Bedales celebrates the life of Ruth Whiting

Posted on 30th November 2018

Bedalians celebrated the life of the school’s former head of history, Ruth Whiting, at a memorial event in the Lupton Hall on 10 November.

Ruth, who was appointed by Tim Slack in 1963, spent the rest of her teaching career at Bedales, where she inspired a generation of young historians before retiring in 2000.

In retirement, she remained involved with the school as an exam invigilator and assisted the Bedales Archive, most recently leading on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Lest We Forget project, which posted details of all the Bedalians who died during World War I on the Bedales website to commemorate the war’s centenary.  

Former colleague and current Governor Avril Hardie opened the event with a fitting welcome. Addressing a packed Lupton Hall, she said: “Bedales is a very unfamiliar place without Ruth. For well over half a century, she was here; she always seemed to be here.”

Reflections were delivered by Old Bedalians Ben Polak (Provost of Yale University); Anna Keay (Director of The Landmark Trust); and Jessica Boyd (Barrister).

Anna, who after being taught by Ruth went on to study history at Magdalen College, Oxford, said: “We were of course lucky to have a cache of truly brilliant teachers at Bedales, but none was as brilliant – as intellectually iridescent – as Ruth.”

Long term colleague Philip Parsons, who taught alongside Ruth in the school’s History Department, elicited laughter from the audience as he shared memories from his interview for a teaching post at Bedales in June 1979.

Describing Ruth’s welcome – “a question, almost a challenge: ‘Have we met somewhere before?’” – Philip joked: “I was immediately taken aback, because not only was I quite sure that we had never met before, but if I had met such a person, I would certainly have remembered it.”

He added: “Indeed, I had never met anyone like Ruth before, and I’ve never met anyone quite like her since – and, of course, I had no idea then that we would be colleagues and friends for nearly 40 years.”

The audience heard readings by Old Bedalians Clare Murphy (Director of External Affairs, BPAS); Edward Impey (Director General and Master of the Royal Armouries); and Jane Kirby (Bedales Librarian and Archivist). Another reading was given by long term colleague and neighbour Graham Banks.

Music was provided by Old Bedalian Esther Biddle, who joined Ruth’s former colleague Nicholas Gleed for a rendition of ‘The Land of Might-Have-Been’ by Ivor Novello, and another former colleague Keir Rowe, who played clarinet alongside Nicholas Gleed on the piano for ‘Romance from Five Bagatelles’ by Gerald Finzi. Old Bedalian and current Chairman of Governors Matthew Rice closed the event with a piano improvisation.

In memory of Ruth, the school is now raising funds for a sixth form bursary award for a fully funded place at Bedales through the John Badley Foundation.

Footage was captured of the memorial event in full, which can be seen here. A video of highlights from the memorial event can also be viewed here.

Ruth Whiting Bursary | Lest We Forget Project | Bedales Archive