Ruth Harwood 1913-2008

Pupil 1924-30 - Staff 1942-74 A Tribute and Appreciation

Ruth Harwood
Ruth Harwood photographed during her
year as President in 1991-92

Ruth had been part of the Ayton scene for so long it is difficult to think of Ayton without her. She first came to Ayton School as a pupil in 1924, and after six years there, plus a year with Marjorie Stapleton's sister as a Mother's help, she started her teacher training at Goldsmith's College, London.

Her teaching career began in Middlesex, and after four years there, and a very short period in Darlington, she went to Wigton School in Cumberland, and from that time until her retirement taught exclusively in Friends' Schools. Ackworth followed three years at Wigton, and Ayton four years later, where she was appointed Senior Mistress in 1942, eventually becoming Vice Principal in 1967 on the retirement of Evelyn Nicholson.

Old Scholars and Staff will testify to Ruth's meticulous attention to detail, which showed in the ordered running of the girls' side. Many remember with affectionate amusement her insistence on a “good turn-down wash” after games. There were no showers for girls until the late 1950s. These high standards were manifest also in her teaching of junior maths and in the splendid work which came out of the weaving room. Ruth herself introduced the craft to Ayton and developed it as a major part of the school curriculum. Many of her pupils achieved spectacular success in this field.

Ruth was, however, not only concerned with doing her job to the best of her ability. Just after the war, her warm sympathy with the deprived, her strong sense of social responsibility and her loyalty to the Society of Friends led her to Germany and Austria during School holidays, helping in international work camps to build something out of the wreckage of World War II. During this time she made many friends with whom she never lost touch.

In retirement her love of weaving and skill in that craft brought her friends from several countries and different backgrounds. For some time she was an innovative Secretary of the York Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers, and it was largely through her that similar Guilds were started in Sweden. Ruth had spent a term in Sweden in 1955, where she consolidated her already considerable knowledge and expertise in weaving and where she formed other close friendships. The York Guild benefited through her, with contact with Swedish craftspeople.

Ruth left Ayton, mercifully before Wimpeys’ building programme started, and moved to Hartrigg Oaks, the Quaker retirement settlement at New Earswick in York. As her health deteriorated, she transferred to the onsite nursinghome. It was there that she celebrated her 90th birthday in 2003, and it was where she ended her days on 4th January 2008. The many old scholars who knew Ruth Harwood well from their days at Ayton will mourn her passing.

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