RACHEL RITCHIE, BRIGADISTA DEL SEGLE XXI
22 de desembre de 2016
RACHEL RITCHIE 21ST CENTURY BRIGADISTS
December 22, 2016
Speaking about Rachel is not an easy task for anyone who knew and loved her now that our hearts are bleeding and our minds are overwhelmed in a turmoil of images and memories.
It all happened in Siurana. The same Siurana in your loved Priorat and the same Siurana, as well, where Joan Sales and Núria Folch were laid to rest. And it was right there, from Salt de la Reina Mora, where you said farewell, Rachel.
It was back in 2001, alongside the brigadists, when you first arrived to la Bisbal de Falset. The stories of the Civil War touched you deeply, and together, at the Cave-Hospital Santa Llúcia and at the local cemetery, we rendered tribute to the fallen of the Battle of the Ebro. With great emotion, many people from the village worked hard with you making the arrangements for the ceremony. Soon after that, the association No Jubilem la Memòria, of which you and Angela Jackson were the heart and soul, was created. At that time you met Gerard, from la Bisbal de Falset, the man you later married at the Cave-Hospital.
With many people coming from your country, England, the tributes to the fallen continued. You could speak our language as well as your own, you were our voice and theirs. And today, at the same cemetery you first entered in 2001, you will sleep a never ending sleep, side by side with the fallen in the Battle of the Ebro, with our people, with us.
From the pain of those who have known and loved you, know that you are present. The gap you’ve left has been immense, but for everything you’ve done since you arrived with the Brigadiers in 2001, you’re one of them: a 21st century Brigadier
In March 2018 he visited the village, Mr. Geoff Cowling, former British Consul in Catalonia; great friend of Rachel and a lover of Catalonia, who found out about the fatal news when she was in Brazil. He visited the Cova Hospital, the exhibition THIS HAPPENED, we had a good time talking in the bar of the Ateneu and then with Alan Warren and Almudena, the translator from Madrid who accompanied them, we went to the cemetery. There, Very excited, at the time of depositing the flowers on the niche could not contain the weeping
Angela Jackson also tells us about her in this tribute article published in English in the IBMT (International Brigade Memorial Trust) magazine when she found out about her death, which she sent me from England.
RACHEL RITCHIE: a tribute
By Angela Jackson
Sixteen years ago, I was finding it a struggle to communicate with some of the local residents in the small mountain village of La Bisbal de Falset in the Priorat. They spoke Catalan (or strongly accented Spanish mixed with Catalan) and my language skills were not up to the task of interpreting for the group of Brigaders who were going to come and stay there for several days.
There was to be a ceremony to inaugurate a memorial to mark the site of a communal grave in the cemetery where Brigaders and Republican soldiers were buried. A plaque would then be unveiled in the place where they had died, a massive cave nearby which had been used as a hospital for the wounded from the Battle of the Ebro, as well as civilians injured in bombardments by Franco's forces.
Due to a shared research interest in the Spanish Civil War, I had recently met Rachel Ritchie for the first time in Barcelona, where she had been working for several years. As an excellent linguist, she was the ideal person to undertake the task of interpreting for the Brigaders and the Catalan politicians who would be speaking at the ceremonies. When I asked for her help, she responded with enthusiasm, and immediately became an invaluable asset, helping to look after the Brigaders and their families, solving problems that arose, as well as translating and interpreting and, rather to the relief of all the English speaking contingent, proved herself capable of summarising some of the long political speeches made by prestigious dignitaries.
This was just one of her varied talents. A graduate in Modern European Languages from Durham University with an MA in Museum Studies from the University of Barcelona, she was also a gifted artist who had trained at the Glass School of Barcelona, specialising in the restoration of historic stained glass as well as creating her own designs for windows and jewellery.
For me, those few days working with Rachel in La Bisbal de Falset were the start of a friendship which lasted till her tragic death at Siurana on 22 December 2016. For Rachel, that first event with Brigaders was also the beginning of a romance with Gerard Amorós, the manager of the village olive oil cooperative, leading to their marriage in 2003 and a uniquely memorable wedding ceremony held in the cave – a happy occasion for their families and friends and, for the older villagers, a day that perhaps helped to ease the memories of the terrible suffering that had taken place there during the civil war.
Rachel and Gerard set up home in the market town of Falset and, when I moved to nearby Marçà, she became a founder member of No Jubilem la Memòria, an association aiming to recover the memory of the civil war in the Priorat. Over the following years she was involved with the numerous events we organised: exhibitions, conferences, tours, commemorations, and in the numerous collaborations with other groups, including the IBMT. She'll be remembered by many people of different nationalities who attended these events for her exuberant and generous spirit, her willingness to help and efficiency in moments of difficulty.
In recent years, her knowledge of the culture and wines of the Priorat had blossomed and extended further afield as she successfully built up a bespoke tourism company with an office in Falset. Her tours attracted a truly international clientèle who gave wonderful reviews of the trips they had enjoyed, thanks to Rachel's inside knowledge of the wineries and restaurants and her love of the natural beauty and cultural treasures of Catalonia.
Everyone in the Priorat knew Rachel, a Lancashire lass but Prioratina by adoption, a greatly-loved champion for the region wherever she went, from international wine fairs to the guided tours with descendants of Brigaders. The mother of two young sons, she will be sorely missed by her family and everyone in her wide circle of friends.
Angela Jackson is a historian and IBMT member.
Postet on 10 January 2017.