Four cakes for a birthday

02 November 2006

A WHOLE week was given to celebrating Betty Derbyshire's 100th birthday, and she deserved it. For more than 20 years she was a missionary in China. Against her parent's wishes, she joined the China Inland Mission in 1929, and married a fellow missionary, the Revd Arnold Derbyshire, in 1935.

They lived through the Japanese occupation, when their house was fire-bombed. Mrs Derbyshire was later shot at by bandits on the Yangtze River ( "with only minor injuries", says her son-in-law, George Stone). Her freedom to work was curtailed by the Communist revolutionaries, who also prevented her seeing her daughters (away at school elsewhere in China) for long periods.

Then in 1951 the family was turned out of China by the Communists, and returned to southern England, where Mr Derbyshire became a country vicar. They retired in 1975 to live close to her daughter, Rene, and George Stone in Somerset. But after her husband died ten years ago, she knew that Mr and Mrs Stone were hankering to live in the Scottish Highlands close to their son, her grandson, and, when she was 97, she said they had better get on with it while she was still young enough to go with them.

She still has reasonable health and mostly looks after herself, says Mr Stone, and regularly attends the small Episcopal church, St Ninian's, in Glenurquhart (Moray, Ross & Caithness diocese), where she had one celebration of her birthday. Children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren (some came specially from Canada) gathered for a family lunch, when the Deputy Lord Lieutenant delivered greetings from the Queen. There was a trip up the Cairngorm Mountain Railway (right), a concert, when she was piped to her place, and a special service of thanksgiving at the Drumnadrochit Church of Scotland church, where she is a member of the Bible-study group and has many friends.

Amid all these events she was given four birthday cakes, "and we're still eating them," Mr Stone told me.

Subscribe now to get full access

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read up to twelve articles for free. (You will need to register.)