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True scale of incredible generosity of Suffolk music teacher revealed as £1.25million left to charity

PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 May 2017

Helen Ruddock collect. Helen has left £500k to the Water Aid charity.

Helen Ruddock collect. Helen has left £500k to the Water Aid charity.

The true scale of the incredible generosity of a kind-hearted Suffolk music teacher and farmer has been revealed, with £1.25million left to help children access clean water in sub-Saharan Africa.

Helen Ruddock collect. Helen has left £500k to the Water Aid charity.Helen Ruddock collect. Helen has left £500k to the Water Aid charity.

The true scale of the incredible generosity of a kind-hearted Suffolk music teacher and farmer has been revealed, with £1.25million left to help children access clean water in sub-Saharan Africa.

The conscientious Helen Ruddock, an exceptionally talented pianist and singer from Bury St Edmunds who has taught hundreds of people across Suffolk, died at the age of 96 after bequeathing her fortune to charity.

Now, a year-and-a-half after her death, the Rotary Club have announced the creation of the Helen Ruddock Foundation fund, which will go on to help millions of people access clean water, saving countless lives.

Formidable woman

Park Farm, Stanton, was previously owned by Helen Ruddock's familyPark Farm, Stanton, was previously owned by Helen Ruddock's family

Described by her friends as a “formidable” woman, Mrs Ruddock had a long held wish to help children. She and her husband Ted Ruddock sadly lost two baby boys in childbirth.

After much discussion and deliberation, she decided the best way was to help water and sanitation projects in Africa, which will benefit children who would otherwise have no access to clean water.

Friend Alison Budge, of Ashtons Legal, helped Mrs Ruddock write her will. “She was a truly remarkable woman,” she said. “She taught my two children, which is how I got to know her.

“She certainly kept them on their toes and was a really amazing music teacher. It has been an honour to help her, I know she was very happy to be able to donate so much. She was a lady who knew her mind and was not someone who lived a lavish lifestyle.”

Boys cool off with water from the new well in the village of Tonosuano, Ghana, 3 May 2013. With support from Global Grants 25922 and 25176, two wells were drilled in the village and residents were trained to repair the wells. Picture: ALYCE HENSONBoys cool off with water from the new well in the village of Tonosuano, Ghana, 3 May 2013. With support from Global Grants 25922 and 25176, two wells were drilled in the village and residents were trained to repair the wells. Picture: ALYCE HENSON

Roots in Scotland

Mrs Ruddock taught singing and piano at South Lee School in Bury, Fairstead House School in Newmarket, and Riverwalk School in Bury.

She also taught privately, taking lessons right into her 90s. She had several qualifications in music, including from Trinity College London and the Royal College of Music.

Originally from Scotland, Mrs Ruddock’s maiden name was McNeill. She came from a family of farmers and her father moved them to Suffolk following the Second World War.

From left: Douglas, Rosette Namusisi, Agnes Nandagire, and Harriet Nassimba leave their home to collect water. The siblings were living alone without adult supervision outside Kalisizo, Uganda, when the Rotary Club of Kalisizo stepped in to support them. Picture: ALYCE HENSONFrom left: Douglas, Rosette Namusisi, Agnes Nandagire, and Harriet Nassimba leave their home to collect water. The siblings were living alone without adult supervision outside Kalisizo, Uganda, when the Rotary Club of Kalisizo stepped in to support them. Picture: ALYCE HENSON

Growing up all around the country, from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Leiston, for many years she helped her father run Park Farm in Stanton before she and her husband took over.

Mrs Ruddock married in 1956, later nursing her husband though a long illness before he died in 1970.

With no close family, Mrs Ruddock had a small group of friends and met hundreds of people through her music lessons.

“She never wanted to give up teaching,” said Mrs Budge. “When she moved to the care home she thought she could get away with people coming in with their guitars and pretend they were guests.”

Her friend Joyce Amtower said Mrs Ruddock had a real passion for music, teaching alongside farming since the age of 15.

Benjamin Britten

Her “single-minded” nature was epitomised in her younger days when she was offered the opportunity to be taught by Aldeburgh’s famed Benjamin Britten – only to turn him down because she found him “aloof” and unlikable.

“She was an incredibly intelligent woman,” Mrs Amtower said. “She was financially very astute and did not like to lavish money on herself. She enjoyed having a nice home, but often bought cheap food as she did not enjoy eating that much.”

This frugal attitude, combined with an eye for good investments, is how Mrs Ruddock amassed her fortune. She sold off property and reinvested wisely.

Survived being strafed by the Germans

Born shortly after the First World War, Mrs Ruddock lived an eventful life. On one occasion when out riding her horse to bring in cows for milking during the Second World War, she was strafed by a German fighter plane and her horse was killed. By her own account, she hid under a hedge and when the plane had gone continued bringing in the herd.

Despite saving more than £1million, Mrs Ruddock was often very charitable to causes close to her heart, raising considerable sums for charities with various concerts. She was a supporter of St Nicholas Hospice.

On announcing the fund, a spokesman for the Rotary Foundation said: “Although not a Rotarian herself, Mrs Ruddock had a passion for improving the lives of others. Her introduction to Rotary was made by a close friend, who was a member of the Rotary Club of Halstead.

“Mrs Ruddock exhibited many of the values of Rotary throughout her life with her involvement in her local community and by devoting her time and talents to help others.”

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