so who is Ruth?

Ruth Stoker, a cousin of Bram Stoker, was one of the first 30 students to attend Kylemore Abbey when the Benedictine nuns opened a school there in September 1923.  Ranging in age from 8-18, the girls attended a  “high class school offering all the advantages of a Continental education.”

Tragedy was to strike in the first term at Kylemore, when Ruth, 14, died a week short of Christmas.  She was buried in the Community’s cemetery near the Gothic Church. 

Some 60 years later, in September 1983,  I was a new student myself and similar in age.  I was always curious as to who was this girl whose grave was marked with a stone Celtic cross.  I didn’t start my research in earnest until into my adulthood when I had started to write my first novel.

My initial queries were with the Community’s historian, Sister Benedict, who explained that a fire in the castle in 1959 had destroyed any official past student’s records, so little was known about Ruth.  All the same, Sister Benedict asked some of the older retired nuns,  and was told that the story passed down was that she had died from “Galloping Consumption” (TB) and was buried  “at the request of her parents” at Kylemore.

I found this fascinating,  and very sad.

To think the girl might have fallen ill while at school, and then was buried, not at home in Dublin, but to be buried in Kylemore and to be the only child ever to be buried among the nuns.  Ruth remains the only lay person to be buried there to this day.

Who was she?  

Who were her family?  

What was Ruth’s story?

Using her date and age off the grave stone (18th December 1923, aged 14)  and using her unusual name – Stoker,  and stabbing a guess of a Dublin connection, I started my search with the Dublin 1911 Census.  Call it luck or fate but, I found her.

Having the family census details allowed me to research some more, and with the help of some in-the-know, over time I have found out the following:

Ruth’s father, Frank Owen Stoker,  was a Protestant dental surgeon in Dublin and twice winner of Wimbledon’s Doubles with Joshua Pims. (1890 and again in 1893)

Frank Stoker and Joshua Pimms

At the time of Ruth’s death, the family were living d in number 23, Westland Row (at the back of Trinity College, Dublin) – with a week to go to Christmas, they were probably looking forward to having their youngest daughter home for the holidays – I imagine a tall Christmas tree and long garlands adorned the fireplace and stairwell.

 

23 Westland Row

Ruth’s mother, was Rita Maunsell,  a Roman Catholic, and Ruth had 3 sisters, May, Norma and Joan.  They lived in the heart of the Dublin city.   1923 would have been a time of strife in Dublin with the end of the civil war and the city disrupted  with riots and slaughter between Catholics and Protestants alike.  I am guessing here but am thinking the timing of her attending Kylemore was much thought through by her parents at the time to get her away from all the troubles.

Ruth’s  immediate family line died out (Ruth’s sisters never married/had children) – and I was quietly pleased that more research found that while the original Stoker family plot is in Saint Patricks Cathedral,  the Stoker/Maunsell plot is in Glasnevin.

Stoker Family Grave

I have visited the Glasnevin plot and can report it is a quiet spot away from the celebrity and national heroes’ graves within the city graveyard.  I can’t help but  think how sad that the rest of her family are there all together,  and Ruth lies so many miles away.  I took a stone from nearby the family plot and when next visited Kylemore, placed it on Ruth’s grave.  Silly perhaps, but I felt something was now being shared between the two locations.

My original book cover of  book one in my series ‘K-Girls’  depicts the young face of a relative of mine – it is taken of my mother’s cousin,  around the same age and time of Ruth’s death.   She represents the fictional face of Ruth – someday I hope to share with you the real one.

 KGirls book cover

 

12 thoughts on “so who is Ruth?

  1. Pingback: Plot – Story or Grave? | Lydia Little – author and K-Girl

    • Hi there Alexander
      Thank you for reading my blog.
      The census of 1911, counted those at the same address on the evening of the date of the census. This would take into account, visitors, servants, and family members. Ruth was 1 at the time of the count. The census did not count the dead but the living. Albeit, there is a column counting the number of children ‘born alive’ against those ‘still living’. If you look closely, you will see that the Stokers had already lost one child prior to this census. I am saddened to think they would go on to loose another in 1923 with the death of Ruth. There should have been another census due in 1921 but this never happened due to the Irish Civil War and so the next official document I have on Ruth is her death cert for 18/12/1923, aged 14.
      I don’t want to post that up as details might spoil the story line in my book!
      I appreciate your comments/interest though.
      Thanks
      Lydia

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  2. Thank you very much for replying to my last comment and i was just wondering because your first book was so good are you going to publish another book on the kindle
    thanks
    xander

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    • Hi again Xander, I am sorry for the gap between book one and two. I have finished writing book two and am currently editing that for my test readers. So depending on their comments, there may be more corrections/changes. It is hard to say when it will ready for kindle. I am hoping that readers will think it was worth the wait though when it does!!! Thanks for getting in touch and am so pleased you enjoyed book one- don’t forget to leave your feedback/review on Amazon! All the best Lydia

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

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    • Why thank you Xander – so glad you enjoyed the first book, when you get a chance please do leave a review on Amazon. In answer to your question, I am still editing the second book. It is proving a much slower process than expected (it didn’t help that my brother died earlier this year which set me back some) I am also working on getting an agent to help me bring the whole series to the market…..watch this space as they say! Thanks again, Lydia.

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