A tribute to Priscilla Ryan

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Priscilla Ryan with daughters Isabel, Marianne and son Christopher

Born in London, April 12 1927. Died in Rye, July 8, 2020

Many of us have fond memories of Priscilla Ryan, who died peacefully at home in Rye on July 8. Born Priscilla Blomfield, she came from a family with strong links to the town.

She spent much of her childhood in Point Hill, a rambling house just outside Rye built by her grandfather Sir Reginald Blomfield, who also designed the memorial Cross of Sacrifice in the churchyard of St Mary’s. Her father Austin, another architect, designed a number of the houses that were built in Rye in the wake of wartime bombing.

Priscilla and her husband John moved into one of these houses in 1987 and spent the rest of their lives enjoying Rye, with her brother Paul living next door.

Priscilla had a strong sense of right and wrong, was very conscious of her responsibility as a member of the community and followed her family’s traditions as a steadfast parishioner of St Michael’s, Playden and was an unfailing supporter of many local causes and initiatives.

She was particularly proud of her fundraising work for the RNLI, which started when she was 18, but really took off here, reaching its highest point when she was awarded the Institute’s gold medal, with a bar added later.

Her outstanding contribution to life in Rye was recognised in 2018 when, to her surprise and delight, she was made freeman of the town. The ceremony – and the party that followed – will long be remembered by her friends and family.

Priscilla’s husband John was famous as the creator of books and films for children, and she supported him with love and loyalty, as well as being an essential member of his creative crew. A gifted and successful artist in her own right, she was a long-term member of the Tuesday Painters who regularly showed – and sold – her drawings and paintings at exhibitions in Rye and elsewhere.

Priscilla’s sense of duty was complemented by her great kindness and sociability: the ease and grace with which she made friends, her complete lack of social snobbery, her glorious enjoyment of a good party and her efforts to ensure that everybody else should enjoy it too.

The loving care that she received in her last years was a reflection of her care for others throughout her life. The same qualities, as well as her unfailing generosity, her courage, wit and zest for life, continue to inspire not only her many friends, but also the large family which she cherished and which cherished her.

Image Credits: Ryan family .

9 COMMENTS

  1. Amazing lady and so creative and fun. I am sure all of Rye will feel diminished by her loss. God bless her.

  2. A strong memory of Priscilla was during a concert in St.Mary’s Church she became unwell and was escorted home. My husband Ken, a retired GP attended her at the time. She was worried about a dinner party she was about to give. This was soon after her husband had died. Ken advised her gently that she was trying to do too much and needed to slow down. I do not think this advice was followed up in any as she continued her many acts of hospitalty. May she rest in peace after a life well lived!

  3. One of my dearest friends, who will be sorely missed. A lady of grace, humour, talent, kindness and generosity of spirit.

  4. Priscilla was an absolute delight, both Sam and I will miss her charm, humour, her indomitable spirit and sense of duty all of which made it a pleasure to be in her company.

  5. Priscilla Ryan
    Priscilla Ryan was so integral a part of the Rye community that the very name elicits a multitude of memories, first via husband John,, creator of Captain Pugwash, but increasingly associated with a huge range of supportive roles in Rye organisations, community events and causes. I doubt she ever missed a Rye Museum talk, her artwork always appeared in major Rye exhibitions, she was a key fundraiser for the RNLI and the Bonfire Society . . . . . It is no wonder she was made a Freeman of Rye! Like many others I have personal reminders of the kind and generous person that made her a pleasure to be with. In retirement my geographer husband Barry wrote articles and books on philatelic topics and Priscilla’s full written responses led to a much appreciated correspondence with him to this very year. And it was always a pleasure to witness the signs of love and respect for her felt by her family and in recent times , her carer

  6. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with all of the above comments. Priscilla was a delightful lady, a joy to be around and an inspiration. I remember congratulating her when she was made a freeman of the town and she ventured to suggest that she had done nothing to deserve it. I said,” But you’ve done ‘nothing’ with such good grace.” I think that her humility, her graciousness and her ever present smile, even when she was struggling, sum her up, and she will long be an inspiration to many.

  7. I would just like to say how nice it was to have known Priscilla, to appreciate her strong and graceful personality and hear about how Captain Pugwash came about. She will be sadly missed but always remembered. Mike Wade

  8. Four years ago, when I didn’t know Priscilla well, I asked if I could interview her for the “Ryers Unwrapped” series we were doing in Rye News. She asked “why would anyone want to interview me”, but after some persuasion she took me into her world with warmth and generosity and made it a day to remember. I loved her description of the way she met her late husband John who walked into her room at art college when she was 18. ” With the last one who came in I saw hope.” “He went through every girl in art school and I didn’t think I had a chance – I had scarlet knee socks and no confidence.” She told me that she managed to reply to the 400 letters she received when John died. Her love of her life, John, her family and her friends was obvious to see and I am so glad to have shared that special time with her.

  9. Although my wife and I knew of Priscilla, the first time we met her was at one of the Towns Mayor Making cermonys. At the lunch that followed the ceremony we were fortunate enough to sit next to her. New to the Town we knew very few of the other guests. Not to worry, Priscilla took us under her wing and soon made us feel at ease. I remember the day well but the outstanding event came when a lady asked her for her autograph. She looked rather surprised but took the offered pen and menu card and wrote a greeting which she then signed as Mrs Pugwash!
    Now that is what the charm of living in Rye is all about, the larger than life characters. Priscillia was one who will be sorely missed by all who knew her and her passing leaves the town a just a little less colourful.

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