Salvation Army’s courthouse volunteer Ruth Alley retires at 85
Ruth Alley, who has retired at 85 as the Salvation Army’s Newcastle Courthouse volunteer. Picture: Darren PatemanSOMETIMES alone, sometimes surrounded by chaos, Ruth Alley has sat patiently behind a table on the ground floor of Newcastle Courthouse.
With her has been an urn, tea, coffee, some biscuits and a Salvation Army collection tin.
Her clientele has ranged from Queen’s Counsel to battlers having a bad day.
And they’ve all needed a cuppa and some wisdom at various times.
‘‘There’s just been so many nice people,’’ she said.
‘‘Even though they were in trouble, they were nice people and I’d talk to them.’’
After 16 years of manning the urn, Ruth has been forced into retirement because the Salvation Army’s insurer won’t cover volunteers over 85.
Disappointed, but determined, Ruth has discovered that Lifeline lets its volunteers go to 90 while there’s nothing stopping her from visiting the courthouse every now and then.
‘‘It’s been something that’s been just right for me,’’ she said on her last day this week.
‘‘I’ve met some beautiful people. You need to get out and it’s been just a beautiful time for me.’’
A courthouse attracts countless characters and there’s usually something going on.
Ruth recalls the day a chap jumped the dock and bolted out the front door and there’s been the odd evacuation due to bomb threats and faulty fire alarms.
But in between the bouts of bedlam, there have been countless opportunities for Ruth to offer an ear and some wise counsel.
‘‘I was conscripted from above,’’ she said with a nod to the heavens.
‘‘I used to just talk to people. I never entered into anything, I could never discuss their business, I could never comment, but sometimes they just want someone to talk to.’’
Ruth has a busy schedule, but there’s now an open day each week that she has no intention of spending at home.
‘‘I’ll find something one day a week,’’ she said.
‘‘I’ll go to the Army and I’ll visit [the courthouse] still.
‘‘You need to get out. If you stay at home you’ve got to do housework.’’