She was an innovative photographer on the cusp of breaking into the fashion world.
But months after graduating from university with a First Class honours degree Jill Todd was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
The 23-year-old died just three weeks after her diagnosis in October 2010.
At last weekend’s International Oyster Festival in Hillsborough people dug deep in the young woman’s home village to raise thousands for a charity set up in her memory.
The festival is always a colourful affair. On Main Street a bemused crowd watched as Colin Shirlow successfully defended his world oyster-eating title against the ‘Black Widow’, petite US woman Sonya Thomas, gulping down as many oysters as could be stomached in three minutes.
At the ‘dream car’ stall a 13-year-old schoolboy paid £110 for a ride up the A1 in a Maserati.
Earlier in the week more than 60 cyclists from Dromara Cycling Club had peddled 180 miles from Galway to Hillsborough with a basket of oysters donated by the mayor of Galway.
There were the other trappings of a parochial festival — a multi-cultural parade, a gala ball and soap box derby. But it was the design/photography competition and exhibition that struck a particular chord with Barrie Todd.
Money raised at the festival will be partly donated to the the Jill Todd Trust — set up by Barrie and his wife Trish shortly after the death of their only daughter.
The Wallace High pupil graduated from Edinburgh’s Napier University with a First.
Her career quickly took off with an internship at Edinburgh’s Stills Gallery and commissions from The Royal Bank of Scotland.
Without the financial backing or contacts to break into fashion photography, she contacted cash-strapped models on Gumtree, offering high-quality snaps for free.
But after a series of tests to find out the cause of stomach pains, she was diagnosed with bowel cancer in September 2010.
She died just three weeks afterwards.
“Jill was a Hillsborough girl born and bred,” Barrie said.
“She was a very caring and fun-loving person. She would have totally endorsed the dual aims of the festival — to raise funds for a good cause while enjoying all the fun and happiness life has to offer.
“She was always very good at art. She could stand and talk to her friends and draw their likeness while she stood there.
“I wanted her to be architect, I always thought she would be good at that. She had a great eye.
“But she was hell-bent on becoming a photographer.
“The first time she picked up a camera was during a big snowfall when she was 13.
“She took a picture with a really small camera of the frozen lake in Hillsborough. The composition was just breathtaking.”
Hundreds of people from Edinburgh travelled to Hillsborough for Jill’s funeral.
“She was always very personable,” Barrie added. “But even we were taken aback at how many people came to Hillsborough for the funeral.”
At the start of 2011 commercial photographer Sam Sills contacted Jill’s parents about setting up an award in their daughter’s memory.
The Jill Todd Photographic Award — which celebrates the work of Scotland’s aspiring photographers, and will be presented for the first time in November — led to the creation of the Jill Todd Trust.
The charity, which funds cancer services and research, got a huge boost at the Oyster Festival.
Street collections and event donations have raised more than £20,000 for the trust. The money will be donated to the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital.
Barrie said he was “totally overwhelmed” by people’s generosity.
How to help:
To commemorate Jill’s life, her family established the Jill Todd Trust, which is registered as a charity. Log on to www.jilltoddphotoaward.com for more information and to view a major photographic competition being organised in her memory in Edinburgh by her friends.
Dad deeply moved by generosity of public and organisers at festival
Jill's father has thanked Hillsborough Oyster Festival for its support for the charity set up in memory of his daughter.
Barrie Todd (58) said in a letter that he had been overwhelmed by the backing.
“The public contribution and its humbling generosity must be loudly applauded,” he wrote.
“Funds collected on the street, in envelopes and on tables at marquee-based events and those raised through enthusiasts paying up to £110 for a ride in a super dream car — notably from a boy of 13 who had saved all year — completely bowled me over.
“Perhaps one contribution that best exemplified this unselfish generosity was the incident involving two Jill Todd Trust volunteers.
“They were experiencing problems of access to (a car parking) field and stopped a passing tractor driven by two young males. When asked if they could help, they returned within half-an-hour with a trailer full of stones that they manually shovelled off and spread over the troublesome area. The two young men departed before the volunteers were able to get their names. Fantastic!
“I also was overwhelmed by the number of volunteers, some 45 in number, who were friends and peers of Jill and associates of the Friends of the Cancer Centre. “These unpaid helpers not only swarmed the village during the Saturday of the festival, collecting donations from the public, but also provided assistance and help at all the events.
“Jill was my daughter who had her life taken by cancer two years ago at the age of 23. She was a very caring and fun-loving person and would have totally endorsed the dual aims of the festival.
“May I, on behalf of Jill and the Jill Todd Trust, thank everyone who made this happen and of course the committee of the Hillsborough International Oyster Festival for choosing The Jill Todd Trust to be its 2012 charity,” Mr Todd said.