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.