Looking back at the day Cilla Black surprised Larne pair

Cilla Black pictured with Peggy Shaw and Mae Balfour on 'Surprise Surprise'.  INLT 32-686-CON
Cilla Black pictured with Peggy Shaw and Mae Balfour on 'Surprise Surprise'. INLT 32-686-CON

A Larne pensioner has recalled her fond memories of former TV star Cilla Black, who sadly passed away at the weekend.

The entertainer, who had a string of pop hits in the 1960s before presenting TV shows like Blind Date and Surprise Surprise in the 80s, died at her Spanish villa on Saturday, aged 72.

Tributes have been pouring in on social media sites, with local people taking to Facebook to express their sadness at Cilla’s sudden death.

And one Larne woman has been looking back at the unforgettable day Cilla arrived at her place of work – the former Mourne Clothing Company – in the early 90s.

Mae Balfour, who worked in the clothing factory with her pal Peggy Shaw, both appeared in an episode of Surprise Surprise.

The premise of the Saturday night TV show, which aired from 1984 to 2001, involved surprising members of the public with long-held wishes, setting up tricks, prank phone calls to people and reuniting guests with long-lost loved ones.

The local pair had been nominated to take part in the show by a colleague due to their contributions to local charities over the years.

Mae told the Times: “Peggy and I spent about three days with Cilla filming for the TV show. I remember it was snowing and we travelled up through the Glens of Antrim and to the Giant’s Causeway.”

The 74-year-old added: “Peggy, who now lives in Tazmania, was a big Cliff Richard fan. She used to have a big poster of him at work in the Mourne, so Cilla sang one of his old songs called ‘In the Country’.

“We were then taken over to the studio in London and put up in a nice hotel. We had a great time.

“Cilla was a really lovely person, she was so down to Earth and was always talking about her family.

“She was very easy to get on with and made us feel comfortable.

“I was shocked to hear that she had died so suddenly, and my thoughts are with her family.”

Latest reports suggest the star may have died from a stroke after falling over.

Her three sons travelled to Spain to bring their mother’s body home.

Cilla’s husband of more than 30 years, Bobby Willis - also her manager - died from lung cancer in October 1999.