Repository logo

The Life and Times of Dick Ruggles: Lord Sainsbury's Gardener

Change log


Lanham, Neil 


Dick Ruggles is a natural storyteller with a dialect typical of the North Essex/West Suffolk Border. Walter Benjamin (The Storyteller-Illuminations) described the typical Storyteller as the artisan/farmer who stays at home or the traveller who returned with stories. Dick Ruggles is both. He is a keeper and custodian of the inherited tradition of his area (called Seanachie in Ireland).His stories are as passed on (some from his mother etc and some are folk tales) or from his experience of life – nothing whatsoever taken from Literacy or outside interests. He has a typical local technique of

  1. Framing his stories at first from afar (e.g.’ I was sitting having me sandwiches at the time when old so and so….’)
  2. Using formula: local sayings, proverbs.
  3. Strong use of dialogue to bring forward the players in this play of life.
  4. Playing pranks for the sake of relaying it in story. He was recorded close to his face to show every possible gesticulation. (see The Anthropology of Gest. Marcel Jousse). Fourteen hours recorded in total. Having decided to retire from gamekeeping and to give up the tenancy of the Chestnuts, Dick thought that he would like to ‘plough a lighter furrow’ and Lord Sainsbury's offer of a job as gardener-cum-caretaker at ‘Hoses’, his Toppesfield Country Residence, seemed ideal. Dick had always got on well with Lord Sainsbury and Lord Sainsbury had told the man from The Halstead Gazette that he had respected Dick for saying what he thought and treating him the same as anyone else in the village. Both, however, had strong characters and although they had little conflicts and set too’s, Dick tells the tales with a lump in his throat. Lord Sainsbury was very good to the village and sometimes, through Dick as you will hear, would put his hand in his pocket and pay for something for the church or the village in a manner that 'no one was to know about it’—and ’there are not many who will do that', says Dick.

To the governor, it is his garden, but it also has to be the gardener’s garden as well. Whilst the governor puts his money into it, a good gardener puts his heart and pride into it and this so often leads to personalities coming to the fore. Whilst there are many tales here of that nature, both parties seemed to have enjoyed their encounters. Dick wishes to point out that these tales of the ups and downs of life while in their employ are meant with absolutely no disrespect to Lord and Lady Sainsbury for whom Dick enjoyed eight years as an employee and always had great respect from both.


.MOV file, 1hr 21mins


storytelling, oral tradition, Sussex, life story, personal history

Is Part Of


Publisher DOI

Publisher URL