The Life and Times of Dick Ruggles: Gamekeeping Tales

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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. It was after Dick returned from the war time Atlantic Convoys (Vols. II & III) that he settled in once more working for Whitlocks in Great Yeldham. His governor Carlton Whitlock was advertising for a gamekeeper and suggested that Dick should apply. Having secured the job, Dick tells us that there were things with which he needed a hand. Here Joe Miles, the keeper at Spains Hall for Sir Ruggles-Brise, came to the fore and a lasting friendship was formed. Joe was a 'Moonraker' - a man from Wiltshire, a character with a deep knowledge of vermin, game and the etiquette that surrounds shooting parties and he features in many of the stories told here. Dick soon got his shoot round and won the respect of both those cultivating the land, the beaters, fellow gamekeepers for having one of the best shoots around. Also all of the 'guns' who would join the rest of the company in the public bar for a game of darts after the shoot. These are stories then of the outward going Dick enjoying every minute and at the same time establishing a high reputation for both his company and prowess. Dicks governor was at one point going to sack him, however on seeing the funny side of Dick's misdemeanour he telephoned Reg Wooton, the cartoonist of the Sunday Express, for a cartoon of the incident to appear in the paper the following week. When Reg Wooton sent the original artwork to Carlton Whitlock he had it framed, and who should he give it to at the Christmas shoot but his trusty colleague in pursuit of fun and sport, Dick Ruggles.

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