FORMER head teacher of Sylvan First School, Ruth Eva Roberts, has died at the age of 88.

As a child just before WW2 her family had lived in Balston Road, Upper Parkstone where Ruth attended Branksome Junior School and regularly played on Constitution Hill.

"In 1980 she returned to the area as head of Sylvan First School, and to be nearer to her elderly parents who had retired from the Salvation Army in the 1950s and moved to Oakdale. Ruth remained a head teacher at Sylvan for ten years and was given a wonderful send off when she retired," said her son John Roberts.

After retiring in 1989, Christchurch Priory became a major focus. She enjoyed the camaraderie of the bell ringing group for over 25 years. She was a long time secretary to the Friends of the Priory, welcomed visitors, hosted the Priory museum, and conducted guided tours, and co-wrote a detailed booklet on the ancient misericords and other wood carvings in the Priory.

In the 1990s with her sister Grace, she gained a flower arranging qualification and was secretary of Christchurch Floral Society until last last year. She travelled widely round Europe with her sister Joan with whom she played piano duets until recent years.

"She learnt to play the piano as a child and was a very capable pianist playing daily as a school teacher. She rarely missed a BSO performance, the music gave her such pleasure and relaxation especially when she was ill," said John.

Ruth had many practical and intellectual skills, from dressmaker and re-upholstering furniture, to being a voracious reader with a thirst for knowledge in science and the arts. She knew many poems, literary and biblical passages by heart, not only English works but also French, German and Welsh, and was also a crossword enthusiast.

Born in Teignmouth in 1928, Ruth was the second of seven children. Her parents were Salvation Army officers and the family moved to different towns every year or two to develop their ministry. Despite the upheaval Ruth excelled in all subjects and earned several scholarships.She then attained teaching qualifications in the arts and literature.

In the 1950s she married and moved to Stamford where she raised three children and started a teaching career. A decade later, in Birmingham, she taught at secondary and primary schools participating in trials of early reading and maths teaching methods, leading her to being appointed a deputy headship and a headship in the West Midlands before moving back to Bournemouth.

"Ruth was talented, kind, energetic and vibrant. She had charm, intelligence and wit and many friends. She was such a joy and is much missed," said John.

Ruth died at home in Bournemouth on February 11 after a long illness. The bellringers ran special peals for her at her funeral which was held at Christchurch Priory on February 28. She is survived by four siblings, two children, four grandchildren and six great grandchildren.