With the death of John Ruddock on May 17th, a matchless contribution to classical music in Ireland comes to a close. In 1967, with his late wife Doreen and Dr Des and Mrs Joan Parker and some friends, he founded the Limerick Music Association.
The impetus was the availability of the chamber ensemble of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra to play in Ireland. The Schubert Octet was featured in that first concert in Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick, and the group, now named the Scharoun Ensemble, featured when the association was wound up 35 years later, becoming the Dublin-based Association of Music Lovers. The last promotion was only last month. When Limerick University awarded John Ruddock an honorary Litt D in 1997, he had by then promoted nearly 700 concerts; by now the number must be close to 1,000. All this was done with his own money.
The range and quality of artists was astonishing. Pianists such as András Schiff, Piotr Anderszewski and Vladimir Ashkenazi, string quartets such as the Borodin, Jerusalem, Prazak, Skampa and Vogler quartets, and ensembles such as the Trio de Parma and the Moscow Piano Trio all willingly diverted to play for him.
What was the secret? The united couple that John and Doreen were, their personal happiness, her hospitality, the fun of staying with them; they drew people into friendship. The Takács Quartet, one of the greatest ensembles in the history of music, played here 50 times and the four original Hungarian musicians regarded Ireland as their second home, as later did the Vogler quartet members.
It was not all plain sailing. He collected his “best worst reviews” from newspapers, this one in particular, and on occasion delighted in republishing them at the back of concert programmes when a visitor once slammed by the local rag would return clad with world renown. Most concerts made a loss.
John Ruddock was a maths teacher. After16 years at St Andrew's College, Dublin, he was appointed headmaster of Villiers School, Limerick, staying for 23 years. He and his wife were like parents to the pupils. Retirement allowed him to follow his passion. Unflappably humorous, he refused to worry, loved cricket, hated snobbery, refused to queue, and batted away all compliments with a wave of his hand.
He knew almost every concert goer by name and related to all of his past pupils personally. He was intensely proud that he had established his country as an international concert venue. There was at times small sponsorship from embassies, but this miracle of music was essentially the effort of a husband and wife team. He was honoured with the Knight’s Cross First Class for promoting Austrian music and by the German and Hungarian governments.
John Ruddock is survived by his daughter Jill McCutcheon, a son- and daughter-in-law, eight grandchildren and a grandson in law. His son Alan, a distinguished journalist, pre-deceased him, as did Doreen.