"She's had a kiss but nothing romantic, she's not had any romantic involvement with anybody," said Ruffel, who manages the Happy Valley Hotel, where Boyle is a pub regular. "She took care of her mom. The rest of the family all got married and moved away, but Susan always remained in the house looking after her mother. When her mom passed away, she kind of withdrew into herself."
Boyle's withdrawal included retreating from her music for two years.
According to the British media, Boyle's mom Bridget always encouraged her daughter to take part in regional singing competitions. Boyle also performed in her church choir from the age of 12 and, when she was older, sang karaoke in local pubs.
In 1995, she auditioned for another British television talent show but told the London Times on Sunday that she was "too nervous" and never made it on television.
Afterward, Boyle signed up for singing lessons with local voice coach Fred O'Neil and in 2000 she sang "Cry Me a River" for a charity CD, her only previous recording. Last August, when she heard about auditions for "Britain's Got Talent," she decided to go for it.
"I am doing it as a tribute to my mum, and I think she would be very proud," she told the Times.
Details about her voice training and previous singing experience seemed to contradict the media's narrative of an undiscovered talent, but Ruffel doesn't think so.
"Susan loves to sing, she sang everywhere there was a microphone," Ruffel said. "We all knew in the village, it just took the whole world and 'Britain's Got Talent' to find out."
In the end, it shouldn't matter that Boyle has previous singing experience, according to British cultural critic Shane Watson.
"It is a bit disappointing that it turns out she has entered lots of talent contests," Watson, a writer for the Times Style magazine, told ABCNews.com. "That said, I am glad she's not just a wee spinster from the isles who had never been outside her village, because then she would have been extremely vulnerable. What she is, I think, is an eccentric who is not the fool she makes herself out to be but still a very far cry from the self-aware TV talent we are all used to.
"The point is, even if they do groom her up -- and why not -- and even if she was joking when she said she'd never been kissed, it doesn't detract from the fact that she is an ordinary woman, unglamorous, unmarried, unsophisticated, unworldly, and of a certain age, and as such she is a breath of fresh air," Watson added.
In fact, Boyle, the youngest of nine children, suffered mild brain damage when she was deprived of oxygen during birth. She was diagnosed with learning disabilities and became a target for bullies, who referred to her as Susie Simple, according to Britain's Daily Mail.
"She's such a nice person, and she's really had a bad life," Ruffel said. "The same cads calling her names, she was quite happy to forgive them. She's a better woman than me. I certainly wouldn't have forgiven them."
Now O'Neil, her voice coach, has expressed concern that the world is taunting her with nicknames like "hairy angel."
"I look at the names people are calling her and I think this is worse than what she is leaving behind," he told British newspaper The Telegraph on Thursday. "This is not respecting someone, saying they have a voice like an angel and then calling them names."