The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


Ruby was born in Barnes in October 1907.  She grew up with her elder sister and 2 brothers and remained living with her parents until her first marriage in 1932. The four children used to exercise on Barnes common which Ruby always used to think was called Hyde Park; the reason for this was that her mother used to instruct her to go and play on the common but stay on the ‘high part’ (so she could see her).  Ruby always used to think that she was in  Hyde Park.

Ruby remembered zeppelins coming over Barnes Common during World War One. She recalled hearing one as it released its bomb into its underslung bomb tray prior to continuing over London to drop it. The clunk noise she said would stay with her forever.

Ruby was educated at a Catholic School where William Cobbet’s wife was the Head Teacher and then at Latimer and Godolphin school. At the Espinoza ballet school she developed her love of ballet which she subsequently passed on to her eldest granddaughter with magnificent results.

Ruby worked at the Inter Rail companies central clearing office at Euston where all used tickets were analysed for settlement between any rail companies which had covered that particular journey. It was here that she met her first husband, Wilfred May, her boss, and they were married in 1932.  Wilfred had plenty of money and set Ruby up in a lovely house in St Albans where she rode horses, learned her  love of gardening and kept Airdales. Unfortunately the marriage was not a success and they split up in the mid thirties before Ruby met her second husband to be, Ted. They had quite a wild time during the thirties by all accounts and eventually moved in together in a small village called Wheathampstead near Harpenden. The divorce came through in 1941 and they were married later that year.  Tony was born in 1943, much to Ruby’s initial upset as she was having a what she called a ‘wonderful war’!! However she settled down for the rest of the war to the relatively tame task of motherhood.

When the war ended Ted  was out of a job.  He had worked for his father’s coal company but that was nationalised after the war and he was dismissed.  Something had to be done and they bought the tenancy of a pub in Baldock called The Star. This they managed successfully (more through Ruby's efforts than Ted’s) and it became very popular. After 2 years they moved on to higher things and became Steward and Stewardess of Hammonds End Golf Cub in Harpenden.  Again this they managed well mainly due to Ruby’s organisational skills and team management, but when Ted’s father died in 1951 they decided to move to Tonbridge to be near his widowed mother and sisters.

The move to Tonbridge was undertaken in 1952 and they took up a new profession, that of Guest House owners. Ruby did all the work in this 4 storey building and had to run all meals up and down the three flights of stairs to the residents at each meal time as there was no dining room. She often said that she owed her longevity to all this rigorous exercise in her forties and fifties.  The Guest House was moderately  successful, but Ted contracted tuberculosis and looking after him, running the business and having a teenage tearaway child to look after took its toll and in 1962 they decided to trade down to run a local sweet shop heavily frequented by the boys at Tonbridge School.

Ted was particularly unhelpful in this venture as he simply smoked any profits that the business might have made. He had taken to alcohol in a big way and regularly propped up the bar in the Rose and Crown in Tonbridge. So much so that when they refurbished they presented him with his own chair from the bar which he had made his own through many years of bar occupation. He had become a huge responsibility for Ruby.

Ted died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1966 and an old friend of theirs from America, Bob Bullock, who had paid annual visits to them over several years, came to the funeral.  He then started to ‘court’ Ruby. Tony was isolated at sea in the Royal Navy at the time and was extremely frustrated to hear only small clips of just what was going on from Jane. Apparently they went out every Tuesday night to The Chanteclair restaurant in Sevenoaks. The hit song of the day was Ruby Tuesday which was forever playing on Tony’s ship’s radio system which caused him even more frustration! Ruby and Bob were married in 1967.

They decided to sell the sweet shop and move to Denmead to be near Tony and Jane  who had  moved there 2 years earlier as Tony’s ship was based in Portsmouth.  However in 1969 Bob died very suddenly so Ruby was widowed again. She built on the side of Jane and Tony’s newly acquired  house and moved  in 1972.

The next 38 years passed very quickly and it is certain that Ruby thoroughly enjoyed them. She was a strict grandmother and the children would often run for comfort to Mum or Dad as opposed to other way round which is much more in keeping today.

She visited Bob’s relations in the USA and Kenya and became quite an independent character driving off to look round Scotland, Wales and other parts.  She continued her love of rambling, and church attendance and became a regular member at St George’s. She was a very definite character and over the years had been taught to call a spade a spade which she often did. However she was quite happy go lucky and enjoyed the company of like minded people at St George’s. She organised rambles, became a holy duster, did the teas and coffees, sat on the hall committee and PCC and regularly went to Walsingham with the church group.  With her great friend Christine she undertook week long rambles where they had a ‘high old time’ by all accounts.

In 2010 at the age of 103 Ruby had a nasty fall and broke her right leg. This was repaired with half hip replacement but she found difficulty walking thereafter. Also the anaesthetic had a wearing effect on the brain and her speech became disjointed and slurred.  It was decided that a residential home was the next move and she moved into Woodlands without demur, although in previous years she had baulked at any thought of so doing. However she was promised regular outings, Sunday church and a daily visit wherever possible which were kept up until the end of her life.

In mid December 2012 she fell again (not doing as she was told and deserting her walking frame!) and was taken to hospital where they had no option but to operate. However the warning was that the anaesthetic might have a similar effect as last time which indeed it did, making it hard for her to swallow food or drink. The end when it came was merciful. We will always remember her last words which showed that her sense of humour had not deserted her even at the last. When she asked what was wrong with her Tony replied that we were all ‘Getting on a bit.’ “Well,” she said, “I think I’ve ‘got’ on a bit.”

The family’s thanks go to the many who have sent remembrances of Ruby and those who took the trouble to talk to Ruby on her visits to church. These trips out were the highlight of her week. Special thanks go to the staff at Woodlands who took care of Ruby as if she were their own mother. They were fantastic and cannot be praised too highly.

Ruby will be hugely missed by her extensive family and friends.

Tony Rice-Oxley

Easter Edition 2013

Ruby Bullock, 1907 - 2013