Chris Ruddlesden and Jean Brittain, Dartmouth Friends of Rowcroft Hospice
Who are you? Chris Ruddlesden and Jean Brittain, chairman and committee member, Dartmouth Friends of Rowcroft Hospice.
What is Rowcroft? Chris: “Rowcroft Hospice is in Avenue Road in Torquay, and is the hospice for Torbay and South Devon, looking after people with life threatening illnesses. It covers 300 square miles from Slapton, to the Moors to Starcross, and has 20 beds for patients who are nearing their final days. Most people living in Dartmouth will know someone who has spent time at Rowcroft. It is an amazing, tranquil place where people go to have quality of life returned to them.”
Jean: “It is an old fashioned concept to think that once a patient is moved into a hospice, they don’t come out. At Rowcroft the highly-trained staff assess and amend medication so that patients can be stabilised and, if it is appropriate, returned home to end their days. There is also a home care team of nurses who go into patients’ homes and look after them there, so that families have support and don’t have to cope alone. This is valuable respite at such a very difficult time.”
Chris: “A new addition is accommodation for families at the hospice. This is so important, because it means peace of mind for relatives who don’t have to go away from their loved ones and miss their final moments.”
Jean: “Rowcroft also runs several clinics, for example a pain clinic and a lymph oedema clinic. These are day clinics dispensing treatment and advice.”
What do the Friends of Rowcroft do?
Chris: “Rowcroft costs £6 million a year to run, that’s about £11,000 a day. Only 25 per cent of that is Government funded. The rest comes from donations and bequests. There are 12 groups of friends across the region and we do all that we can to raise money for the hospice. We run coffee mornings, afternoon teas, open gardens, flag days, fetes, bag packing, table top sales and sell cards and crafts. We work with other charities to support each others events, such as Dartmouth Caring, and we encourage other people and businesses to support Rowcroft – for example the Singing Kettle Tea Shop in Dartmouth recently raised more than £800 with a cream tea day, and Kingswear Village Stores regularly organises collections and raffles. Last year the Dartmouth Friends raised £10,180. Local people are so supportive and generous.”
Why did you become a Friend of Rowcroft?
Jean: “Before I moved to Dartmouth I was a practice manager in Wembley and I was interested in supporting patients. When I came here I wanted something to get involved in and someone suggested Rowcroft. That was 18 years ago, and for ten years I went across every week to help in the hospice, making teas and coffees for the patients. I have seen at first hand how valuable Rowcroft is and the tremendous service it performs. It is so rewarding to know that I am helping to generate funds for such an important cause. These days I run stalls and sew bags and aprons to sell to raise money.”
Chris: “Almost everyone I meet knows someone who has spent time in Rowcroft. It is a local charity that can be forgotten, and which needs all the help we can give it. Rowcroft has a huge impact locally. I’m happy to support something so worthwhile.”
Why would you recommend getting involved with the Friends of Rowcroft? Chris: “Yes! It is a great way to meet people, make friends and give something back to society. We always welcome new members. It would be wonderful to have more people involved and to hear fresh ideas for ways in which we can raise money. I would love to hear from anyone who’d like to come and join us.”
Jean: “I love to sew and make things that we can sell, but I’m 80 now and running the stalls and sales is tiring. It would be marvellous to have some new, dare I say younger, people to join us and help with our events.”
How long have you lived in Dartmouth? Chris: “I was born in Kent and lived in Surrey until I was 12, when my father died suddenly. He was only 45. He and my mother had always planned to retire to Dartmouth so my Mum brought me and my twin sister here to live. I only left 17 years ago but I didn’t go far – I live in Stoke Fleming.”
Jean: “I was born in Yorkshire and grew up in Finningley, where the bomber command base was. My father was a haulage contractor and my brother and I went to school there. When I left I married an airman and we travelled all over the place – around the UK and lived in Africa and France. I first visited Dartmouth in 1948 when we came to see members of my husband’s family in Exeter. My daughter’s in-laws come from the Dartmouth area, and I visited many times since, finally moving here when I retired 18 years ago.”
Where do you work? Chris: “I was a boat builder on the Dart, and trained with Lavers and Co. I worked hard all winter and raced yachts through the summer. It was a good life. I travelled around Europe taking part in different championships in different places, in the International Dragon class. Brilliant memories.”
Jean: “I did secretarial work and brought up three children. I enjoyed being a practice manager and found it very interesting working in health.”
Can you tell us about your family? Jean: “I have three lovely children – two daughters and one son.”
Chris: “My wife, Shirley, works for Pillars. We married when I was 43. She’s very supportive of my work with Rowcroft.”
Why is Dartmouth special to you? Chris: “Dartmouth is a beautiful place and Dartmouth people are very special. They are loyal and once you have made friends here they will do anything for you. I probably know too many people here and it takes me a while to get about in town because I like to stop and chat. Dartmouth people are very generous with their support of the Friends of Rowcroft, and for that we are very grateful.
“Last year the 12 groups of Friends together raised £88,000. This year we aim to raise £90,000. Come and join us and help us to do that. Either come along to one of our coffee mornings or give me a call on 01803 770468 and come and meet us. We look forward to it.”
First Published November 2010 By The Dart