East Runton stalwart hangs up his boots after lifetime of volunteering

Ruggles Love is retiring from Runtons FC after 40 years of volunteering work.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Ruggles Love is retiring from Runtons FC after 40 years of volunteering work.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Ruggles Love has been a mainstay of the East Runton community his whole life, most famously helping the football club in every role possible.But after more than 50 years of volunteering he is hanging up his boots.As he heads into retirement, reporter LUCY CLAPHAM finds out what keeps this true Norfolk gentleman smiling.

As I struggle in the stifling 30C heat, he leans coolly on the goalpost posing for our photographer, while telling us about the hour and a half walk up a hill he enjoyed earlier with his dog.

He is 79. But, as his dog-walking anecdote, sprightly demeanour and energetic character confirm, he is far from old.

The granddad was born in West Runton, raised in East Runton and bar a few months in Cromer and his time in National Service, he has lived in the village his whole life.

He was christened Rodney but said the nickname Ruggles had been coined so early on it had stuck for life.

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'It was a cousin who couldn't get his tongue round Rodney and I have never been known as anything since,' he explained. 'Even my parents called me Ruggles.'

He first got involved with East Runton FC around the age of 13, when his nimble fingers were called into service to repair and maintain the old leather footballs.

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Since then he has gone on to support the club through numerous activities, from washing kits to marking lines, emptying bins to untangling nets and everything inbetween.

He has also raised vital funds for the club but admitted his help was not called upon that often on the pitch.

'I was never really good enough. I got a game if they were exceedingly short or somebody didn't turn up,' he said.

'I was never a footballer but I like watching it. I like to take an interest in Norwich (City) but I'm much happier coming up here.'

He went on to become chairman of the club and attached playing field as well as the village hall, and in his time has only missed a handful of matches.

A diagnosis of cancer in 2000 saw him miss an entire season but after battling the disease, a feat he bats away modestly, he was soon back doing the work he so enjoyed.

It was his time in National Service that took him away for the longest period.

Having trained as a dental technician he joined the Royal Army Dental Corp (RADC) and was posted to Egypt and Libya where he looked after troops' teeth.

When he came back to England in 1956 Mr Love, who still has all of his own teeth, returned to Norfolk and waiting fiancé Joy, who he married in 1958.

They raised their family in East Runton, in the house Mr Love still lives in today, after Joy died of breast cancer six years ago.

He continued to work as a dental technician, making, fitting, repairing and modifying dentures, until the age of 75 - another role that solidified his community standing.

'There must be literally thousands of people walking around north Norfolk smiling at me with my teeth,' he quipped.

'People used to say to me what are you doing messing about with other people's teeth? It was a very interesting job and there's a lot of job satisfaction.'

Mr Love is stepping down from his role with East Runton FC after he was whisked to hospital twice in May, due to complications from surgery related to his cancer treatment. But he said he was leaving the club on a good note.

'Last season the club won the Lifeboat Cup and another cup with the league, so I aren't walking away from a sinking ship, they're on a high' he added.

'It's a good time to say I'll back down but I shall still come up and watch the games.'

Now in retirement Mr Love said he would continue to take the regular holidays he has enjoyed in recent years and showcase his home county abroad.

He said: 'It's funny when I go on my holidays, people ask where do you come from? I say 'Oh blass, I come from Norfolk' and they say 'I thought you were Australian'.

'And when I go to RADC reunions, people say 'It don't take long on the motorway' and I say 'I have got to drive 80 miles to find a motorway!'

'They don't realise how remote we are but I wouldn't have it any other way.

'Norfolk is a special county and I couldn't imagine living anywhere apart from on the coast.'

As he looks forward to the next chapter in his life's tale he added: 'I enjoyed my school days, I enjoyed my National Service, I have never really been ill, all right so I had the cancer but they sorted that out, and I enjoy coming up here and working.

'I have been a very, very lucky lad.'

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