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Tuesday, 19 May 2009

If I were a rich man...

workplace Pictures, Images and Photos

The woman who inherited £9m... and then gave it all away...

A couple of years ago, in another job, I worked in partnership with a lady, the wonderful, Jane O. Ritchie, (the O. stands for Other...a name that goes back in her family oh, so many years... Probably back to the Doomsday Book, even...)

I spoke to Jane recently on the 'phone, and she mentioned she had retired since we last worked together...

I was trying to work out exactly how old she was... Would she be of retirement age? She's one of those English Country Ladies of indeterminate age... A former Cambridge blue-stocking in fact...

When my colleague chipped in her two penn'orth... 'She's only in her fifties, and she's an heiress... No wonder she's retired!'

'An heiress?' I rejoindered...

'Look', Margi said, and led me gently through Jane's recent history via t'Internet...

Et voila, mes bloggy lucky lotto tickets:

"'Happy as I am': Jane Ritchie gave away her inherited fortune

When Jane Ritchie inherited £9million from a distant cousin, she could have spent the rest of her days in pampered luxury. I can't post a picture of Jane here, so please take a sneaky peeky here if you are curiouser and curiouser... http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1050734/The-woman-inherited-9m--gave-away.html

But the spinster had other ideas.

After paying £3million in tax, she bought a new hat for a wedding and treated herself to one night in a 'nice hotel' for the event.

...And then she gave the rest away - paying for a job-related centre to give teenagers an insight into the world of work and to inspire them to make the most of their education.

The Work Place, built at a cost of £5million at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, opens next month. The story of how the former careers adviser came to be so rich is as astonishing as her decision to give it away to help others.

It was all made possible by her wealthy cousin's extraordinarily frugal lifestyle.

Margery Freeman never had children and, after the death of her ship's captain husband Reginald about 30 years ago, she lived alone in a cottage in the Yorkshire Dales.

The  Dales Pictures, Images and Photos

She spent most of her time tending her garden.
She used her widow's pension to pay her bills and barely spent anything on herself.

garden Pictures, Images and Photos

Her only shoes were plimsolls always bought from Woolworths, she wore the same old jumpers which Jane's mother would be asked to darn -- They were more holes than yarn really -- and her coat was held together with string.

In winter she heated only one room to cut bills, and she tended to eat vegetables because meat was pricier.

Despite living like a pauper, she became rich. She inherited some land and some cash when family members died and her money was shrewdly invested for her in stocks and shares

my t-shirt design . white plimsolls Pictures, Images and Photos

Over the years her fortune grew and grew. When Mrs Freeman moved into a
care home the fees were paid for by her pension. She died four years ago shortly before her 101st birthday.

Miss Ritchie, who had been a regular visitor for years, knew her relative was well off but had no idea how much she had amassed. She said Mrs Freeman always spoke about leaving her cash to a cats' home!

cats Pictures, Images and Photos

But after her death, her solicitor visited Miss Ritchie at her house in the Dales. 'He said she had left about £1million in bequests and had left the rest to me. I thought I had been left with all the bills, but he said, "That's £9million".

I nearly fell off my chair.'

More than £3million went to the taxman and Miss Ritchie made several generous charitable donations, but there was still more than £5million left.

She quickly decided where it would all go. Where the money went: Miss Ritchie ploughed her millions into a learning centre for young people. 'I believe you should do good,' she said

As manager of Durham's Business and Learning Partnership, Miss Ritchie had been trying for 15 years to create an 'industrial learning centre' - a place where children could learn how their classroom studies related to jobs in the real world. Several attempts to get funding had come to nothing, so when she became an overnight multi-millionaire she decided to do it herself.

Miss Ritchie set up two trusts and a private company which have built the centre at a cost of £4.9million, helped by a £660,000 grant from the regional development agency.

No expense was spared in providing facilities where youngsters aged 14 to 19 can do 'simulated work experience' in fields such as health and social care, construction, media and leisure.
Artificial human bodies have been purchased to show teenagers how to take a pulse and take blood, and 'age suits' to enable youngsters to experience what it's like to be elderly.
Sessions at the centre will form part of the Government's vocational diplomas to be taught in English schools from next month.

Miss Ritchie said: 'I've got everything I want. I've got a nice house with two dogs and two cats. I'm the wrong shape for fancy clothes. I don't drink and I don't smoke and I don't take holidays because I'm too busy. I am very happy as I am.

'I believe if you do get something like winning the lottery you should do something good with it and that's what I have tried to do.'"

Jane is now one of my heroes... Do you remember when I did that stint a while back about heroes and heroines?

...So, what would you do with £6 million to spare, mes bloggy credit-cards?!

Perhaps we need to formulate plans, just in case!

...In case our own wonderful-eccentric, Aunt Margeries don't leave their dosh to the mogs' home after all?!

fortune Pictures, Images and Photos

Truth is always stranger than fiction, mes amis!

...Always, toujours, immer...

funky Pictures, Images and Photos


Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

What a beautiful and inspiring story!!! You're so right...........a heroine she is :)
Those gardens are just lovely and the fortune from the cookie is so very true.
Always inspiration here at your place my lovely :)

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Dumdad said...

Astonishing story.

I'm no hero: I'd have kept the £9 million for my family and me. Charity begins at home, it is said. So it is said, so it is done at Dumdad's!

Michelle said...

I'll take that $$$$ please!!! I don't think my keyboard has the pound sign or does it?

Your tea is awaiting M'Lady!!!


Alicia @ boylerpf said...

A very insightful lady and a wonderful story! We have often asked ourselves...and a post in the making...what would you do if you did win the lottery or came into a huge sum of money. My DH & I go through all these scenarios and finally come back to the starting point. We really wouldn't change a thing...other than give most to people who really needed help..ie family & close friends.

Derrick said...

That's got us all thinking now, Fhina! Miss Ritchie is a special person indeed. Not many would be quite so selfless. If only she'd had my name and address!!

blognut said...

What a neat lady, indeed.

Me? I'd give some away and keep just enough to live comfortably and without flash. Then I'd throw one cool get-away party and invite my bloggy sisters.


jinksy said...

Which just proves happiness is a state of mind, not state of bank balance...

French Fancy said...

Shame the tax man got 3m-why on earth didn't Margery do some estate planning ?

I'm with Jane on the giving it all away syndrome - once I'd put enough by to spend the rest of my time in comfort.

shabby girl said...

Pretty amazing woman, for sure. I'd like to think I would be charitable, after expenses and family, but I guess we don't really know until it happens to us. Hmmmm....

Carol and Chris said...

That was a wonderful story!!

*takes hat off to Jane*

C x

Diane said...

Wow. She is a hero. Funny, I was just spending imaginary lottery winnings last night. I would give a big chunk away, no doubt, but I'd keep a load, too... not to live extravagantly, though... just comfortably and without any debt!

Jewels said...

Whoa. What a generous lady, and such a worthy cause! Although, I must admit, my millions would probably go to animal shelters. I'm a sucker for puppy eyes.

ladyfi said...

That is an amazing amazing story! Makes me warm to think of her and her generosity. She's an inspiration to us all!.

lakeviewer said...

Thanks for sharing this story. The money she donated to that career center will do wonderous work in young people's understanding of work and life needs. We should be reproducing these ideas everywhere.

kapgaf said...

The billions handed out recently have made us all realize that while £9 million is an enormous amount of money for one person, it is not very much in the great scheme of things. What Jane has done is truly altruistic but it's not even a drop in the ocean of what needs to be done and I wonder if there will always be money to keep it running.

So I’d start by doing some immediate "good" in the family by buying a house for each of the children - nothing fancy, if they want fancy, they'll have to earn it! I'd pay for round the clock help/nursing for my step-children's mum (not because I like her but so that the children could live their own lives).

Then I'd calculate what Prince Frog and I would need to top up pensions to keep us reasonably comfortable (born in the 50s, we are of the generation whose bosses did not always even pay into state pensions schemes) and buy a small caravan (the Eriba Puck, it's the only caravan that I wouldn't feel embarrassed in), make sure that we have enough money to clothe us, feed us, give us decent health insurance and then head off round the world.

The rest, I would give away and I would give it where I think it would do the most good but with no great illusion as to its doing lasting good.

And this was probably too much information! Some days are like that.

Mille excuses et grosses bises (oui, on peut le dire!).

Crystal Jigsaw said...

There are many things we could say we would do with a huge windfall but it's sure to change you. What a wonderful gesture from this woman. And what a dispicable one from our government. Surely that £3m could have been put into another centre for needy people. I wonder where it has really gone...

CJ xx

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

i think 9 million is too much for anyone...I always think how much better the lotto would be if the largest prize was one million, then more winners....wouldnt it still be as attractive? methinks yes...

If I won that kinda money I'd like to think I;d be alturistic..after all I do believe the more you put out there, the more you get back..and not necessarily in money terms.

enough to fund the house, car and oil the wheels...why more...happiness is from within... l'll go now l'm boring myself!

carma said...

this story is amazing! thanks for sharing it.

Fi from Four Paws and Whiskers said...

I want what we all want - to be comfortable, warm, fed, properly medically treated, free from pain, and to see the ones we love not have to struggle and scrimp. Excessive wealth could change you... but it would be sooo nice to be able to live more easily off the income from invested money, work part time for interest and purpose, have a holiday overseas occasionally, and to see the kids set up without huge student loans, mortgages, and worry. I am sure suffering is good for the soul.. but would love to launch my kids better and relieve the worry from my friends, parents - and yes - charity does come into it as it would be used to help others and free my time from the drudgery that keeps me from doing more for other people !

I do like the concept of what this woman spent it on - I do think a fund to set up ongoing support for the venture the money was spent on is important! It will founder so fast without it. The 3 mill would have been a good investment for that.

Lola said...

What a great story! Food for my hungry optimist self... Loved this one, Fhina.

Au revoir, ma petite richesse

Expat mum said...

I'm sure I wouldn't give it all away - I have three kids to get through college after all. But when you're happy and not always after the next rung on the ladder, you are able to do something like this.

Working mum said...

What an amazing story. You have to be pretty content with you life to do something like that. I wouldn't be able to give it away, but I sometimes say to my mum that I'd like to win on the lottery just enough to make things a little easier, not a lot, because with a lot of money comes madness!

A Woman Of No Importance said...

I am sorry not to be able to reply to you all individually today, but thank you for leaving your words of wit and (always masses of) wisdom with me...

I was just blown away by Jane's actions, knowing her and having worked with her... One always likes to think one would be altruistic if left huge sums of folding cash, and yet one wonders whether when faced with the green-backs, one would fall at the first hurdle!

My love to those of you who would be generous with your windfall - To any others!

I am fond of the saying, 'Money doesn't buy you happiness, but it sure makes you comfortable while you're looking for it!'

I wouldn't think I'd be like Lady Beckham with her 1000 Hermes bags, but I would probably be able to spend some of it well, invest some for all our future, and then be generous with some of what was left... I do fancy building an animal sanctuary, and living like la Bardot, and an incredibly talented music teacher of mine left an annual music prize for young people - That would be so cool...

An educational garden in a really difficult neighbourhood would be such a legacy to leave, and finally, doing something in Africa (I like the idea of Botswana), and/or the Dominican Republic for the lovely people would be a real bonus... My love to you mes bloggy semi-colons xxooxx

Something I wrote earlier...

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