In Ireland, more than 30,000 persons bear the ancient name of Ryan. Ryans are to be found in many parts of the world, including North America and Australia where the name was carried by members of the Clan who went there to seek their fortune. Ryan possibly stems from the ancient Irish for 'illustrious'. The exact origin of the name "Ryan" has been lost to antiquity. There are, however, two distinct branches of the Ryan Clan that now use the same spelling of the name. These are both descended from Cathaeir Mór, a third century King, who ruled all Ireland for three years from his seat in Leinster until his death in 122 A.D.
In Ireland, more than 30,000 persons bear the ancient name of Ryan. Ryans are to be found in many parts of the world, including North America and Australia where the name was carried by members of the Clan who went there to seek their fortune. Ryan possibly stems from the ancient Irish for 'illustrious'.
There are, however, two distinct branches of the Ryan Clan that now use the same spelling of the name. These are both descended from Cathaeir Mór, a third century King, who ruled all Ireland for three years from his seat in Leinster until his death in 122 A.D. Cathaeir Mór was slain by Conn and the people of Tara in that year. Cathaeir's great grandson Lavraid Laidach had two sons Enda and Drina; the latter was the ancestor of the Uí[BF1] Drona, O'Riains of Idrona Barony, (named after him in County Carlow). His brother, Prince Enda Kinsella, was the ancestor of the Uí Mhaolrians or O'Mulryans, who later dropped the prefix and now spell their name Ryan like their "cousins" from Idrone.
Ryans now principally remain in the Owney territory between Counties Limerick and Tipperary. We can only speculate as to why they left the Leinster area to settle in this locality, but the most likely theory is that they were driven by the invading Anglo-Norman's from the east bank of the river Barrow, where they had been settled for centuries. About the year 1300 A.D. the Normans extended their "Pale" (territory over which they had complete control) to the banks of that river. From that period the O'Riain lands extended across the river Barrow to around the Leighlin, a fact that enabled them to escape harassment of invaders from the east. Only a few generations of the O'Mulryans were permitted to stay in the Owney Territory as, in the 17th century, the Cromwellian invasion forced many of the Irish Chieftains and landowners to leave their rightful lands and be replanted west of the River Shannon. Records show that, on June 22nd, 1678, "Cornelius Ryan, gentleman," was granted a number of large estates in the Tulla and Bunratty Baronies of Clare on behalf of several transplanted persons. Not withstanding this, a man named Martin Ryan who owned 50 acres at Kilbarron, County Clare, was still reputed to have died in his bed at Cashel, County Tipperary in 1699. The Clare Branch of the family grew down through the years and are to be found today over an extensive area of that county.
The Ryans of the Owney territory were great property owners and as late as 1878, owned 10,000 of the 25,000 acres registered in the name throughout Ireland. Some of this land, at Inch near Thurles County Tipperary belonged to leading representatives of this family branch, and Ryan’s today still own farmland there, which has been in the hands of the family for up to 350 years. Records show that in the mid-17th century a man named Daniel Ryan lived at the family mansion at Inch and married a Miss. Ragget of Ballycormack. The present three storey ‘Inch House’ was probably built in the 18th century on the site of an earlier house.
Another prominent clan member who is still in possession of his ancestral home is Thady Ryan of Scarteen, Knocklong, in County Limerick. He is well known as Master of the renowned Scarteen Hunt, and is descended from Thaddeus Ryan who served with St. Ruth's Regiment of Horse at the famous circles at the Battle of Aughrim. One of the great authors of recent times was Dubliner, Cornelius Ryan (1920-1974) who wrote 'The Longest Day' about the 'D-Day' invasion of Normandy, which was published in 1959.
In the sporting world, Ryans have been to the forefront too, including Limerick man Patrick Joseph Ryan (23/1/1883-13/02/1964). He set a World Hammer Throwing record in 1913, which was to stand for 25 years. Having spent much of his time in the U.S.A., this Olympic Gold and Silver medallist died at his home at Pallasgreen, County Limerick.
Ryans have also excelled in the medical profession, one of Britain's leading anaesthetists was Dr. John Francis Ryan born in 1894.
One of America's wealthiest men, Thomas Fortune Ryan was born in the middle of the 19th century. Orphaned and destitute when 12 years old, he built a financial empire that included investments in insurance, railroads, tobacco, minerals and office equipment. He also built an enormous house in New York's Fifth Avenue. On his death in 1928 he is reputed to have left assets worth over $250 million. Another member of the clan who did well in business was Britain's John Ryan. He was Vice-Chairman of the Metal Box Company, and involved in many industrial organisations, often as Chairman, and was awarded the C.B.E. honour in the U.K. in 1949.
There have been many other notable members of the clan down through the years. 'Darby' Ryan who lived between 1770 and 1855, was the author of the famous satire, 'The Peeler and the Goat'. Copies of his 'Tipperary Minstrelsy' are to be found in the British Museum and at the Royal Irish Academy. His monument, inscribed in Irish and English, can be seen at Bansha, County Tipperary.
Possibly the greatest 'character' to hold the name was Eamonn a' Chnoic (Ned of the Hill), who was born near Upperchurch, County Tipperary. Said to have been a Jacobite officer who took to the mountains for refuge after the broken treaty of Limerick in 1691, he preyed on the English settlers in the north and mid-Tipperary areas. He was murdered by a relation for reward and his grave is located near Hollyford in County Tipperary. This colourful Tipperaryman is reputed to have also composed a number of songs, of which 'The Black Woman of the Glen' is the best known.
Far removed from Ireland, a descendant of one of the clan, who fled the country with the 'Wild Geese' nearly three centuries ago, was recently found in Argentina and remarkably, the one language he spoke excepting his natural Spanish was Irish. This Irish had been handed down through the generations and was still easily comprehensible to a visitor from his ancestral land.
Another successful U.S. businessman was John Dennis Ryan (1864-1933), born in Michigan and responsible for the development of the famous Anaconda Copper Mining Company (founded by another Irishman Marcus Daly) into one of the great industrial enterprises of its time. In 1917, he resigned as head of Anaconda, and became wartime Director of Aircraft production, and later Assistant Secretary of War. Under his direction $100m was spent on aviation facilities by the US Government.
Another successful modern Ryan with aviation interests is Tony Ryan the founder and Chief Executive of Guinness Peat Aviation. Based in Shannon County Clare, this is the largest Aircraft Leasing Company in the world. ‘RYANAIR’ is also associated with this Ryan Family.
Bassett's Directory of County Tipperary, 1889, records the following entries:
John Ryan, Chairman & Treasurer-Loan Office, Bridge Street, Tipperary.
Lt. Col. Jos. C. Ryan, Commanding-Military Barricks, Tipperary.
William Ryan, Solicitors, St. Michaels Street, Tipperary.
DI. B. Ryan, Victualler, James St. Tipperary.
John Ryan, Grocer selling spirits & seeds, 17,18 & 19 Main Street, Tipperary.
Daniel Ryan, Cattle Dealer, James St. Tipperary.
Henry Ryan, Bakers Flour, St. Michaels Street, Tipperary.
Michael Ryan, Draper, 65 Main St, Tipperary.
(text © Clann na hÉireann, 2000.)
Toomevara, Templederry, Upper Church and Hollyford are part of the ancestral home of the O'Ryans and form a stage of the Beara-Breifne Greenway which is based on the historic march of O'Sullivan Beara in 1603.
For further information on the Ryan clan name go to www.upperchurch.com