100th birthday for ‘lady at the gate’

Ruby Oglesbee and her telegram from the queen for her 100th birthday. Photo: SG250611-173TW To order, please ring 01775 765433.
Ruby Oglesbee and her telegram from the queen for her 100th birthday. Photo: SG250611-173TW To order, please ring 01775 765433.
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RUBY Oglesbee – better known to many as ‘the lady at the gate’ – has celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by her nearest and dearest.

A party was held at the Bull Inn at Pinchbeck for Ruby and her children Gordon, of Hawthorn Bank in Spalding, Marlene Landen, who lives in Cheshire, and Malcolm, now living in Spain, as well as her seven grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

Highlights of her special day included her telegram from the queen as well as a giant bouquet from “the railway”, for whom Ruby worked for 34 years.

Ruby and her late husband Cecil left Boston in 1939 and moved into No 48 gatehouse at Banks Drove, Deeping St Nicholas, where Ruby was the gatekeeper. Cecil was a plate layer on the railway, responsible for the stretch between Little London in Spalding and the former railway station in Deeping St Nicholas, Littleworth station.

Malcolm said: “That was known as his length which he was responsible for and he had to walk it every day. He did that until he retired in 1975.”

Ruby earned her title, the lady at the gate, because her job was to open them for any cars once she had established there were no trains approaching. She describes her work as “pretty hectic, especially during the harvest time because of the farms down there”.

Ruby might be dashing out to the gates – summoned by the toot of a horn or by the bell on the gates – as many as 50 times a day, never mind whether she was in the middle of baking or any number of other household tasks.

Ruby reveals: “Some of them were impatient. They sounded their horn and if I didn’t go straight away they rang the bell. I had a nice lady from Crowland, a vet, and several others were nice to me.”

When Ruby retired, Cecil carried on looking after the gates for another four years before they were changed to automatic barriers.

Ruby admits she never expected to reach her 100th birthday, but puts it down to the hard work involved in her first job as a housemaid for a local farming family and then her railway role and the fact that she spent so much time out of doors.

Ruby still has the bell at her home in Severn Road in town, and Gordon took it to the party so other members of the family could hear Ruby’s reminiscences of her time as the lady at the gate.