|TRIBUTE TO RACHEL RITCHIE
In 2003 I met Angela Jackson and Rachel Ritchie, two British women who have made their mark on the more recent history of the Priorat. Several of us who shared similar ideas got together with them and set up the association No Jubilem la Memòria. Our aim was to revive the history of the Second Republic and the Civil War in the Priorat.
Rachel took active part in all our activities: organising events, translating documents or providing valuable information for our research. I had the pleasure of working with her on several projects, but I have particularly fond memories of drawing up an historical tour of the Priorat, which the Association now hopes to extend.
Rachel got married to Gerard and she made the Priorat her home, where we all knew her. She knew our history, our traditions, our culture, our gastronomy, our wines and our wineries. And she set about spreading her knowledge, like the prayers of the Tibetan mandalas, to attract people from all over the world. Without any doubt she was a great ambassador for the Priorat.
She has left a great vacuum in our association and in the region, but we have our memories of everything she did for historical research and her contribution to the internationalisation of our beloved Priorat. We will always remember her cheerfulness and her friendly smile.
Albert Sabaté, President of NJLM.
|RACHEL RITCHIE: A TRIBUTE
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 International Brigade Memorial Trust. 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, Honorary President of NJLM.
|Generalitat de Catalunya
Departament de Relacions
Institucionals i Participació