4th February 1924 – 14th December 2008
Mick here writing this post.
My mother Ruth Geraghty (née Chignell) would have been 100 years old on 4th February 2024.
Ruth was born in Hessle near Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Her mother was Katie Chignell (née Netherwood) and her father Philip Chignell.
Philip was the organist and choirmaster at All Saints Parish Church in Hessle and had spent all his life in working as a musician. He started aged nine as a choirboy at St Georges Chapel school in Windsor during Queen Victoria’s reign and took part in many Royal occasions including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. He became an organist at various churches around the country before settling in Hessle in 1901. Philip and Katie met in 1911 while they were both taking part as singers in a six month long World Tour as members of the Sheffield Choir. This tour took them round the world by ship and train, starting in Liverpool in March, across the Atlantic to Canada and the USA. Then across the Pacific to Hawaii and onto New Zealand. Australia and Tasmania followed and then South Africa before returning to Plymouth in October. They married in 1912. They were a very musical couple and produced a very musical family. They settled at Philip’s home at number 19 The Weir in Hessle.
John Chignell was born first in 1916 followed by Henry (1918) and Stephen(1922). Ruth was the youngest and the only girl in the family. She went to the local primary school in Hessle then onto the Boulevard School in Hull. At this time Ruth and her friend Marian took an interest in bell ringing and with one or more of their brothers would tour the local area on bicycles visiting various bell towers and taking part. Days out with friends were common. She had by now picked up the nickname Trigo.
Ruth was at the Boulevard in 1939 aged 15. When war broke out the school was to be evacuated to Scarborough. The day for evacuation came and she said her goodbyes to her parents and brothers in the morning and headed off to school and the unknown. By mid afternoon she was back at 19 The Weir. She refused to be evacuated, finished with school that day and came home to be with her family.
One by one her brothers all went off to war. John and Henry within the first few weeks and Stephen a couple of years later when he became old enough. But Ruth stayed in Hessle for the duration. She was a big comfort to her parents who had the great worry of Henry being posted as missing and then becoming a POW in Germany. John and Stephen were both posted overseas at times and were also a concern to the family back in Hessle. Ruth was often to be found helping in various local canteens which had been set up to try to boost the morale of visiting military personnel in the area. She was also a keen violinist and many evenings would be spent playing violin sonatas, her on the violin and her father on the piano. She would also be found singing in her father’s choir at All Saints Church.
Hessle is only about 4 miles from Hull and its docks. Hull took a pounding during the blitz and Hessle took a number of direct hits. But 19 The Weir and its occupants survived.
During the war Ruth had started “seeing” local lad Peter Geraghty. (https://oleanna.co.uk/2022/06/03/peter-geraghty-3rd-june-1922-13th-september-2002/) Peter was from Hessle and was a bomber pilot at RAF Pocklington. Ruth must have heard planes flying over Hessle and wondered about “Her Peter” in one of the bombers heading to Germany and war.
In 1945 Henry had returned home from POW camp after a five year absence. Ruth had gone to meet him off the last train into Hessle that day having not seen her big brother for all those years. Her other two brothers also returned home and the family was once again complete.
Ruth had taken up a secretarial post at an insurance company in Hull, but I suspect her heart wasn’t in it. Married life beckoned, Ruth and Peter got married in May 1947.
By then Peter had become a commercial airline pilot with British European Airways (BEA) based at Northolt Airport just outside London so they set up home there. Daughter Christine was born in May 1948, followed by Marion in 1950 and Anne in 1952. So a busy time for Ruth looking after a young family. But she still found time for music and was selected to join the Royal Choral Society as a soprano. She performed in many concerts at the Albert Hall under the conductor Sir Malcom Sargent.
Ruth and Peter moved to Ealing in West London in 1953, at the same time as BEA moved from Northolt to Heathrow. A bigger house was required and there was a good new primary school, St Gregory’s, in Ealing for the children.
I came along in 1958 followed by my little sister Kathryn in 1966. Ruth had become a Brown Owl in one of the local Brownie packs. My sisters had all been Brownies and it was common for me, a four year old boy, to don a brown jumper and go to a Brownie meeting and take part. I suspect there were child care issues!
Ruth continued with her musical life. She joined the Ealing Symphony Orchestra playing in the first violins and took part in many of their concerts. There were many evenings at our house when three other musicians would arrive and a string quartet would take place in our front room. All of us children were encouraged to take part in musical activities and we had outings to various concerts and musical events in London. At school I had taken up the bassoon and the piano. I played bassoon in the Ealing Junior Music School and I also obtained music O Level when the time came.
Ruth continued to take a big part in the local Girl Guiding movement taking Brownie packs on holiday and Guides on camps. She became a District Commissioner for the Ealing and Hanwell District.
Family life continued. Ruth organised many family summer holidays, often with her brother Henry’s family sometimes on the South coast. Henry and his wife Gill had a caravan and they would set up in a caravan park, whilst we had a holiday home somewhere nearby. Henry and Gill had four children and with all of us we made a good holiday party.
In 1977 Peter retired from British Airways. Three of their five children had moved out from the family home and on to further education and careers. Life quietened down a little. Peter was a keen golf player and Ruth occasionally would play a round with him. They would also go on holidays to watch amateur golf tournaments around the country. Peter had a lifetime concessionary travel benefit with British Airways so there were overseas holidays to Africa, Canada and Europe. But Peter wasn’t a great one for flying as a passenger so UK holidays were more common.
Ruth enjoyed train travel very much. Once a year she would arrange with her brothers to meet up in Llandudno where they had spent childhood holidays with their Grandma.
In about 1985 Ruth and I each purchased a British Rail All Line Rail Rover. Over the course of a week we travelled from London to Thurso in the very north of Scotland, over to the Kyle of Lochalsh, onto the ferry over to Skye, another ferry to Malaig and down to Glasgow. Over to Hull via the Settle to Carlisle line. Ruth always enjoyed visiting Hull and Hessle and there were still many family members. Then we travelled to Llandudno, Shrewsbury, Llanelli, Bristol, Exmouth and Plymouth before heading back to London.
In 1967, when I was aged 9, Ruth and I had a day out on the Underground on the very first day of operation of the brand new Victoria Line. Very exciting!
Ruth continued her violin playing with the Ealing Symphony Orchestra and her Girl Guiding District Commissioner duties. She became a Governor of St Gregory’s School where all her children had attended, here she also helped with teaching the violin and music in general.
She also helped out at other schools. Youngest daughter Kathryn was at secondary school and relates the following story: Cardinal Wiseman’s production of Oliver! There was no school orchestra, so they hired in some kind of military band. God knows where from. Anyway, Mum wanted to play, so she was a guest 1st violin with them for the show, and I imagine enjoyed herself enormously.
I moved out from home to pastures new in 1981 followed by Kath later in the 1980s so the nest was empty after 40 years. They stayed on in the big house at 8 Chester Gardens for another ten years or so, then moved to a very nice two bedroom flat nearby.
By now Peter was suffering from Parkinsons disease and life slowed down a lot. But Ruth still managed to get out a bit. She took part in meetings of the local Trefoil Guild, consisting mainly of retired Guide leaders and Commissioners. There was a school nearby and every afternoon in the summer Ruth and Peter would head out to get ice creams from the van parked at the school gate. Ruth had a sweet tooth!
Parkinsons took its hold on Peter and he passed away in 2002 aged 80. Ruth had also by then contracted the same disease but carried on in the flat on her own for a few years.
But eventually she succumbed to Parkinsons and moved into, a care home nearby. Peter’s BA pension contributed handsomely to the costs.
She had many visitors while at Downhirst, both family and friends and much reminiscing was carried out. The staff looked after her well, but I’m sure she missed Peter and her active life. She never complained about her lot and stoically carried on being cheerful right to the end.
She passed away on 14th December 2008 aged 84 and is still much missed. We took her ashes back to Hessle and scattered them on the Foreshore in the shaddow of the Humber Bridge. A suitable resting place for her.
Thanks to Anne, Kath, Marion and John for help with the photos.