Retracing her footsteps of the past

WHEN Ruby Palmer last set foot in Orwell Park at the age of 14, she never imagined she would be returning 76 years later to celebrate her 90th birthday.

WHEN Ruby Palmer last set foot in Orwell Park at the age of 14, she never imagined she would be returning 76 years later to celebrate her 90th birthday.

Today, Orwell Park is occupied by the prestigious Orwell Park School, in Nacton, but when Ruby worked there it was the family home of the well-known Ipswich family, the Pretymans.

Ruby, of Dover Road, Ipswich, spent around one month living and working in house in 1927 as a scullery maid alongside a chief cook in the kitchen.

She said: "I learnt a lot from the cook and really ought to have stayed longer but I felt like I was miles and miles away from home.

"I was quite young and that's why I left, but I remember the cook wanting me to stay and she was disappointed I left."

Although she admits to not particularly enjoying her time there, she has always been curious about what it would be like to return.

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Her daughter-in-law Mavis Palmer, 64, decided to put an end to this curiosity and made arrangements to take Mrs Palmer on a trip down memory lane.

She wrote to the headmaster of the school, Andrew Auster, asking if it would be possible to arrange a visit and within two days she had a reply granting her wish.

Mavis said: "It was my idea to do it because every we went past, she would always say: 'I wonder what it's like inside'.

"So I decided to put pen to paper and here we are."

For Ruby, who lost her husband Cyril in 1982, the whole day proved to be quite an occasion. She was greeted by the 300 pupils of the school and was presented with champagne, flowers and chocolates. Pupils also lined a main corridor of the school to clap Ruby as she was pushed along in a wheelchair.

The mother-of-four, who also has nine grandchildren and seven great grandchildren, was accompanied by her daughter-in-law and one of her sons, Bernard, 65.

She said: "It's been marvelous to come back. They've given me such a wonderful day. I don't think I've never been treated so well.

"I never expected all this - I only wanted to come and have a look around but this has been a brilliant birthday present."

Mr Auster said: "The school tries to be welcoming to lots of people but when Mrs Palmer wrote to me I did not hesitate to invite them to look around.

"The children enjoyed it and it was a lovely way for the school to wish Ruby Palmer a happy birthday."

WEBLINK

www.orwellpark.co.uk

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