The Ryan Family

Ryan Family crest

(Crest No. 150. Plate 22.)

THIS family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of Heremon, eighth son of that monarch. The founder of the family was Fiacha Baiceada, son of Cathire More, King of Ireland, A. D. 114. The ancient name was Maobreann, signifying “Country Boy.”

The chiefs of the sept were styled Lords of Idrone and Owney, and their possessions were located in the present Counties of Carlow and Tipperary.

This family is still numerous in Idrone, in the County of Carlow and throughout Leinster, but they are to be distinguished from the O’Maeilriains, or O’Mulryans, now O’Ryans, of Owny O’Mulryan, in Tipperary. Both are of the race of Cathire More, but their pedigrees are different.

The Ui Drona, says Dr. O’Donovan, descend from Drona, fourth in descent from that king. The Ui Maeilriain spring from Fergus, son of Eogan Goll, son of Nathi, son of Crimthan, son of Enna Kennselach, King of Leinster, A. D. 350, son of Labriadh, son of Bresel Belach, son of Fiacaidh Bacheda, son of Cathire More.

The O’Ryans of Tipperary also possessed the barony of Owneybeg, in the present County of Limerick; and the O’Ryans were also an ancient family of note in Kilkenny, as well as in Carlow, Tipperary and Waterford.

The territory of the O’Ryans was subjected to the intrusion of the Anglo-Normans almost from the landing of the latter in Ireland; and, according to tradition, it was after a conflict with O’Ryan, Lord of Hy Drone, that Strongbow, in pushing on to the relief of Fitz Stephen, in Wexford, slew his son for having deserted his post during the battle. The conquest of this territory was regarded as of the utmost importance by the invaders, as was evidenced by Hugh de Lacy having within a few years built the Castles of Carlow, Leighlin and Tullow.

The O’Ryans have contributed to Irish history many warriors, bards and learned men. In the library of Mount Melleray, or the famous Abbey of St. Bernard la Trappe, in the County of Waterford, is preserved a remarkable manuscript, a psalter of a thousand pages, printed with the pen of a monk of the name of Ryan, who had previously been a sailor, and was a brother of a former prior of the abbey. It is one of the most beautiful works of art extant.

The name was represented for years in the officers’ list, Irish Brigade, in France. Richard Ryan, born 1796, died 1849, was the author of several works, including a “Dictionary of the Worthies of Ireland,” in two volumes; “Ballads on the Fictions of the Ancient Irish,” and “Poetry and Poets,” three volumes.

Many of the descendants of this family have attained honorable distinction in our own day. Among these may be mentioned the brave, but unfortunate, General Ryan, who was shot in Santiago de Cuba by the Spanish authorities, in the slaughter of the passengers and crew of the “Virginius,” in 1873. General Ryan, though a very young man, achieved an excellent record in our late Civil War, and his exploits in Cuba during the unsuccessful war for independence, l868-1878, were worthy of the days of knightly romance.

In the hierarchy of the Church in the United States to-day there are several distinguished members bearing this name—the Most Rev. Patrick J. Ryan, Archbishop of Philadelphia, Pa., one of the most eloquent pulpit orators in the Church in this country; the Right Rev. Stephen V. Ryan, Bishop of buffalo, N. Y., and the Right Rev. James Ryan, Bishop of the Diocese of Alton, Ill. The late Father Abram J. Ryan—“the Poet Priest of the South”—many of whose productions rank among the classic lyrics of our day, was a descendant of the Irish O’Ryans. Another eminent representative of this family is the Rev. James Ryan, of the Paulist Fathers, New York City. As a preacher, a missionary and a writer he stands in the front rank of the many able men of that order.

Outside of the many distinguished members of this name in the ranks of the clergy, are others equally distinguished in the departments of professional and business life. Among them may be mentioned one of national reputation, Mr. James J. Ryan of Philadelphia, Pa., the well-known railroad contractor, who, in his generosity, charity and hospitality fittingly represents the Lords of Idrone and Owney in the palmiest days of their history.