Saturday, 1 December 2018

A Tribute to Ruth Dann, 1928 - 2018

Ruth and committee members

Ruth (centre) with other members of Wirral Wildlife committee, 2010

Ruth Dann was a Primary School Teacher before her marriage to Bernard in 1952.  She joined the Wirral Group of Cheshire Wildlife Trust soon after they moved to Caldy in 1971.

Her love of nature began when she was a girl and she subsequently studied biology at college. Ruth very soon became part of the fundraising committee and subsequently its Chairman. She was elected to the main committee in 1986 and was in charge of fundraising for Wirral Wildlife from then until she retired in 2010. She co-ordinated a small team of volunteers who staffed the stalls at charity fairs, talks and events, heaving the boxes of sales goods in and out of venues. Ruth's work raised about £2000 a year for the Trust. This went towards protecting the wildlife and habitats of the Wirral. The stall's presence at events also acted as publicity for Cheshire Wildlife Trust. Ruth was backed up in all this by her husband, Bernard, who acted as chauffeur, porter and money-checker.

Heswall Charities Fair

Heswall Charities Fair

In 1985 when the committee needed a room for its regular 6-weekly meetings, she generously offered her dining room with its large table. It was invaluable for committee meetings and was also used for the task of inserting newsletters into their envelopes prior to distribution. (An activity known as ‘stuffing’). The committee was very grateful for her hospitality, large table - and the occasional entertainment, as when the fox trotted across the lawn to pick up its supper, left conveniently within sight of the window.

Although she modestly claims it was for selfish reasons that she offered her room (she did not drive and would have needed lifts to meetings), she and her husband Bernard also opened their beautiful home and garden for fundraising purposes. Thus each spring for many years Wirral Wildlife was able to hold a very profitable plant sale, followed by an equally enjoyable fund raising/social event each November.

Elaine (left) and Ruth (right) at Christmas fundraising

Elaine (left) and Ruth (right) at Christmas fundraising

Ruth had a very wide circle of friends, some of whom she recruited to membership of Cheshire Wildlife Trust. Even those who did not join were gently encouraged to attend fundraising events or make donations. This policy was followed at her regular summer croquet parties. Unfortunately the lawn wasn’t quite croquet standard because it had clover in it and buttercups. As Ruth herself said ‘It wasn’t the best croquet lawn but it was nice for wildlife and the bees loved the clover. So it had to be an extra hazard you see. They didn’t seem to object and they put a donation in the hall as they left for the pleasure of knocking a ball around the lawn’.

Ruth was given the Eric Thurston award in 2009 in recognition of her efforts on behalf of Cheshire Wildlife Trust.

Ruth being presented with the Eric Thurston award

Ruth being presented with the Eric Thurston award

Since she retired from the committee a highlight for her were the visits from retired and current committee members. Unable to take an active role any longer she was still up to date with everything happening on our reserves and would quiz us about this when we visited. She celebrated her 90th birthday this year and we were able to present her with a miniature version of the crystal Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service that the group gained last year.

Ruth with her Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

Ruth with her Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

Cheshire Wildlife Trust presented her with a special certificate and interviewed her for the Grebe magazine.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust certificate

After talking about why she got involved in volunteering with the group and the wildlife and places she liked they asked her about her pet hates.

This is a transcription from the tape.

Oh I’ve got a few pet hates. Bernard my husband always said “you’re very selective about what you want to conserve you know’’. Magpies I’m not very fond of. Oh and the sparrow hawk. I had a horrible sparrow hawk who used to take the goldfinches as they left the bird feeders. You know he’d sit up in the tree and then “waaaam” he’d take a goldfinch. And I didn’t like that. I didn’t want to feed sparrow hawks on goldfinches.

Cats I don’t like for obvious reasons.

The grey squirrel! Worst of all. Oh gosh! I fought a battle for years against the grey squirrel! But they’ve got more patience than I have. That’s the thing. I bought all sorts of devices to deter it from the bird table. Because he used to get up on the bird table and feast away. I’m not buying seed to feed a squirrel - good gracious! Interloper!

We fixed up various things. I had a water pistol. I used to creep out and fire off the water pistol. Of course the squirrel was the other end of the garden by that time. So that wasn’t any good. And then I had the bright idea of putting a hosepipe on the bird table, with a brick to hold it down. And then when he was there we used to turn the tap on. And the squirrel would get a jet of water on it. But that didn’t work because when the squirrel felt the vibrations of the water coming through the hose it leapt off the table. So all that happened was the hosepipe blew all the seed off! I gave up after that.

They’re a bit of a nuisance but still you’ve got to put up with these things.

We will miss her forthright common sense, enthusiasm, sense of humour and her small figure bustling around the sales table. She has made a lasting contribution to wildlife in Wirral and will long be remembered fondly by all who met her.

Here are some tributes from fellow committee members.

Ruth and her home were such a part of so many events - committee meetings, stuffing meetings, garden events and all her fundraising events. She was always cheerful and positive, interested in everything and everyone, and a kinder, more interesting person it would be hard to find. We will all have affectionate memories about her.


We have lost a great Wirral Wildlife stalwart and friend. I would say I got to know Ruth more when she retired from the committee and Philippa & I would go to visit her.  She was always interested in the group and asked for special permission to be sent the minutes which she literally went over with a magnifying glass.  Ruth was always a delight to see, always in good spirits and so positive about everything and never mentioned her declining heath.  She considered her Wirral Wildlife friends as best friends.

Paul & Philippa

I first met Ruth in the mid-eighties when Christine and I joined the Heswall & West Kirby Folk Dance Group.  She was an ever-present dancer, and she and Bernard used to host our annual barbecue dance in her garden.

It was seeing her at a dance evening wearing a Wirral Wildlife jumper that first brought WW to my attention, and that was when I joined.  It wasn’t many months before she persuaded me to take on the role of treasurer when the post became vacant.

Ruth was the inspiration for the Wirral Wildlife annual wildlife quiz.  She and I have been the judges of the quiz ever since.  She helped me find (some of!) the mistakes I made in compiling the questions and she was always keen to go through all the entries with me and help me to decide on who was the winner.  I shall miss her contribution very much.


I have known Ruth for nearly 40 years and during that time she became a dear friend.

Once Wirral Wildlife began sourcing its own sales material I helped Ruth with ordering stock. She pored through sales catalogues selecting appropriate items and then would delight in demonstrating some of the more quirky items on the sales table. Squeezy frogs with extending tongues were a particular favourite, both with her and the children.

Latterly, as her mobility declined, she wanted me to tell her of the places and wildlife I had seen since my last visit: “And what has caused your eye to light up this week?” (a quote from Norman Ellison, ‘Nomad’). Her knowledge and love of wildlife was extensive which coupled with a phenomenal memory which never deserted her, made for many interesting conversations.


Since Ruth retired from the committee I visited her regularly to keep her up to date with happenings in Wirral Wildlife, Cheshire Wildlife Trust and the reserves. As her eyesight and mobility deteriorated I never once heard her complain. She listened to Radio 4 so her conversation was always topical and she often had wildlife questions, being pleased when we could often get immediate answers from my smartphone. Her main regret was that she could no longer walk around her garden and see the birds and butterflies there. I will miss those visits to her.


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