OF the countless teddy bears which Margaret Mills has owned, Old Ted is nearest to her heart.

At 101 he sits like a grand nabob in regal splendour towering over his minions in her bedroom, a bit bedraggled but much loved.

Every time Margaret fondly looks at him, she is reminded of his charmed life and how he miraculously came into her late mother's possession in the midst of the First World War.

For in 1915, Old Ted found himself at the bottom of the Irish Sea, a victim of a U-boat attack which sank the vessel on which he was travelling - in the mail hold - from the USA to Liverpool.

Now it sounds like it should have been curtains for our furry friend who had been bound for Skipton, a present from Uncle Matt - he worked in moving pictures in Hollywood - to his niece Mary to mark her fourth birthday.

But this is where lady luck struck. The cargo wasn't any-old mail. It contained something else more precious than Old Ted and the allies needed to rescue it.

Whatever it was, Old Ted ended up being plucked by divers from the sunken ship along with the other stuff and eventually sent on his way, via packet boat from Ireland to Liverpool and by Royal Mail to the address written on his sodden brown paper wrapping, in Newmarket Place, Skipton, where Margaret's mum, Mary, lived.

Margaret, now aged 85 and living in Barnoldswick, believes Old Ted is so special that once she has gone, he should be honoured by his adoptive town. She is to gift him to Skipton Museum.

"He has been my constant companion since I was born. We have never been parted. When the time comes I want him to find a home in Skipton," she said.

"I recently took him to a First World War event at Craven Museum in which they wanted people to bring items in connected with the war. I think his story will fascinate people.

"He has a long history because my mum played with him, then my cousins before it came to me. My grand children have played with him and he has been to two Teddy Bear's picnics but we are never parted.

"His mohair is a bit thread bear and I've replaced his eyes and embroidered his mouth and nose but he has been much loved and handled over the last century," said Margaret who has a teddy bear collection she has yet to count.

Ted was "born" in 1915 only about three years or so after the first Teddy Bears were manufactured, inspired by US President and naturalist, Theodore Roosevelt, who got his nickname Teddy following news of his distress over the killing of a bear in a hunting party.

Craven museum's World War One project officer, Rob Freeman, said:"We are hugely grateful to Mrs Mills for bringing in ‘Old Ted’ to show us and for agreeing to bequest him to the museum.

"The First World War commemorations in Craven have encouraged many people to bring in their treasured family mementoes from the war and in ‘Old Ted’ we have discovered a truly unique personal story which will add significant value to the museum’s collection in the future."