Rug Aid, an announcement

It is with enormous sadness that we must tell you that Heather Ritchie, the inspiration for Rug Aid, its founder and figurehead, died at her home in Reeth on Friday 18th November 2022, three days before her 78th birthday. With her death, Rug Aid cic also dies – she was the teacher who travelled to The Gambia to pass on her skills and without her the world will never be the same again.

For the last three years, the cic has been unable to give practical, hands-on help to Gambians with visual impairments. Heather’s last visit was in June 2019 and, as she was preparing to return in spring 2020, covid struck.

Rug Aid continued to support the workshop in Serrekunde financially throughout the pandemic, despite declining income from donations. For a while, we had been thinking about the future of Rug Aid: Heather was finding it difficult to travel with the huge amounts of luggage that a visit to the workshop entailed and those journeys – as well as working in the Gambian heat and dust – were physically exhausting.

By the time travel restrictions to The Gambia were lifted, Heather was starting to feel seriously unwell and, soon afterwards, she received the devastating news that the melanoma that she thought had been cured twenty years earlier had returned. This was the last piece in the jigsaw of reasons that led us to close the cic

The small amount of money that was in the bank when we closed the account was donated to HiVisUK (Hearing Impairment and Visual Impairment Support UK), a registered charity working with people with dual sensory impairments (registered charity number 1166368).

The charity’s official letter of receipt said (in part) “I am writing on behalf of my fellow Trustees and everyone at Hearing Impairment and Visual Impairment Support UK to place on record our gratitude and sincere thanks for your wonderful donation of £3,262.24.

“Please pass on my personal gratitude and very best wishes to your colleagues and friends at Rug Aid – I was devastated to understand the circumstances behind your decision to close.

“Please rest assured that we will treat this donation as restricted funds to be used in support of charitable purposes similar to those that Heather holds so dear.”

The ex-directors of Rug Aid would like to thank you for your generous support over the fifteen years that we were working in The Gambia. The adults and children who benefitted from the training that Rug Aid was able to deliver with your support will remember your kindness for the rest of their lives.

Last Dance of a Daleswoman

In late 2008, Heather Ritchie was asked to make this rug as a backdrop to the Richmond Youth Theatre group’s performance of Nobby Dimon’s play Last Dance of a Dalesman at the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond. It was hung on a plain black cloth and was spotlit at the start and end of the play – Heather was in the audience and was very moved to see her rug on stage.

It seems appropriate to use this beautiful rug to illustrate this sad news.

Last Dance of a Dalesman 54″ x 34″