Honour for war nurse Ruth
A commemorative plaque to honour the memory of Hannah Rutledge Ormsby, the only Irishwoman to die in the Spanish Civil War, will be unveiled in her native Dromore West, on Saturday 15 th September.
Hannah Rutledge Ormsby, who was better known as Ruth, was born in Dromore West in 1901. A qualified nurse, she answered an appeal to travel to Spain in April 1937 to tend to wounded Spanish Republicans and members of the International Brigades who were fighting to defend the fledgling Spanish democracy against General Franco’s Fascist rebels.
Having survived the intense fighting, she tragically died in a fire in a medical aid apartment in Barcelona in May 1938.
The unveiling of the commemorative plaque will take place at Orville Park on the Carrowcur Road, Dromore West, at 6.00.p.m. on Saturday. Later in the evening, in the McGee Memorial Hall at 8.00.p.m. the President of the Friends of the International Brigades in Ireland Mr Eddie O’Neill, will deliver a brief talk on Ruth Ormsby.
The historian Mr Harry Owens will provide a synopsis of the Spanish Civil War and the role played by the Irish members of the International Brigades. The evening will conclude with a social gathering in the Flying Horse Lounge Bar.
The commemorative event is being organised by the Friends of the International Brigades in Ireland (FIBI) and a local group including Mr Cillian Rogers, Ms Bernie Gallagher, Mr Blair Feeney and Ms Imelda Peppard.
Speaking to the ‘ The Sligo Champion’ Cllr Declan Bree said: “Ruth Ormsby was no youthful romantic when she answered the call – aged 36, she was a seasoned medical professional who could have chosen an easier path.
“Instead, within weeks of arriving she was pitched into the frontline of this brutal war against fascism.
“She experienced the full horrors of modern warfare. Ruth routinely worked in makeshift operating theatres around the clock in the swel- tering heat and dust of a Spanish summer and early autumn as Nazi bombers tried to destroy the wooden huts that they had turned into rudimentary hospitals.
“In the early months of 1938 the Republicans were forced to withdraw to their last remaining strongholdsolds in the wake of the final Fascist onslaught.ht. Ruth
Ormsby found herself in Barcelona.
“The circumstances of her death make it all the more tragic. She had d survived unimaginable conditions but she and u a colleague e found themselves engulfed in a raging inferno in a seventh-floor medical apartment block in the centre of the city. Both nurses jumped in a bid to escape – her friend survived but Ruth was killed. We believe that her body was buried nearby.
“In the bitter conflict between the Spanish Republican Government and Franco’s fascist forces, Spain became an ideological battleground between left and right and the forerunner to World War Two. From 1936 many Irishmen left their homes and families to begin the long journey to Spain to enter into service with the International Brigades alongside numerous other nationalities.
“The role of the Connolly Column and the Irish volunteers who served in the Internation- al Brigade is immortalised in Christy Moore’s ballad, “Viva La Quince Brigada. While Ruth Ormsby was the only Irish woman to die in Spain, over 220 Irish volunteers served in the 15 th International Brigade, 70 of whom made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives on Spanish soil. It is important we remember all of them.” said Cllr Bree.
Above: General Francisco Franco watching the front during the Spanish Civil War (left) Ruth Ormsby.