The Life and Times of Dick Ruggles: Village Life

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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. Apart from two years away on the Atlantic Convoys (Vols. II & III), Dick Ruggles has always been at the centre of life in his home village of Toppesfield, situated in North Essex, but then so have his parents and their parents before them. Dick tells stories from his grandfather and likewise his mother. His mother was involved with the church and many of her tales that Dick passes on are about the Toppesfield Vicars and their odd little ways. When Dick kept The Chestnuts, the pub in the centre of the Village, Dick’s father was a regular and a catalyst for many tales of adventures that were nightly passed on. In addition to this, Dick was Treasurer of the Village Hall Committee for over twenty years, played in and then helped run successfully the local village football team for over fifty years, he also sat on the Parish Council for over thirty years and thus being at the hub of things aided by his stalwart wife Dolly he is able to reel off tale after tale from not just his age but those from the generations before him. All seen through the humorous eye of a countryman.


2x .MOV files, 1hr 8mins and 1hr 14mins

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