Ritchie, John

25 January 2006
The late John Ritchie

Mr Ritchie was born at Ballyhosset, Downpatrick, on 25 April 1926, the elder son of James and Elizabeth Ritchie. After a number of years, they moved to Clanmaghery Road, Tryella, where John and his brother Patrick attended the local primary school and then St Patrick’s Grammar School, Downpatrick.

On reaching the age of 18 and achieving a scholarship, he went to St Mary’s College of Education in Belfast to train to be a teacher.

John commenced his teaching career in Aughnacloy, Co. Tyrone, where he worked in a couple of schools and made many firm friends in the locality.

He married his first wife Eithne (nee McGuckian) around 1951 and some of his children were born in Co Tyrone. After several years, he secured the principalship of St Malachy’s Primary School, Kilclief, and he and Eithne and the family moved to a house adjacent to the school in the townland of Tullyfoyle. Subsequently he purchased a house in Roughal Park, Downpatrick, where he resided until his death.

John moved to St Joseph’s Primary School in Strangford as principal in the 1960s and retired from teaching in that school in late 1989. He was an active member of Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO).

John had eight children from his first marriage: Mary, Kate, Brendan, Eilish, Martin, John, Gerald and Patricia.

Sadly Eithne died in August 1974 after a long illness. He met Anne O’Boyle from Drumaness some time later; they married in August 1975 and had a daughter, Clarie.

John an active participant in the community and in his beloved Lecale.

John was an enthusiastic member of the Down County Board of the GAA in the 1970s, as well as manager and advisor to the Ben Derg GAC Club in Kilclief for years.

His interest in the sport never waned - he attended the All Ireland Final in September of last year when the Down minors were victorious. He also acted as Quiz Master for years at Scor competitions.

John was a fonder member of the National Democratic Party in the early 1960s, along with Eddie McGrady, John Dorris, Own Adams, the late Dan Rice and the late PJ Smyth.

He fought long and hard for social justice, equality and firmly believed in the principles of respect for difference. John actively campaigned in election campaigns and some of the most memorable in those early days were 1965 and 1969.

John was a member of the Civil Rights Movement and firmly believed in the principles of one man one vote, a house based on need and not on creed, and jobs based on merit and equality. Along with is colleagues, he organised a campaign following the deaths on Bloody Sunday in Derry.

On the formation of the SDLP, John and his colleagues in the NDP joined the SDLP on masse. He was a stalwart of the party , serving as treasurer of the Downpatrick and Lecale Branch, and was an active participant and driver of work during all election campaigns.

His attention to detail was legendary. His knowledge on a variety of subjects was legendary. John ensured that all volunteers worked to full capacity in all election campaigns - he was the motivator and played a major part in Eddie McGrady’s victories in 1987, 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2005.

Mr Ritchie served as secretary of the Down District Executive of the SDLP for many years and was a delegate to the South Down Constituency Council from the formation of the party in 1970.

He had an abiding interest in political matters- in the restoration of political institutions; he believed in respect for political difference. He believed in the creation of New Ireland and saw the Good Friday Agreement as the framework for that New Ireland.

He became a Councillor for the SDLP in May 1973, serving Downpatrick electoral area until his retirement in May 1997. He was vice-chairman of the Council in 1981/82 and chairman in 1982/83.
John was also the first Chairman of the Council’s Health Committee, and valiantly campaigned for a new hospital with a wide range of services in Downpatrick for may years. He chaired all the statutory committees within Down District Council.

John’s political interests included the following:
*Down County Museum, Downpatrick (member of the Committee for several years).
*St Patrick Centre, Downpatrick (member of the Board of Trustees for years).
*Down Citizens Advice Bureau for several years and outgoing chairman.
* Council’s Health Committee for years and served as chairman.
*Down Community Health Committee.
*Downpatrick Partnership Board (forerunner to the Board of the St Patrick Centre).
*Council’ representative for years on the Eastern Health and Social Services Council.
*South Eastern Education and Library Board (represented the Council for a number of years).
John also served as a Governor on several school committees such as St Mary’s High School, Downpatrick and St Patrick’s Boys Primary in Downpatrick.
He was a member of the Lecale Historical Society and made several historical contributions over the years to the Lecale Miscellany.

John was one of the catalysts in the campaign for the new hospital in Downpatrick along with MP Eddie McGrady in the 1980s and 1990s.

He fought long and hard for the provision of a new hospital in Downpatrick; a World Centre in Ireland dedicated in Downpatrick to St Patrick; and supported the principles of equality, social justice and fairness for all - the very essence of the Good Friday Agreement.

Courtesy of Mourne Observer
25 January 2006