefully be someone for everyone (I love diversity, me).

As I am Just a Belfast Girl, of course, Northern Ireland was going to be the first on the list. I can’t help that I’m biased, #sorrynotsorry.

1. Judith Gillespie, Ret. Chief Constable of the PSNI

#WOW S1P1: Some of the Most Inspiring Women in Northern Ireland
Photo Credit: Belfast Telegraph

WHAT A WOMAN! For those of you that don’t know Judith Gillespie is the former Chief Constable of the RUC/Royal Ulster Constabulary (now, the PSNI/Police Service of Northern Ireland). Judith joined the RUC back in 1982 when it wasn’t okay to be a female police officer. She was told that if she wanted to be a female peeler she’d need to work hard to get recognised and that’s exactly what she did. She joined the RUC after being rejected twice because they weren’t recruiting women back then. 

Inspiring in So Many Ways

To hold the title of Chief Constable of the PSNI is an achievement all on its own. It’s the highest ranking you can hold in the PSNI and correct me if I am wrong, but all police constabularies in the UK. 

However, to be the first FEMALE Chief Constable of the PSNI has paved the way for so many other inspiring female police officers in Northern Ireland, the highest rank before this was Chief Superintendent (if you aren’t aware of the police rankings, I have included this here). For a country that is seemingly known for The Troubles and for having only two religions (that’s a load of bollocks by the way. We’re a very diverse community and a very accepting one despite what the media may report), this was an amazing achievement. The Chief Constable has a lot of work to do, especially in NI given our Good Friday Agreement. 

This isn’t the only amazing thing that Judith has done. She has also done quite a few speaking engagements on behalf of quite a few women’s organisations as so many women wanted to hear her story. Who wouldn’t? Judith is someone that we can all learn a lot from, like all the other women I plan to feature. Judith has worked as an Ambassador for several organisations over the years, she sits on several Boards and does a tonne of charity work, as well.

She did a very good interview with the Belfast Telegraph which I’ll link here and made a comment about being asked to be filmed giving her children breakfast, her response was outstanding and there again it just shows how lacking in sense some of the media outlets are. 

2. Anna Burns

#WOW S1P1: Some of the Most Inspiring Women in Northern Ireland
Anna Burns with her award-winning book, Milkman and her 2018 Man Booker Prize award. Photo credit: Society of Authors

Anna Burns is a Man Booker Prize (2018) award-winning author of Milkman, Little Constructions and No Bones which is based around experiences of a girl growing up during The Troubles. 

She is the first author in Northern Ireland to win the Man Booker Prize award and is widely known in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom and throughout the US and other European countries.

The Man Booker Prize is one of the most prestigious awards an author can obtain in the Lit industry. Anna is a best seller and a massive inspiration to me as one of the only authors I’ve heard outside of the US and Canada to win an award like this.

Other awards that Anna has under her belt are the 2018 National Book Critic Circle award winner for Milkman and the 2001 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize for No Bones. She was also shortlisted for the 2002 Orange Prize for No Bones. She’s really someone to inspire to be careerwise.

She’s from Ardoyne, Belfast, Northern Ireland and her books are incredible and worth reading if you are interested in psychological thrillers or fiction crime thrillers about Northern Ireland.

3. Melanie Grimsley

grad 174jpg

I was in the hospital with Melanie at the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children. Her story is one that I will never, in my life forget. My daddy first told me it when I found a photo of me, her, a few other kids and our nurses amongst some other photos. If I can find the photo (which I hope I can) I’ll include it. I asked my daddy, “Daddy, what happened to this child?” He told me for the first time and many a time since then of Melanie’s story.

I’m the drugged up kid in the pram, with the arm splints on.

The Epitome of the Word Survivor

Melanie had just turned two in 1988 when she was in her parents’ car outside a shop in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland with her big sister, three-year-old Amanda. Her mum had just nipped into the shop to buy milk, back then it was fine to leave your kids in the car for a few minutes.

The car went up in flames, from the story my dad told me there was a possibility that it was connected to The Troubles, but from research and reading I have done since then,  they still don’t know what happened. Sadly, Melanie’s big sister didn’t survive.

As you can imagine with 3rd-degree burns across all of her body, she hasn’t had it easy,  I’ve followed news stories over the years as seeing the pain she was in, in hospital and just knowing the story has always stayed with me. Kids are cruel, and from the book and articles, I’ve seen I know she got a lot of shit thrown her way. She really is the epitome of a survivor.

In 2011 she released a book called Beauty for Ashes, it’s a book I made sure I got a hold of when I found out about it and it’s one I highly recommend you read. She’s a single mum with two boys, works part-time as a Legal Consultant and in 2015 she raised funds and flew down to India at her own cost to meet and help acid attack survivor’s, and bear the burden of costs for their surgeries. 

Melanie’s book is still available on Amazon

If you know of a particular inspirational woman that you think should feature on my #WOW series then please DM me and let me know all my social media platforms are on the footer of my site. I plan to cover Ireland next and after that will the rest of the United Kingdom before moving across the water.

#WOW S1P1: Some of the Most Inspiring Women in Northern Ireland
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Comments (1)

  • Nyxinked

    July 25, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    Beautiful post! These women all deserve recognition and I love that you’ve given them that, even on a small scale. I think it’s amazing what Jacqueline Gold is doing both in regards to helping out other female business owners and providing quality products in her stores.

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