Ruth Johnson's Writings

Ruth Johnson's Writings               

Ruth Johnson has been a stalwart of Deddington News for more years than we can remember and even now, in her 90s, serenely masters our sometimes temperamental printing machine to produce the 1000+ copies of the 16-page magazine ten times a year. 

She has always had a slightly outsider’s view, coming partly from her childhood in Switzerland and partly from actually living, until recently, in Duns Tew. But she has drawn from Deddington ‘all that is good, educational, inspirational, life supportable and “befriendable” in that great village’. 

This collection of her warm, funny and inclusive writings assembles material first printed in DN between 1999 and 2010 – with an addition in 2016 to celebrate our 40th birthday. Many of them are ‘Gleanings’ from the 14 volumes of the Parish and Deanery Magazines, 1879–1930, which were discovered in a disused safe in the church in 1998. Having dried them of damp and wiped off mildew it became obvious that they were bound and preserved by the Revd. Maurice Frost, Vicar of Deddington 1924–62. The volumes, which throw a kind light on Deddington Parish folk, are now housed in the Oxfordshire Diocese and Parish Records, St Luke’s Church, Temple Rd, Cowley, OX4 2EN. A pdf on the contents of the 'Parish Boxes' is here   

Mary Robinson       

Ruth's Story: The Long Road from Switzerland to England

Aged five, I am told, I spoke with a lisp which was always gently ridiculed by my brother, three years my senior. Until the day we met, on holiday in the Alps, a grand English family. Unlike my father who enjoyed conquering various 4,000m peaks, the head of ‘our’ English family enjoyed arranging sportive and competitive entertainment for his large family, generously allowing other young hotel guests to join in. My brother and I, not understanding a single word of English joined with gusto and much to my brother’s amazement I beat him with ease in apeing that strange language and catching up with what was being taught.

Remember, my brother is three years older and deems himself three years wiser than little sister. ‘It’s your lisp’, he told me, ‘the English speak with a lisp, you should have been born in England’. From that moment on elder brother never again took exception to my lisp. The lisp disappeared by the time I started Primary School aged seven and my brother reminded me less and less frequently that I should have been born in England.

But, I never forgot and never lost interest of hearing or reading about that far away country, even dreaming of a future spent there.

World War II came. We were war locked in Switzerland but more than ever before, I read about, listened to on the radio, or saw in the cinema news from England – the country I wanted to visit as soon as it was possible. I had to wait patiently till the end of 1946 before a willing organisation offered me a student placement for 10 months and sent me the necessary visa to enter war-torn UK which was then, first and foremost, obliged to resettle members of their Forces flooding the job market. My Swiss Diploma in Social Work helped, Dr Barnardo’s could do with a young student in one of their homes.

A year later I was still in the UK having re-entered the country to stay with friends to ‘cram’ French and German languages with their daughter before she entered finishing school. And there I met Ted, an officer in the British Army. We’ve now been married for 66 years, travelled the world by order of the British Army, retired to Oxfordshire, where we now live in Deddington.

It seems incredible, almost unbelievable that an eight-year old boy’s forecast sent his little sister on this long, sometimes arduous journey to England, where he thought she should have been born.