Jack SheffieldAbout JackBooksAbout RagleyNewsContactHome
Ragley Characters
Jack Sheffield
Beth Henderson
Vera Evans
Ruby Smith
Map of Ragley-on-the-Forest
Ragley Characters

Ruby Smith
School Caretaker

In complete contrast, Ruby was larger than life. At twenty stones she was big in both size and personality. Shaped like a huge beach ball, she described herself cheerfully as ‘well built in all the right places and most of the wrong ones as well’. Ruby’s round face was always red and flushed and her bright orange caretaker overall was a massive Extra-Large Double X, the largest size in the school equipment catalogue. Even so, the overall had to be adjusted to provide extra vents under the armpits to allow ease of movement.

Ragley village had been Ruby’s home for all of her forty-four years. She regularly boasted that she had never set foot out of Yorkshire. Apart from the annual family bus trip to the seaside, Ruby had never left the village. ‘London is full of scarlet women,’ she declared, ‘and southerners can’t make proper fish and chips.’ The thought of going abroad had never crossed her mind.

Ruby always did her shopping at the General Stores in the village High Street and if she ever needed anything from York, her eldest daughter collected it for her. Ruby’s six children comprised two sons and four daughters. The eldest, Andy, was twenty-six and in the Army. Racquel was twenty-four and living ‘over the brush’, as Ruby would say, with a warehouse man in York. The other four children, Duggie, Sharon, Natasha and Hazel, lived with Ruby and her unemployed husband, Ronnie, in their three-bedroom council house at number seven, School View. The youngest, Hazel, was four years old and had just started full-time education in the Reception class.

Each day Ruby would clatter noisily into school carrying a mop and bucket and an assortment of brushes and set about her work. As she swept, scrubbed and dusted she would sing songs from her favourite musicals. Her special favourite was The Sound of Music, which she had seen seven times, including once with a reluctant Ronnie, five times on her own and once with the whole family as a birthday treat. After listening to Ruby singing each afternoon as I did my paperwork after school, I was almost as word-perfect as Julie Andrews. Until, one day in the middle of September, the singing had suddenly stopped and Ruby starting writing letters!