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Skidmore's Island: The Brightest Star

...She was a successful novelist and short story writer, a painter, a maker of exquisite miniature rooms and a gardener, though her garden was a toy wheelbarrow. She made jewellery and greetings cards, lace and tapestries on tiny canvases with a miniature needle and very fine thread...

Ian Skidmore pays tribute to a most remarkable human being.

You will not have heard of her but when Rebecca Osborne died a bright star went out of our firmament. Someone told Lloyd George, “I thought you would have been taller.” Lloyd George replied: “In Wales we measure people from the neck up!”

By those standards Becky was the only giant I ever met. In size she was no bigger than an agate stone on the forefinger of an alderman. A crippling illness meant that she was only three feet high and weighed just 40 lb. She suffered from Werding Hoffman syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes wasting of the muscles.

Suffered? Not Becky. Although almost totally paralysed, with only slight movement of the head and hands, she was a successful novelist and short story writer, a painter, a maker of exquisite miniature rooms and a gardener, though her garden was a toy wheelbarrow. She made jewellery and greetings cards, lace and tapestries on tiny canvases with a miniature needle and very fine thread.

She also made friends like Princess Anne, the writer Celia Haddon and the actor Anthony Andrews, who took her to lunch and gave her his prized “Brideshead” teddy bear.

She was an indefatigable charity worker. With her mother Jenny she turned their garden at Foxbrush, Port Dinorwic, in North Wales, into an award winning member of the National Gardens Scheme.

She was 28 when she died. Even in that she was a record holder because no one else suffering from the disorder, including her sister Vicky, had ever lived beyond the age of six. Nor, it should be said, have many fit people packed so much into so short a time or extended so much love and friendship to so many people.

She once said to me: ”I am long past my sell by date but I cannot let something as silly as a disability stand in my way. There is no point in letting it beat you.”

It never did. She exhibited her tiny 3D model rooms at National Eisteddfods all over Wales. She had sell-out shows at Oriel Ynys Mon, Anglesey, for which she won the North Wales artists development award; Oriel Bangor and the Beaumaris Festival in which she competed successfully against hundreds for a showing in the festival exhibition.

She lived with her parents Jenny and Brian at Foxbrush, a converted 17th century mill. Devoted parents who every night for 28 years took it in turns every half hour to turn her over in her tiny bed; who tirelessly supported her, were her ardent followers in everything she chose to do and were broken hearted and bereft at her loss.

Becky was never able to go to school. Teachers came to her but she had to take whatever teacher was available. For a year it was a music teacher; for two years she learned nothing but maths. She enrolled at the Gwynedd Technical College to do A level English. More accurately, the College enrolled in Foxbrush. A tutor would arrive with five fellow students who became her devoted friends. Needless to say, she passed with top grades.

But nothing in life became her so much as her manner of leaving it. She had been deteriorating since 1997, when she was told she had only three weeks to live. In contemptuous response she joined the Sealed Knot, went to a dozen musters a year, researched the Civil War in exhaustive detail and cozened her parents into a frenzy of costume making and creating cameo roles.

For ten weeks before her death, she bravely battled against excruciating pain which became worse over the Christmas holiday. Even then she was building 3D rooms for her next exhibition and when her hands became totally paralysed used her mother's hands.

When she died there was a Memorial Exhibition of her works although in truth she needed none. Becky is her own memorial which she erected in the heart of anyone who was privileged to know her.

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Do visit Ian's Web site http://skidmoresisland.blogspot.com/

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