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Artistic Daphne celebrates 100 years of interesting life

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Daphne Bruce at Court Lodge in Lymington with sons Peregrine (right) and Peter
Daphne Bruce at Court Lodge in Lymington with sons Peregrine (right) and Peter

SCULPTOR and poet Daphne Bruce has celebrated her 100th birthday with a family celebration.

An accomplished artist who studied under Henry Moore, Daphne was also a gifted oil painter and enjoyed wood whittling.

She is of the widow of the late Erroll Bruce who, along with Adlard Coles, made history by racing across the Atlantic in the early 1950s in vessels then considered too small to survive the journey.

Born in Moffat House nursing home in Weymouth on 11th January 1919, Daphne arrived a few minutes before her twin brother David. She had three other brothers and a sister who sadly died as a toddler.

Her childhood was spent in and around Weymouth and Aldershot where Daphne and her siblings were cared for by a series of nannies. She and David also spent some time living in Vevey in Switzerland with their mother’s sister.

When they returned, David was sent to prep school and Daphne was taught at home by a governess for three hours a day, which left her plenty of time for exploring the countryside and riding her pony.

At the age of 14, she was sent to Sandecotes boarding school in Parkstone where she remained until she was 16. She then went to live with a cousin in Ireland who bred and kept horses, before moving to Eton to become an assistant teacher at the kindergarten. After having private lessons from the art teacher at Eton, she went on to study at Chelsea College of Art.

In 1939, Daphne was engaged to Erroll, who was in the navy, and with the war looming, the pair decided to marry as soon as possible.

Their wedding was at Langton Herring Church in 1939, where Erroll’s father was the vicar. In late 1939, Erroll was injured aboard a submarine and could not return to service at sea until 1945.

In May 1940, Daphne’s first son Peregrine was born, followed by Peter in 1941 and Rosamund in 1943. The family spent two years living on the Isle of Hoy in Orkney, where Daphne was very happy.

Erroll was pronounced fit in 1945 and spent the next three years in the Far East aboard HMS Glasgow.

The family grew with the arrival of Errollyn in 1950, and they later moved to Malta to live in a 17th century fortress during Erroll’s posting as commander of a training centre.

Daphne and Erroll were delighted to become grandparents to Ben in 1963, followed by Tabitha a year later. Two years later in 1965 Daphne and Erroll had a fifth child of their own, Chloe.

In total the couple had 14 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, and a great-great-grandson Rico, who was born in 2001.

They bought a house in Captain’s Row, Lymington in 1959, but later returned to live in Chelsea after Erroll was offered a job as editor of a yachting magazine.

When Chloe reached school age Erroll resigned from his job in London and the family moved to Lymington full-time, where he set up a small publishing company.

The family later moved to Lower Pennington Lane, where Chloe kept a pony, and Daphne’s brother David came to live with them.

Over the years Daphne undertook many voluntary roles, helping at a children’s home in London and later at Lymington Infirmary and Oakhaven Hospice. She also donated the proceeds from selling her paintings to Action Aid, which supports families in the Third World.

She was also a talented poet and gardener, and a lifelong animal lover.

In 2004, Erroll died and just two months later, her twin David passed away.

Daphne continued to enjoy painting well into her 80s and regularly exhibited at the Palette Club, Milford Art Group and The Royal Lymington Yacht Club annual exhibitions. She also attended Quaker meetings at Lymington Community Centre.

Daphne is now mainly bed-bound at Colten Care’s Court Lodge nursing home in Lymington but was able to enjoy celebrating her birthday with a family party. She was also delighted to receive a card from the Queen.

Daphne’s children are currently collecting photographs of her paintings, many of which are owned by local people, with a view to putting them together in booklet form. Anyone with one of Daphne’s paintings which can be photographed is asked to contact her son Peter Bruce on 01590 718912.

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