Posted by Kristen Hyde on October 24, 2017 in Entertainment

One of the greatest joys in family history research is learning about an ancestor whose life was truly inspirational. From decorated family members who dedicated their lives to military service, through to single parents and hard-working educators, we’re all descended from fascinating people who showed gumption and defiance in the lives they led.

So we can only imagine how it must feel to be related to Robin Cavendish, British advocate for the disabled and the focus of Andy Serkis’ new film, Breathe.

Robin Cavendish was in his late twenties when he contracted polio in 1958, leaving him completely paralysed from the neck down, and dependent on a respirator to ‘breathe’ for him. He was given only a few months to live.

An adventurous and charismatic young man, Robin refused to be confined to a hospital bed for the rest of his short life. Against all medical advice, Robin and his wife, Diana decided to leave the hospital and resolved to find a way for him to live.


The couples’ friend and Oxford professor, Teddy Hall, set about developing a home-made wheelchair for Robin, fitted with a battery operated pump which not only allowed Robin to breathe, but provided him the mobility he longed for.


Going on to survive well beyond the point his doctors expected, Robin went on to secure financing for more wheelchairs to be built, and became a passionate advocate for the rights of disabled people.

Robin’s son, Jonathon, always believed his father’s story would be powerful material for a film and was integral in seeing the adaptation come to life. In the featurette below, Robin and the cast of ‘Breathe’ share their experiences on telling this incredible true story.

‘Breathe’ is directed by Andy Serkis. The film stars Andrew Garfield, Clare Foy and Hugh Bonneville and will be released in cinemas on October 27.




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