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Famous Ryan

Famous Ryans

With a name that has spread throughout the world, it’s no wonder that the Ryan name features in the political, historical and Arts lives of many countries and continues to contribute to life in Ireland. Some of the famous and noted members of the Ryan name are listed below.

Edmund O’Ryan (Eamon O Riain )(c1680-1724) was a celebrated poet, born near Upperchurch. He is said to have been a large landowner whose property was confiscated when he defended a woman against a tax collector. He lived the life of an outlaw in the hills which earned him the nickname, Eamon an Chnuic (Eamon of the hills).  He depended on the generosity of the people he defended. One of the songs he wrote was The Dark Woman of the Glen.

Thepikemen of 1798 (Wexford).

Statue of the Pikemen, which is situated in Barntown Wexford

The aftermath of the 1798 rebellion is well remembered in County Wexford. Among those mentioned in records are: Anthony Ryan held on the tender ‘Princess’ in May 1799, charged with making pikes. A person of this name was among those transported to Australia for being a United Irishman. Other men who are known to have taken part in the Rising are: James and Thomas Ryan of Tintern. Michael Ryan, Saltmills. Nicholas Ryan buried Owenduff. Peter Ryan buried Limerick. Rev.William Ryan P.P. Arklow, Co. Wicklow, killed December 1798 and buried in Kilninor.

Judge John Joseph Ryan (1912-2004) Assemblyman, Navy Veteran and Law practitioner

John Joseph Ryan was born in Brooklyn and served as a New York State Assemblyman representing Clinton Hill, Fort Greene and parts of Bushwick and Bedford Stuyvesant starting in 1947. He was appointed to the criminal claims court in 1964 and remained on the bench until 1982. IN 1937 he was a graduate of St John’s University Law school. World War 2 saw him in action as a communications officer on troop transporters in the Atlantic and Pacific areas. He was discharged in 1946 as a Lieutenant Commander. After he left the bench, he practiced law until 1992.

The Ryan Family of Tomcoole, Co. Wexford

The Ryan family of Tomcoole are intertwined in the early years of twentieth century Irish history. Members of the family of twelve children were in the GPO during the 1916 rising and took part in Eamon de Valera’s Fiánna Fáil government. Dr James Ryan was Minister for Agriculture in 1934 and Minister for Finance from 1957 to 1965. His sister Nell Ryan was a prominent member of Wexford County Council in the 1950s and had spent time in prison during 1916. Another sibling, Mary Kate (Kit) Ryan attended the local school in Caroreigh, and later attended Loreto schools in Gorey and Dublin. In 1902 she graduated from the Royal University (now University College, Dublin - UCD) in German and French and moved to Cambridge, England. There she taught languages. She returned to Ireland in 1911 to take up a lecturing position in French philosophy at the newly formed UCD. She married Sean T. O’Ceallaigh in 1918 and continued her lecturing career until her death, after an illness, in 1934. Her sister Phyllis, Dublin’s first city analyst married Sean T. O’Ceallaigh in 1936. He became President from 1945-1959 and so Phyllis Ryan became the country’s First Lady. Her sister Josephine (Min) also married a political figure - Richard Mulcahy (1886-1971) who was a member of the first Dáil (parliament) in 1918 and continued his political career in the following years.

The Ryans of Knocklong, Co. Limerick.

This line of the Ryan clan has a long involvement in history with records as far back as the 17th century. Records show that Thaddeus Ryan fought at the battle of Aughrim and the Siege of Limerick. Today their battles are fought on the hunting grounds with the Scarteen hounds at the foot of the Galtee Mountains in Limerick and Tipperary. The Scarteens are a black and tan hound which has been bred by the family for over 300 years. The hunt has appeared in many publications (magazines, books, films etc.) over the years. Michael MacEwan dedicated a book to the Scarteen history.The Master for many years was Thady Ryan. He was chef d’equipe of the Irish Olympic Equestrian team at Tokyo and Mexico. When he retired to New Zealand in 1987, the traditions were continued by Chris and Sue. Thady’s autobiography “My Privileged Life” was published in 2002.The area is also famous for the Knocklong point to point races.


Cornelius Ryan (1920-1974) The longest Day

Cornelius was born in Dublin and became a journalist with the Daily Telegraph in London. At the age of 23 he covered the D Day landings in Normandy. He also worked in the Far East and New York. In 1959 he published the book The longest Day, an account of the D Day landings. This was made into a film in 1962 with John Wayne.

Thomas Joseph Ryan (1876-1921) Prime Minister of Queensland

Thomas Joseph Ryan was the son of an Irish labourer who emigrated to Australia in 1860s. Thomas Joseph was a lawyer and classics master at the High School, Melbourne. He became leader of the Labour Party in 1912 and also served as Premier of the State of Queensland.. He is commemorated by a statue in Brisbane(below).


Richie Ryan (1929 - ) Irish politician

Richie Ryan qualified as a solicitor in the 1950s. He subsequently followed a life in politics with the Fine Gael party. He is remembered as minister for Finance in the 1970s where the harsh economic times required tough budget measures. He was known as Minister for Hardship in the popular satirical TV programme Hal’ls Pictorial Weekly. He served as a member of the European Parliament in 1973 and 1977 to 1986.


Tony Ryan (1936-2007)

Born in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Tony Ryan was a successful businessman who founded Guinness Peat Aviation and Ryanair. He was a philanthropist who sponsored the Martin Ryan Marine Science Instiite at NUI Galway in memory of his father. He showed his interest in educating the next generation of entrepreneurs by supporting The Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship at the CityWest Park which is run by Dublin City University.

Noírín Ní Riain (1951 - ) Irish Musician and theologian

Other Recent notable members of the Ryan clan include:

Declan Ryan – Manager of the All Ireland winning Tipperary Hurling team in 2011.

Gerry Ryan – Irish Radio and TV broadcaster who died in 2010.

Fred Ryan – post -Chief of staff for former US President Ronald Reagan who himself had Tipperary roots in Ballyporeen.

Norín Ní Riain was born in Caherconlish, Co. Limerick and is known as a singer, musician, theologian, teacher and writer. She studied in University College Cork with two stalwarts of Irish musical circles  -  Aloys Fleischmann  and Sean Ó Riada. She performs religious and Irish traditional music. Her recordings include Chant with the Benedictine monks In Glenstal Abbey.