Eldest daughter of Erskine Childers

Ruth Ellen Moller: July 3rd, 1927 - February 25th, 2014

Sat, Mar 22, 2014, 00:39

Ruth Moller, eldest child of Erskine Childers, fourth President of Ireland, who has died aged 87 after a long illness, had a colourful, international, well-connected life strikingly at odds with her bourgeois upbringing in Dublin’s Rathgar.

Born apparently to a life of privilege (her mother, Ruth Dow, was an American heiress, her Childers grandfather the famous Irish patriot), her early life, spent in Paris where her father earned a precarious living as a travel agent for an increasingly troubled US hotelier, was in fact impecunious.

There followed a quieter period back in Dublin, with schooling at Newtown School in Waterford.

In Vogue
From 1946 in London Moller worked on Vogue magazine, whose editor, Madge Garland, advised Childers in a letter that “it doesn’t matter that you aren’t trained . . . what does matter is where you want to go”.

That road took her back to Paris in the late 1940s, where, in letters home to Dublin, she described, horrified, the post-war devastation “It is horrible, with rubble everywhere, people hungry, it’s like another world”.

The early death of her mother in 1950 brought Moller home to look after her family’s household, then a magnet for visiting stars of stage, screen and literature, including the later UK poet laureate, John Betjeman, with whom she formed a close and long-lasting friendship, the film director John Huston, and Brendan Behan.

While studying at Trinity College, Dublin, she met, and in 1952 married, Roy Moller, who after graduation was involved in the printing trade prior to his early and sudden death in 1969.

There followed a difficult period in London caring for her four children with odd jobs, including cooking for senior editorial staff on the Daily Telegraph . But she preserved both style and a generosity born of early visits to the slums of Dublin with her mother, a volunteer social worker. She also enjoyed the support, surviving correspondence indicates, of a wide circle of friends, including Betjeman, the historian Brian Inglis, and the family of Yehudi Menuhin.

‘Dramatic potential’
Moller wrote a play based on her grandfather’s life which the playwright John Mortimer described as “full of dramatic potential”. A plan, with the actor Edward Fox, to turn it into a film unfortunately came to nought.

Moller’s later years were spent living quietly in the Dublin suburb of Raheny. She is survived by her daughters Julie and Belinda, a son, Daragh, Belinda’s husband, the writer Roddy Doyle, and grandchildren. Her eldest son, Nicholas, predeceased her.