Wednesday 18 July 2018

Ruth Ross, gardener and wartime codebreaker, leaves €4m

Marriage: Ruth Ross with her husband John in 2004
Marriage: Ruth Ross with her husband John in 2004
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

The well-known gardening writer, horticulturist and wartime codebreaker Ruth Ross, whose son is Minister of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, left more than €4m in her will which went to probate in Dublin last week.

The minister and his two sisters are the main beneficiaries of their mother's legacy, according to documents lodged in the Probate Office.

Ruth Isabel Ross, described as a homemaker of Knockmore, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, who died on October 17, 2016, left €4,135,505 in her will, the documents show.

She was a well-known gardening writer and at her imposing mansion outside the Wicklow village, she constructed beautiful gardens during her long life.

Her "regency style" house on 15 acres of gardens, described as "a majestic setting" by auctioneers, is currently for sale for €2.4m.

Ruth Isabel Ross, who died at her home at the age of 96, was a noted gardener, horticulturist and cookery and gardening writer known as Ru-Bel to her family. She was born in England and as a young woman she worked at the ATS Interception Corps at Bletchley Park, the highly secretive centre for British code breakers, something she rarely spoke about.

She married John Ross, who ultimately became a well -known Dublin solicitor and who was born into a distinguished Cork ''merchant prince'' family.

The premature death of John's father meant he had been largely raised in England and the couple met in Cambridge where they both studied.

While she worked at Bletchley Park, he joined the Irish Guards, fighting in France and Belgium where he formed a lifelong friendship with Prince Jean of Luxembourg.

After the war they came to Ireland and she began to work as a historical researcher and later writing on Irish houses for Country Life magazine, before becoming a gardening columnist.

Her books included Irish Baking Book, Irish Family Food, The Little Book of Irish Family Cooking and the Little Irish Baking Book. With the internationally recognised illustrator and friend Wendy Walsh, she wrote An Irish Florilegium - A Year in an Irish Garden, which is regarded as a classic of the genre.

Her younger son Connolly died at the age of 47, an event she bore with typical stoicism. "During the war we were cannon fodder - that is why, though I miss him terribly, some people have it worse," she told Miriam O'Callaghan in an interview. "Things that happened at the end of the war were worse."

Shane Ross recalled that his mother was an unashamed monarchist and was delighted to take tea with Princess Anne when she attended the Dublin Horse Show at the Royal Dublin Society in 2016.

As well as bequests to her son-in-law, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, Mrs Ross left €5,000 for medical research into a rare genetic eye disorder retinitis pigmentosa. The residue of her estate is to be divided equally between her three children. She was predeceased by her husband John who died on Christmas Eve, 2011.

Sunday Independent

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