Down's daughter of Lord Rix dies

Dave Mark

THE daughter who inspired comedy actor Brian Rix to spend half a century campaigning and fundraising on the world stage has died aged 53.

Shelley Rix, the daughter of Yorkshireman Lord Rix, died at the West Middlesex Hospital.

Her father, now aged 81 and living in south London, said Shelley’s death was “a very sad time for all of us”.

His campaign to change public perception of learning difficulties was inspired in part by anger at the prejudice she endured.

Shelley Elspet, named after her actress mother Elspet Gray, was born in 1951 with severe Down’s Syndrome – at a time when the condition was not understood.

Lord Rix, then a well-known master of farce, gave up his career to devote himself to improving the rights of the mentally handicapped.

His daughter was his inspiration, leading him into a career that has improved the lives of thousands of mentally handicapped people.

He has been recognised for changing the shape of government policy, but also society’s entire way of viewing those with learning disabilities.

It has been an astonishing journey for the son of a Hull shipowner, and who was always proud of his Yorkshire roots.

He was born in Cottingham, brought up in Hornsea, educated in York, made his stage debut in Hull, and launched his stage career in Ilkley and Bridlington before heading for the West End.

Jo Williams, chief executive of Mencap, said the charity’s hearts went out to the family, whose passion for the ideals of Mencap had never diminished.

His daughter lived the last years of her life in a Mencap home in Twickenham.