A WOMAN who was instrumental in arts and educational spheres on the Isle of Wight has died at the age of 86.

Shirley Laird (nee Saxby) was born on April 26, 1933, in Colchester, Essex.

Her father, Ronald, worked at Cable and Wireless and soon after Shirley was born, the family moved to the Seychelles.

Two years later her brother Peter was born — the first European newborn on record in the Seychelles — and in 1938 the family moved back to England, with Ronald joining the Home Guard in London during the war.

Mrs Laird followed in the footsteps of her mother, Joan, training as a physiotherapist, and at the age of 19 began her tutelage at St Thomas’s Hospital.

Mrs Laird married her husband, Robin, in 1956 in Wallington, London.

Later the same year her father retired and her parents bought Shalfleet House on the Isle of Wight.

After Joan and Ronald died in 1974, Mr and Mrs Laird and their four children, Caroline, Alexander, Hamish and Joanna moved into the residence, starting a bed and breakfast.

During this time, Mrs Laird took physiotherapy positions at the Frank James Hospital in East Cowes, and St Mary’s in Newport, as well as becoming a governor of Upper Chine School, where her husband was bursar.

Mrs Laird was on the Isle of Wight Council for eight years and served on the transportation committee.

She was justifiably proud after installing the Shalfleet traffic lights when an elderly villager thanked her, explaining she had stepped outside her front door, unafraid, for the first time in decades.

Mrs Laird became chairman of the Isle of Wight Art Club, and was instrumental in setting up the Quay Arts Centre in 1984. Her passion was sketching trees and using watercolours.

Mrs Laird leaves behind her four children and six grandchildren, Angus, Jack, Helen, Anna, Harry and Isabelle.

The funeral took place under coronavirus restrictions last week.