Tributes paid after death of Aidan Ruff, owner of Ellingham Hall and The Highlander pub near Ponteland

Tributes have been paid to a much-loved father, publican and pilot after his unexpected death.
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Aidan Ruff, who used his family home at Ellingham to host weddings and also owned the Highlander Pub in Ponteland, died unexpectedly at home on February 27.

Aidan was also an accomplished pilot, skier and horse rider, with his family describing him as a man who “who truly lived his life to the fullest”.

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He was also an important figure in the Conservative Party, serving as chairman of the Berwick Conservatives and the President of the Northumberland Conservatives.

Aidan Ruff outside Ellingham Hall in 2008. Photo: NCJ Media/Tim McGuinness.Aidan Ruff outside Ellingham Hall in 2008. Photo: NCJ Media/Tim McGuinness.
Aidan Ruff outside Ellingham Hall in 2008. Photo: NCJ Media/Tim McGuinness.

He twice stood for office in the North East – first in the 1999 European Elections and then as the Conservative candidate for the Newcastle Central Constituency at the 2001 General Election.

Born in Newcastle to Gabrielle and Patrick Ruff, Aidan was the second of four children alongside his siblings Veronica, Dominic and Brendan. From an early age, his “intellect, drive and determination” were obvious – he was designing and making radios and electronics from the age of nine.

He attended St Cuthbert’s School in the city before going on to study electrical engineering at Newcastle University, where he met his wife Helen at the age of 18. He was subsequently lured away from university by the offer of a well-paid job working for Eltech in Newcastle, where he met his soon to be business partner Pete.

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His early working life saw Aidan spend much of his time travelling abroad, before he and Pete began their own business, Quantech. Together, they were the first developers of video jukeboxes and voice recognition software systems in the UK.

In 1986, Aidan married Helen. The couple had three children – Charles, Alexander and Bethany. Tragically, Bethany died aged 16.

Aidan and Helen’s life in Northumberland began at Glanton, before living in Ellingham and, for the last 20 years, at Lemmington near Alnwick. Aidan started developing property before entering the hospitality industry, using his family home at Ellingham Hall to host weddings and other events.

In 2022, the team behind weddings at Ellingham Hall were crowned the best in the region at the Wedding Industry Awards for the second year running.

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He subsequently increased his portfolio, and recently purchased the Highlander Pub near Ponteland. He was said to be a familiar face on site, often tinkering with various projects including solar panels, heating systems and lots of wires.

In a statement, his family said: “Aidan always had a big, bright smile on his face, which would light up the room. He happily gave up his time, energy, and superb knowledge to anyone that asked.

“His friendship groups were wide and varied; from his close political family, which he was so passionate about to lifelong friends from university, his business colleagues, his team of staff, and his family. Aidan was meticulous in staying ahead of the game whatever that might be.

“He was an accomplished pilot, skier, an excellent horse rider and man and who truly lived his life to the fullest on worldwide adventurous holidays. Most importantly, he was so very loved by his family and friends.

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“He was the best father ever to his children and was loving rekindling that same role with his first grandson, Robbie. He was also an adored uncle, brother, cousin, father-in-law and a much loved husband.

“His family have lost their mentor, their ‘living, walking Google’, his love, warmth and incredible reliability far far too soon.”

A spokesman for the Northumberland Conservatives added that he was “passionately committed to democratic engagement and the Conservative Party ideals of business opportunity to create growth and training”.

He added: “Aidan employed many people himself and drove policies to give the North East its success back.”

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Among those was the campaign to dual the A1 in Northumberland between Morpeth and Ellingham. Aidan worked closely with local MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan on the campaign.

Aidan was cremated at a private ceremony at Eshott, a place he loved and flew from on many occasions. Only his wife and two sons were present, with a windsock flying in the background.

A celebration of his life will be held at The Higherlander pub in Ponteland between 3pm and 6pm on Wednesday, March 20, with time to “exchange memories and stories of his uniqueness”.