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6 October 2022

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Ruth Bidgood, 20 July 1922-4 March 2022

On National Poetry Day, we remember St Hugh’s alumna, Ruth Bidgood (née Jones, English Language and Literature, 1940) who was one of Wales’s finest poets in English and one of the best British female poets of her generation.

Her son, Martin Bidgood, recounts his mother’s life and achievements in the following obituary which was published in Chronicle 2021-22:

“Ruth Bidgood was one of Wales’s finest English language poets, producing a substantial body of work over five decades. She was born in Seven Sisters, Glamorgan, grew up in Aberavon, and attended Port Talbot Grammar School, where her English teacher was the legendary Philip Burton (Richard Burton’s mentor). She was the only child of a father who was a minister in The Church in Wales, and a mother who was a primary school teacher. Her father was a fluent Welsh-speaker from Conwy in North Wales, and her mother came from Somerset. Although only English was spoken at home, Ruth said that she was always aware of another language in the background and admitted later in life a feeling of guilt at not having learned to speak Welsh fluently.

In 1940 Ruth went up to St. Hugh’s College where she read English. During these war years her studies were accompanied by fire-watching at night and acting as secretary to the Oxford Celtic Club. After graduating in 1943, she joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and trained as a navy decoder, serving first in Scotland and then Egypt, where she spent 18 months between 1944 and 1946, mainly in Alexandria. After her war service, Ruth worked for Chambers’s Encyclopaedia in London on a new edition.

In 1946 she married David Bidgood and lived in London then Surrey. They had three children: Tony, Janet (who died in 2007) and Martin. Ruth took the greatest delight in her children and subsequently eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. In 1964 Ruth and David bought a bungalow in the remote village of Abergwesyn in mid-Wales, where the family spent their holidays and came to live permanently in 1974.

Abergwesyn inspired Ruth to write poetry, which captured the landscape and people of this wild area of mid-Wales, known as Elenydd. Her 15 volumes of poetry, published between 1972 and 2019, have been described as constituting ‘one continuous epic poem about mid-Wales and its people’. She was shortlisted twice for Welsh Book of the Year and won the prestigious Roland Mathias Poetry Prize in 2011. In 2019 she was awarded an honorary fellowship of Aberystwyth University.

Ruth will be widely known for her poetry, but she also researched the history of Abergwesyn and wrote a notable book “Parishes of the Buzzard”, as well as detailed articles about the history of the wider area for many journals. She documented the disappearing history of a community that is changing rapidly and was particularly fond of old churches and chapels – the repositories of centuries of history of the people who had lived and worshipped there.

Ruth died peacefully in Rhayader, four months short of her 100th birthday.”

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