Select Ryan Miscellany

Here are some Ryan stories and accounts over the years:

Ryans and Mulryans

Ryan is amongst the ten most numerous surnames in Ireland, with an estimated population of 27,500.  Only a very small proportion use the prefix "O."

The great majority of Ryans are really O'Mulryans.  But this earlier form of the name is now almost obsolete. Even in the census of 1659 in county Limerick, Ryans outnumbered Mulryans by about four to one.  Today there is not one O'Mulryan in the telephone directory.

The Ryans of Owney

The sept of O'Mulryan was located in Owney, which forms two modern baronies on the borders of Limerick and Tipperary.  In this wild country there is the ruined Ryan castle of Killoscully and, further south across the Keeper mountains in Follaclug in the parish of Hollford, local tradition has it that the celebrated poet and outlaw Eamon an Chnoic (Ned of the Hills) is buried. 

A monument to the Ryans can be found in a secluded corner of a ruined 12th century Cistercian monastery at Abington across the border in Limerick.  The Ryans had saved the monastery from destruction in the 16th century and the inscription there reads: 

"The most noble William Ryan, chief of the country of Owney and head and prince of the ancient family of Ryans, caused the monument to be erected to himself, his wife, and his children. 

The honor of his posterity and praise of his ancestors caused William Ryan to construct this graceful work.  Alas, how much nobility proved in peace and war, how much holy faith, virue and distinguished fame are enclosed in this sepulchral monument of the Ryans.  If it should be asked why that which is not destined to die should be shut up, the bones alone are covered in the earth but the other parts that know not death will enjoy perpetual day. 

The praise, virtue, glory and honor of the Ryan race will live forever in this honored name.  AD 1632." 

The story of the Ryans of Owney has been told in M. Callanan's 1935 book Records of Four Tipperary Septs.

Eamon an Chnoic

In the 1640's Eamon Ryan, a Tipperary landowner, was dispossessed by Oliver Cromwell's forces.  He was from Cnoc MaothailI (the bald hill) in Teampall Beag.  A tenant of Ryan's, a widow, was also dispossessed of her cow by one of Cromwell's agents.  Eamon an Chnoic defended her and in the argument he killed the agent.

He was outlawed and went on the run with a price of £200 (a lot of money then) on his head.  After hiding in the mountains in the winter where he was destroyed by exposure, he took refuge with an old lover of his who hid him in her house for a time.  It is said that the agents looked for him at her house but that she successfully hid him under her dress.  Presumably the dress was hanging up or thrown on a bed, but that she wasn't wearing it at the time.

Subsequently, he took refuge with a neighbor who killed him for the reward while he slept.  Posterity doesn't record the names of either his faithful girlfriend or his treacherous neighbor. 

Eamon was a Gaelic poet.  The following is an English version of one of his pieces.

"Who is that outside
That has fever in his voice
Smashing at my locked door?

I am Eamon of the Hill
That is drowned wet and cold
From forever-walking mountains and glens.

My tragic fair one, and my chosen one,
What should I do with you
But to put you safe under my skirts?
And that [gun]powder would blow back thickly on you
And we will be extinguished as one.

I am far outside under snow and under ice
And without boldness or any spirit.
My ploughland without a mark, my grassland without seed
And these not in my ownership in any case.

I have no friend, and this is a regret to me
That I called early and late
And that I must go overseas east
Where I have no ties."

The Peeler and the Goat

The Peeler and the Goat was a ditty written by Darby Ryan sometime in the 1820's.  The song was reportedly inspired by police officers (Peelers) taking a number of goats into "custody" for creating an obstruction on the road.

It runs as follows:

"A police officer finds a goat roaming the streets of Bansha  and, presuming her to be either a loiterer or a prostitute, announces that he will soon send her off to prison.  The police officer and the goat argue over the circumstances of the arrest and whether or not the police officer would actually be able to get a conviction for a crime not committed.  At the end of the song, the goat accuses the police officer of being drunk and asserts that if she had enough money to purchase illegal liquor for the police officer the she would have been allowed to go free."

The song continues to be popular in Irish pubs and bars.

Ryans For and Against Spain

Tomas O'Ryan

The family of Lieutenant-General Tomás O'Ryan y Vayquez had been in Spain since the 18th century. Specializing in engineering and administration, Tomás was given many responsible appointments in Spain's overseas military establishments, often being sent abroad by the Minister of State for War, General O'Donnell.  He was in France when Queen Isobel II was exiled.  She entrusted the care of her 13 year-old son, who later became King Alfonso XII, to him.  

With the restoration of the monarchy, O'Ryan was summoned to Madrid to be made Field Marshal and aide to the King.  His descendants are still in Spain, although the O'Ryan surname died out there in 1946.

W.A.C. Ryan

William Abbot Charles Ryan, born in Canada, came from a long line of soldiers who had fought all over Europe in the Napoleonic and Peninsular wars. 

In 1868, during a trip to Washington, he had met up with the leader of the Cuban insurgents who were planning to overthrow their Spanish rulers.  Ryan sold his business and went off to fight for Cuba.  His task was to ferry men and military supplies between New York and Cuba.

After completing many successful expeditions, the Spaniards captured his corvette Tornado and Ryan and his men were executed and their heads paraded through Santiago.  There was an outcry in New York and much embarrassment in Madrid.  He was only thirty when he died.

Ryans in the Church

Among the many Ryans who have distinguished themselves in the Church have been:


Cornelius O'Mulryan
from Tipperary
died in 1617
Bishop of Killale, Cloyne, and Ross

He was the brother of the Owney chief.
Edward Ryan

died in 1819
Prebendary of St. Patrick's, Dublin.
Vincent Ryan

died in 1845
First abbot of Melleray Abbey, Waterford.
Dermot Ryan

Archbishop of Dublin

Archbishop Ryan Park in Dublin is named after him.

Stephen Ryan
from Clare
Bishop of Buffalo.
Patrick Ryan
from Tipperary
Archbishop of Philadelphia (and a great orator).
Abram Ryan
from Virginia
Chaplain of the Confederate Army.
James Ryan
from Tipperary
Bishop of Alton.
John A. Ryan
from Minnesota
Catholic theologian/early advocate of minimum wage.
Finbar Ryan
from Cork
Archbishop of Port of Spain, Trinidad.

My Sister's Child

A fictional Ryan family in Liverpool was portrayed in Lyn Andrew's 2001 novel  My Sister's Child.  The plot of this novel runs as follows:

"For the inhabitants of Liverpool's Milton Street a steady income and a roof over their heads are luxuries.  The Ryan family have barely grown accustomed to such things when a fire destroys their father Jack's modest coal haulage business, leaving Jack broken and his family facing ruin.

They're forced to turn to Conor, Jack's brother from Ireland, a man whose noisy joviality seventeen-year-old Ellen Ryan suspects hides a mean viciousness.  She's right and, with her mother sick and her half-sister Annie becoming increasingly feckless, it's down to Ellen to fight Conor's tyranny.  But when Annie disappears, leaving her baby on their doorstep, Ellen begins fear for herself and for the life of the innocent child she has learnt to love."

Ned Ryan, King of Galong Castle

Ned Ryan was born in Tipperary in 1786.  At the age of thirty he was sentenced to death for his role in the destruction of an infirmary which had been requistioned by the militia for use as a temporary barracks.  For him and for twelve companions the death sentence was subsequently commuted to a fourteen year prison term in Australia.  They were transported on the Surrey 2 in 1816.

In 1825 Ned received his ticket of leave and had almost full freedom, although he was not at liberty to leave the colony.  Ryan tradition has it that he squatted at Illalong (near present day Binalong) but within a short space of time moved onto Galong, then far removed from civilisation.

Ned's wife Ellen and their children Anastasia and John joined him at Galong in 1847. The present day homestead was erected during the 1850s and a two-storey extension complete with crenellation at the eastern end about 1860.  These stone embellishments no doubt caused Galong to become known locally as the "Castle."  The Ryans themselves always referred to it as Galong House.   

With enterprise and determination Ned earned the reputation of being a hardworking but fair man who gave selflessly to nearly every cause.  He served on committees, his name appeared on almost every public subscription, and his presence was noted at community events.  Despite his gruff exterior he was without question an extremely generous man who was known to have supported some individuals for almost thirty years.  Galong Castle was called a “Castle” not because of its magnificence, but because of the princely hospitality extended.

More recently, Galong has been called "the paradise of the Ryans."  Nearby Boorowa boasts 60 percent of its population as Irish and remains proud of its Irish Australian history.  A shamrock trail appears on the pavement of the newly refurbished main streets.  St Lawrence's Church was commissioned by Anastasia Barry Ryan, niece to Ned Ryan.

Max Barrett's 1978 book King of Galong Castle: The Story of Ned Ryan recounts the family history.

Thomas Fortune Ryan

Thomas Fortune Ryan was a true "rags-to-riches" story. 

was a Nelson County, Virginia native who became spectacularly successful as a Wall Street financier in New York and the wealthiest native-born Southerner of his generation.  His business interests embraced the Manhattan transit system, the American Tobacco Company, banking, the Equitable Life Assurance, the Thompson Sub-Machine Gun, railroads, Mexican rubber plantations and diamond mines in the Belgian Congo.

He was as well a prominent international art collector and a generous philanthropist.  He and his wife Ida paid entirely for the construction of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond, Virginia.

He even timed his death well.  He died in 1928, one year before the Great Crash.

Among his descendants is Virginia Fortune Ryan, born in 1933.  She married David Ogilvy, 8th Earl of Airlie, and became Lady Airlie.  She is a Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth.

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