THE recent death of Ruth Proctor Hirst has taken from us one of the finest local historians of her generation.

Born in 1925, Ruth moved as a child to Pastors Hill House, in Bream. Her father was a farmer and Ruth was expected to do her share of the work. In 1939, at the age of 14, Ruth was allowed to leave school and ran the household for her mother who was suffering an illness.

Later, during the war, Ruth’s father made her ‘Reserved Occupation’. Ruth fought the decision and joined the NAAFI at RAF Innsworth.

Following the war, in 1950, she moved to Newquay in Cornwall, where she developed a deep interest in local history. Marilyn Thompson, current member of the Newquay Old Cornwall Society, takes up the story.

She says: “Ruth Proctor Hirst was an outstanding, indefatigable, local historian to whom the people of Newquay owe a great debt.”

She became the Society’s recorder, a role encompassing archivist and librarian, and was one in a line of distinguished researchers who ensured Newquay’s history would be well documented. Over three decades she compiled an extensive directory encapsulating the history of the area.

In recognition of her contribution in documenting Cornwall’s history Ruth was created a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd, a just reward for one of the county’s great history champions.

Ruth left Cornwall in 1985 to return to her roots in the Forest and lost no time in joining the Forest of Dean Local History Society. She was general secretary and newsletter editor between 1991 and 1993 and, over the years, wrote 19 articles for the society’s journal, The New Regard. Subjects included stone crosses, lead fonts and churches.

When the Milestones Society was formed in 2001, Ruth promptly joined and went on to survey the milestones in West Gloucestershire.

She also joined the Dean Archaeological Group and regularly carried out research. She published two books relevant to the Forest, Old Stone Crosses of West Gloucestershire and A Glance Back at Bream.

She was a stalwart member of the Cats Protection League and an enthusiastic fund-raiser.

In later years the condition of her knees kept her confined to her house which was also her library. She continued her collection of photographs and press cuttings as well as gathering much general information about the Forest area.

She will be greatly missed by her friends and fellow historians. – Keith Walker, Newsletter Editor, Forest of Dean Local History Society.