Becky has been foraging fruit and making liqueurs for almost as long as she’s been on earth. Her Mother’s Ruin Gin Palace has helped turn the Ravenswood Industrial Estate from Village backwater into Village hotspot, while her award winning sloe and damson gins can now be found in cocktails and cupboards across the country. And inbetween she managed to become par t of the country’s social and political history…
“My family lived in the middle of nowhere, first in Wales and then in Ireland and eventually the Lake District. I’ve got two brothers and one sister, and living that isolated we roamed around. We would just disappear for the day and turn up four or five hours later. We’d have little adventures; foraging, lighting bonfires, just doing our own thing. Then you reach your teens and you’re desperate to be someplace interesting. It’s ‘Oh this is so boring!’ I thought London was a great paradise and was desperate to get to the city.
“But when I was 17, I got involved in the local CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). I went with a group of women from the Kendal peace group to attend a big demonstration at the Greenham Common Peace Camp (set up by women protesting the government’s decision to allow the RAF base to house nuclear cruise missiles). I loved it and decided I wanted to stay. I suppose I was drawn to it because I was seeing women taking action and this whole other society that I found very fascinating. Plus I was politically convinced by it as well. I went home and told my mum what I wanted to do and she was a bit nervous but said: ‘Okay, but you have to tell your headmaster.’ It was a big thing because I was leaving school, so it was in the local TV and newspapers.
“I moved to Greenham Common in December 1982 and that New Year’s Eve about 40 women broke into the base and took over the missile silos. There’s a very famous picture of them dancing on top of the silos. And one of those women is me!
“It was totally liberating as a 17-year-old not to be at school every day, being part of an attempt to create a new type of society. Though we didn’t stop the nuclear missiles coming, we raised awareness massively. It was headline news all the time and got the country discussing the whole issue of nuclear weapons and disarmament.
“At the same time I was dealing with my sexuality – am I gay? What the hell’s going on?! But luckily I was in a place where a good percentage of people were gay. It wasn’t a big deal and there was a huge positive identity around being gay. I think it was a gift that it happened in that environment.
“I lived at Greenham Common for around four years, and when I left I joined the big squatting scene that existed in south London at the time, living in squats in Vauxhall and Stockwell for several years. Eventually when I was
25 I started training as a social worker, and followed that career for about 20 years.
“And then I started Mother’s Ruin. Just a small change of direction. But surprisingly transferable skills!
“I’ve always made damson and sloe gin at home, which I learned from my mum. Then I worked part time doing social work and producing my liqueurs part time. When I got the premises on the Ravenswood Estate I thought I need to throw myself at this or it’s going to be a disaster juggling the two things. Slowly it’s worked, and the retail and wholesale business has steadily grown. In fact, I’ve just had my biggest order yet – Booths, a small chain of stores with 28 shops around Manchester, bought 500 bottles – it was my first proper pallet sized order”
For information on Becky’s products and opening hours of her Gin Palace, visit mothersruin.net
This article first appeared in the Autumn 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.