Village’s oldest resident dies, aged 104

Wray's oldest resident, Ruth Whittam, aged 104, whose funeral will take place on Friday April 10 2015.
Wray's oldest resident, Ruth Whittam, aged 104, whose funeral will take place on Friday April 10 2015.

Wray’s oldest resident, who survived the devastating village flood of 1967, has died at home, aged 104.

For all her life Ruth Whittam lived in Wray, where her funeral will take place on Friday (April 10).

She was born Mary Ruth Clarkson at Glen Cottage on July 26 1910, her mother’s birthday, to John and Esther Clarkson.

When she was two she went to live with her grandparents, John and Sarah Clarkson, and her uncle Reuben at Bridge End as their cottage was too small to accommodate all the family.

She had 12 brothers and sisters, although three died early. Three sisters, Clara, Alice and Jenny, survive her.

Mrs Whittam was 16 when her grandmother died and she remained at Bridge End to look after her uncle.

She married Jack Whittam in Wray and they had two children, Reg and Jean.

She held many positions on committees in Wray, including the Women’s Institute, Sports Day and OAPs, and was a governor of the village school for 26 years.

Mrs Whittam was a parish councillor and also represented Wray on Lunesdale Rural District Council. She was vice-chairman when the RDC disbanded in 1974 to join Lancaster City Council. She said local government had gone downhill ever since.

She enjoyed gardening and flower arranging and arranged flowers in churches and for weddings. She and her husband enjoyed 
holidays all over Europe.

Their cottage was one of 13 properties destroyed by the flood in August 1967. Water from the River Roeburn crashed through the front door and filled the ground floor but Mrs Whittam, who was alone at the time, escaped by smashing a window. Mr and Mrs Whittam built a bungalow in the garden as their new home.

She worked at the New Inn in Wray and the Melling Hall Hotel.

After her husband died, she continued to live in the bungalow for 26 years. For the last 10 years carers helped her to live on her own.

She loved Wray’s annual Scarecrow Festival, being given pride of place at the head of the parade.

Celebrations took place in the village institute for Mrs Whittam’s 100th and 104th birthdays and a portrait of her hangs on the wall.

She had six grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. She lived through four monarchs and 21 prime ministers.

Her daughter, Mrs Jean Sheard, said: “For the whole of her life she has lived in the Bridge End area of Wray and could tell every stick and stone of the place, all the people who used to live in Wray and their ancestors. Not much got past her memory.

“As for Reg and I, Wray can never be the same place again.”

The funeral takes place at Wray Methodist Church on Friday at 3pm. Donations in Mrs Whittam’s memory 
will benefit pupils of the village school.