Ruth

Ruth Little: Write away

Rosalind Trenaman was born 15 August 1907 at 28 Hainault Avenue, Southend, England to Lionel Percy Trenaman and Kate Anne Trenaman (née Verrall). Her birth certificate gives her father’s occupation as Superintendent African Direct Telegraph Company and in an odd symmetry of circumstance it would be on the African continent that Ruth would die on 30 March 1970, aged just sixty-two.

 

Unknown photographer, England
Rosalind Trenaman, postcard
(c. 1910)
gelatin silver print
14.0 x 8.8 cm (image and sheet)
Private collection, Australia

Unknown photographer, England
Rosalind Trenaman, postcard
(c. 1912)
gelatin silver print
13.7 x 8.7 cm (image and sheet)
Private collection, Australia

Unknown photographer, England
Rosalind Trenaman with a horse
(c. 1923)
gelatin silver print
5.1 x 7.7 cm (image); 5.5 x 8.2 cm (sheet)
Private collection, Australia

Unknown photographer, England
Rosalind (Ruth) Trenaman, postcard
(c. 1930)
gelatin silver print
8.5 x 6.1 cm (image); 10.4 x 7.3 cm irreg. (sheet)
Private collection, Australia

Between the two events of her birth and death, a great deal occurred. Rosalind became known as Ruth. She trained as a secretary and librarian, became a member of the National Union of Journalists, married, emigrated, gave birth to a son, ran an hotel, worked in the offices of various private companies, government and military agencies, wrote for her local Quaker newsletters and entered the world of radio broadcasting. In addition to professional writing, she also wrote for pleasure, penning short stories, a memoir, copious letters and, for several years, a journal. Images taken of Ruth over the course of her life capture an adaptable individual. A girl, a lass, a woman who was quietly unconventional – intelligent, independent, courageous, caring and wickedly humorous.

On 27 May 1936, Ruth married Charles Little in the City of Westminster Registry Office during her lunch-hour. The pair met aboard Dunluce Castle of the Union-Castle Line. Ruth was returning from a lone holiday in Tangier while Charles had embarked in Mallorca where he’d been visiting his Auntie Fana. Their ship docked in England on 7 May and within a fortnight Charles had proposed three times. The couple originally planned to settle in England and spent their honeymoon counting their pennies and rambling through the English countryside in search of a small holding with permanent lodgings to call home. They ended up working on a chicken farm but when Ruth fell pregnant the work became too heavy. Three months shy of her due date, they made the decision leave England and move to the town of Charles’ birth – Brummana, Lebanon. They arrived to a warm welcome and in June 1937 their son, Christopher, was greeted with equal enthusiasm. Indeed, Ruth’s most challenging job as a new mother became keeping track of her progeny’s movements as her new extended family, especially his grandmother, joyfully helped themselves to the sleeping infant the moment her back was turned.

Charles Little
Ruth Trenaman Little on honeymoon
1936
gelatin silver print
6.0 x 10.4 cm (image); 6.5 x 10.9 cm (sheet)
Private collection, Australia

Charles Little
Ruth Trenaman Little on honeymoon
1936
gelatin silver print
6.0 x 10.4 cm (image); 6.5 x 10.8 cm (sheet)
Private collection, Australia

Charles Little (attributed to)
Ruth Trenaman Little and Christopher Little at Cedarhurst, Brummana
1938
gelatin silver print
8.0 x 5.3 cm (image); 8.5 x 5.8 cm (sheet)
Private collection, Australia

Charles Little (attributed to)
Christopher Little, Punch the donkey and Ruth Little, Brummana
(1938/39)
gelatin silver print
8.3 x 5.3 cm irreg.(image); 9.0 x 6.1 cm (sheet)
Private collection, Australia

Charles Little (attributed to)
Ruth Trenaman Little and Christopher Little at Cedarhurst, Brummana, postcard
1946
gelatin silver print
13.5 x 8.3 cm (image); 13.8 x 8.7 cm (sheet)
Private collection, Australia

Charles Little (attributed to)
Ruth Trenaman Little on balcony at Fleissey (Beit Manasseh) with dog
(c. 1948)
gelatin silver print
8.0 x 5.5 cm (image); 8.9 x 6.4 cm (sheet)
Private collection, Australia

The Second World War forced Ruth’s young family to leave their much loved home in Brummana. After making their way to Palestine, Ruth and Christopher sheltered at the Quaker Mission House at Ramallah and later Ruth worked with the C.I.D. in Palestine. When it was safe to move back to Lebanon Ruth initially worked with the British Security Mission before returning to Brummana where she rented a house called Fleissie (also known as Beit Manasseh). Christopher attended the American Community School in Beirut during the week and came home on weekends leaving Ruth free to seek employment Monday to Friday. In the summer months she took in paying guests and in winter taught shorthand and typing at Brummana High School. In addition she helped out at Cedarhurst, her mother-in-law’s nearby hotel. Ruth enjoyed gardening and ultimately found herself in charge of three sets of grounds: the hotel’s, her own and that of Little House which was part of Brummana High School and named in memory of her late father-in-law, Thomas, who had been Head Master of the school at the turn of the century. In April 1946, Ruth found time to transcribe substantial extracts of Thomas Little’s diary of 1888–1892 from his original shorthand to plain text. In addition to recording it in her journal she made a slightly abridged version “set out in style” as an Easter present to her mother-in-law, Wega.

Unknown photographer
Ruth Trenaman Little
(1940s)
gelatin silver print
4.7 x 3.2 cm (image); 6.0 x 3.8 cm (sheet)
Private collection, Australia

Unknown photographer, Mombasa, Kenya
Charles Little, Ruth Trenaman Little, Maxie the dog and Christopher Little, Mombasa
(1950)
gelatin silver print
10.7 x 7.2 cm (image); 11.3 x 7.8 cm (sheet)
Private collection, Australia

Halle Studio, Nairobi, Kenya
Ruth Trenaman Little in broadcasting studio, Nairobi
(1951)
gelatin silver print
11.1 x 15.8 cm (image); 11.9 x 16.4 cm (sheet)
Private collection, Australia

Halle Studio, Nairobi, Kenya
Ruth Trenaman Little in broadcasting studio, Nairobi
(1951)
gelatin silver print
11.1 x 15.8 cm (image); 11.9 x 16.4 cm (sheet)
Private collection, Australia

In 1949 Ruth’s family moved again, this time to Kenya. Her husband, Charles, undertook various jobs as an artist,  archaeologist and draughtsman while her son attended secondary school in Nairobi. Ever adaptable, by 1951 Ruth had taken up work in radio as a programme producer, announcer, news reader and ultimately she commenced her own radio show. Auntie Ruth became one of the two personalities (the other was Uncle Pat) who wrote and presented two weekly shows for the Cable and Wireless programmes for children.

The 1960s brought yet another move: this time to Johannesburg, South Africa. Here Ruth resumed the administrative work for which she had trained so many years earlier in England. However, in 1968 she found herself acting as nurse to her husband who had been diagnosed with cancer. Charles died in 1969 and sadly in 1970 Ruth was also diagnosed with cancer. She had little time to prepare for her death, nevertheless, one of the tasks Ruth prioritised was the complete and careful packing of her belongings, including her husband’s art and family memorabilia. This material forms the core of the private archive on which tandscandal is based.

by Pat Little
31 March 2012

Copyright ownership of page and post entries is retained by the author

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