TRIBUTES have poured in for a popular dinner lady with a 'heart of gold' who has passed away unexpectedly.

Mary Larkin served up lunch and a cheery smile to thousands of pupils at St Gabriel's and St Andrew's primaries over the past 30 years.

The much-loved grandmother was recently rushed to hospital and died a few days later, leaving her family heartbroken.

Carron Munro, a close family friend, says Mary's husband Rab, five children and grandchildren are devastated.

Carron, 43, a TV producer, said: "I've know the family all my life.

"My mum and Mary were good friends.

"Her family are devastated.

"They are in a complete state of shock.

"She and her husband Rab had been married over 45 years and were inseparable."

Carron says Mary was well liked by the children and staff at both schools and only retired last year.

She said: "She was very popular with everyone.

"She had a great sense of fun and her caramel cake was amazing.

"Mary used to make caramel cake for my daughter's birthday parties, nothing was too much bother.

"She was a lovely lady and would have given you her last penny out from her pocket.

"Mary was so kind and I never heard her say a bad word about anyone.

"She had a heart of gold and saw the good in everyone."

Mary was a well known and popular, friendly face in the community.

Carron told the Tele: "Mary was always out and about and would never pass anyone in the street.

"It would take you ages to walk through the town with her because everyone knew her - it was always 'hello Mary'."

Mary was brought up in Braeside and moved to Athole Lane in Larkfield where she and Rab, a bricklayer, raised their family - Chris, Paul, Martin, Alyson and Caroline.

She worked at St Gabriel's for at least 25 years and then at St Andrew's, which opened in 2012 to replace St Gabriel's and Sacred Heart primaries.

Staff and pupils at St Andrew's Primary paid tribute to her when she retired, describing her as 'wonderful'.

They said: "She has been feeding the children of south west Greenock for 30 years. 190 days per year, average 200 children a day. Our very own MarysMeals has fed more than 1 million hungry weans in her time."

Hundreds of people turned out to pay their last respects to Mary at her funeral at St Andrew's Church in Larkfield on Thursday.

Carron said it was a fitting tribute to a special person.

She said: "It was a lovely service.

"Mary would have been pleased to see so many people turn out for her."