Hon­our for war nurse Ruth

The Sligo Champion - - NEWS -

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.


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