Tayside and Central Scotland

'The lady who played the piano' - charity remembers Tara Palmer-Tomkinson

Blue Sky Autism Project Image copyright Blue Sky Autism Project
Image caption Tara Palmer-Tomkinson played piano for the children on a visit to the charity

Catapulted onto our TV screens and front pages in the 1990s in a blaze of flashguns and fabulousness, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson lived her life in the public eye.

But for a small Scottish children's autism charity she was "the lady that played the piano", their kind-hearted first patron, and their friend.

"The children all loved her and they're a great judge of character," said Dr Ruth Glynne-Owen, Blue Sky Autism Project's founder and chief executive.

It was the charity's fourth birthday party and a special guest had arrived at their base in Bridge of Allan, near Stirling.

Perched among a throng of excited youngsters, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson started to play for the children on a small keyboard.

"There was no stand and it was held together by tape and she still played it - and she's a concert pianist," Dr Glynne-Owen said.

"Our children can be a little bit tricky to get to know given the nature of autism, but she was totally not phased.

"It was very cool, it was a great day."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Tara Palmer-Tomkinson rose to fame in the 1990s on the back of her glamorous lifestyle and Royal connections

The star was immediately keen to offer her support when the charity, which provides early childhood intervention for pre-school children with autism spectrum disorders and related conditions, approached her in 2013.

Dr Glynne-Owen said: "She got back in touch straight away and she phoned me and was really keen to help.

"When I first met her, we had a cup of tea at Blakes Hotel in Kensington and I was very nervous.

"I brought her a little teddy bear and she was very incredibly touched by that.

"I think she just wanted to help a small charity, it was the right time in her life.

"She was our first patron and she was in the role for a year.

"She was very kind, very down to earth and very funny."

Image copyright Blue Sky Autism Project
Image caption Dr Ruth Glynne-Owen (L) and Palmer-Tomkinson donned masks during her visit to the Perthshire charity

Dr Glynne-Owen said it was a "privilege" to see Palmer-Tomkinson's private side.

She said: "Tara was personally very supportive to me, she became a very good friend.

"She got us in Hello! Magazine twice, which for us was a pretty massive achievement.

"She came to visit us for our fourth birthday and she came for dinner with all of our clients and parents in Bridge of Allan."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Palmer-Tomkinson made a bid for pop stardom aged 40

Palmer-Tomkinson was found dead at her flat in London on Wednesday.

She had received treatment in 2016 for a non-malignant brain tumour.

Dr Glynne-Owen said she last heard from her charity's former patron about a year-and-a-half ago.

"It's just tragic, it's really, really sad," she said. "She was just too young."

"I think it's important for people to realise that, there were stories around about her but she was actually a very kind-hearted person, a very genuine person.

"We had really wonderful experiences with her.

"Some of the children are older now and they remember the lady who played the piano."

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