Betty Skyrme: Family lead tributes to former Royston midwife and community stalwart
PUBLISHED: 17:01 24 October 2017
Heartfelt tributes have been paid to a former Royston midwife and community stalwart who has died at the age of 91.
Betty Skyrme passed away at the town’s Richard Cox House care home, where she had been a resident for more than two years, after suffering complications from dementia.
Her son Charles told the Crow: “People she would see around town – she would have either delivered them or their children. In the care home I think she even delivered the children of one of her carers.
“My mother’s job was her life and she chucked everything at it, she really gave it everything.
“Royston became her life. When she got involved with something she gave it her all.”
London-born Betty trained as a nurse at King’s College Hospital in 1944 before being evacuated briefly to Halifax. She then had a stint living in Dundee before she again moved to London – where she had children John, Charles and Catherine – and then Saffron Walden in 1965.
Charles said: “She was a nurse at St James’ Hospital in Saffron Walden, but she was asked to cover for a staff member who had left Royston Hospital – and she got the job there as matron and worked on the maternity ward for nearly 20 years.”
After she retired in 1983, Betty became chair of the Royston Ladies’ Luncheon Club, was involved with the district museum and Royston and District Local History Society, and she did lots of fundraising for the Friends of Royston Hospital.
She married GP Dr Alan Skyrme – who worked at the health centre in Melbourn Street and moved to Royston in the early 1980s.
Charles said: “She organised and ran the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service at the hospital, the Royston Meals on Wheels service for many years, and worked at the hospital baby clinic as a volunteer for a number of years.” Betty was also known to have spent her Christmas at the hospital, preparing Christmas dinner for those who were too unwell to go home for the holiday.
Caring Betty was thrilled to welcome along four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Charles said: “She loved being a grandmother and making a fuss of others, but not herself. I moved to Hong Kong and her other grandchildren lived in France, so she didn’t see them often. but they loved everything about her.
“In line with her not-making-a-fuss attitude, she once fell in Royston High Street, shattering her left femur and hip – and she was lying in the street and a crowd had gathered.
“Two people she recognised were John Routledge, the vet, to whom she said: ’No need to put me down yet!’ – and Jeremy Rule, the undertaker, to whom she said: ‘And I’m not ready for you either!’”
The fall led to Betty going into Richard Cox House, where she stayed until her death on October 9.
Charles said: “Certainly when she first went in there she would hide the dementia, but they knew she was unwell. The sense of community there was good, and she received a high level of care.”
Care team manager Marion Cruszkowska said: “She was a very friendly and sociable lady who enjoyed reading and listening to the radio.
“She was very caring and loved her visits from family and friends.”
The Rotary Club of Royston has also paid tribute to Betty.
Former president David Bannister said: “We were saddened to learn of the recent death of Betty, a leading citizen of the town.
“In 2000, as club president, I was very pleased to present a community service award to Betty to show our appreciation for all her work for the community in which she lived. We shall remember her with respect and affection – she was an example to us all.”
A public service of thanksgiving will follow a private cremation on Friday at St John’s Church in Royston.
Donations in memory of Betty are gratefully accepted for the Richard Cox House Amenity Fund and can be taken to the service or sent to Jeremy Rule Funeral Service in Church Lane.