Ruck, Berta, 1878-1978.

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Ruck, Berta, 1878-1978.

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Berta Ruck (1878-1978), novelist, was born Amy Roberta Ruck in the Punjab, India, on 2 August 1878. She was the eldest of the eight children of Lieutenant (later Colonel) Arthur Ashley Ruck (1847-1939) of Esgair and Pantlludw, Merioneth, and Elizabeth Eleanor (née D'Arcy, 1852-1928). She came to Britain aged two to live with her grandmother in Merioneth, then with her father's return from India the family moved to Lancashire. In 1888 Col. Ruck was appointed Chief Constable of Caernarvonshire and the rest of Ruck's childhood was spent in Caernarfon and Bangor, where she attended St Winifred's School as a boarder. She then studied at Lambeth School of Art, the Slade School of Fine Art (from 1901) and at the Académie Colarossi in Paris (1904-5). In 1909 she married fellow novelist and Slade alumnus Oliver Onions (1873-1961) (he changed his name by deed poll to George Oliver in 1918). They had two children, (George) Arthur Oliver (b. 1912) and William Richard ('Bill') Oliver (1913-2007). Meanwhile Merioneth continued to play an important part in Ruck's life with her parents having returned permanently to Esgair in 1912. In 1903 Ruck began a career as an illustrator for magazines such as The Idler and The Jabberwock. From 1905 she began to contribute short stories and serials to magazines such as Home Chat. One such serial was published as a full-length novel, His Official Fiancée (London, 1914), and its success marked the beginning of Ruck's career as a popular romantic novelist. She produced up to three books annually, as well as short stories and articles; her last novel, Shopping for a Husband (London, 1967), appeared when she was nearly ninety. She also published several memoir-style works: A Story-Teller Tells the Truth (London, 1935), A Smile for the Past (London, 1959), A Trickle of Welsh Blood (London, 1967), An Asset to Wales (London, 1970), and Ancestral Voices (1972). In later life she was a public speaker and occasional radio broadcaster and in 1970 she appeared in a documentary for the television series Yesterday's Witness. Between the wars she lived in Henley on Thames, Windsor and Hampstead and was active in London society; she was friends with various writers, artists, actors, aviators and other notables of the day. Her interests included aviation; her son Bill became an RAF and airline pilot and she herself enjoyed flying. She travelled widely in Europe, especially France, Germany and Austria (she was particularly fond of Vienna where she stayed often and had many friends) and visited the United States. In September 1939, with the outbreak of war, she and her husband left London and settled in Aberdyfi, Merioneth, where she lived for her remaining years. She died a few days after her one-hundredth birthday in 1978.


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