Chosen from hundreds of nominations for local heroes to become Great Westerners, Bristol Soroptimist, Miss Elizabeth Ralph, was a “first” to have a new GWR train named after her! The criteria for nominations were those who, past or present, deserved to be remembered as all-time great and had, in their lifetime, made the greatest contribution to Bristol. 50 new GWR trains were to be named after the successful nominees considered as Bristol’s most inspiring Westerners.
Known as an exacting and precise lady, she would have approved of the detail paid to ensuring her name sat in just the right place and at just the right angle on the new GWR gleaming engine!
She was nominated by Bristol Soroptimists as well as members of the Bristol Archive Office and other related bodies who have benefited from her work. The reasons given for her nomination by Soroptimist included:
– She was born and educated in Bristol (Fairfield Grammar School)
– She was the first female City Archivist and served for over 34 years
– She was instrumental in securing, quite remarkably, historically vital collections relating to Bristol’s history – not just of the Corporation, but many others including Cathedral and Parish collections, The Society of Merchant Venturers, and Bristol Soroptimists of which she was a very active member and one time President and Secretary.
– During war time and bombing, she took charge of the city insignia and medieval swords and stored them for safety, together with other important documents, in the Pier Railway Tunnel at Hotwells.
– Her scholarly essays, papers, catalogues and transcriptions underpin a great deal of the contemporary understanding of the history of Bristol.
– Among her many publications, the 1971 Guide to the Bristol Archives Office still remains the authoritative introduction to Bristol’s archive collections, and is one that is referred to by the Archives Office on most days.
Miss Elizabeth Ralph was born in 1911 and died January 2000. As a Soroptimist she was twice President and was Secretary from 1940-1961. She was a remarkable lady and to the end of her life continued with all her researches.