Extract: ‘A Riot of Ryans’ by Fr Max Barrett



EXTRACT from ‘A Riot of RYANS’ by Fr Max Barrett C.SS.R

 [NOTE: This page supplements the Ryan story. See   ‘1839 Ryan’ and ‘Ryan Family by APB’ 1984]


Chapter 16


There are many instances of 19th Century Ryans coming to Australia as family units or as brother/sister units. The threesome named in the title of this chapter forged bonds with a number of Boorowa-Binalong notables:

  • Ellen married Matthew Con way of Balgalal, Binalong.
  • John, of Reedy Creek, Barwang and Northwood married Mary Hickey of Boorowa.
  •  Thomas married Mary O’Brien of Boorowa.

(There was also a link – through a son-in-law of Ellen – with Harris of Kalangan.)


The above trio of Ryans came from (need we say it?) Tipperary. Their parents were Thomas Ryan and Ellen O’Brien (Brien). The interesting family legend is that – while still in Ireland – they came to learn of Ned Ryans success as a squatter, and so decided to migrate to his neck of the Australian woods. John (aged 27) and Ellen (24) reached the Colony on 20 December 1839 aboard the S.S. China. Their brother Thomas, nineteen years of age, arrived just eighteen days later (7/1/1840) per the S.S. Alfred. [Note: Possibly, Thomas travelled with his siblings on the ‘’China’.] What.follows is an outline of the Australian careers of these Ryan siblings.



On reaching Sydney Town, it would appear that Ellen and her brothers lost no time in negotiating the 225 miles south-east to Galong and Ned Ryan’s domain. And it would appear that Ned’s friend and squatting neighbour, Matt Conway, was reasonably quick off the mark in wooing and winning Ellen.


Conway, from County Clare, had been sentenced to seven years for manslaughter. The Borodino which landed him in New South Wales in 1828 also carried six other Clare men on the same manslaughter charge. Matthew was 28 and married with one child in this year of his transportation. In the Colony he was assigned to Thomas Meehan and did time at Carrion, Goulburn Plains, in company with Ned Ryan. A ticket of leave man by 1832, he obtained his freedom in 1835. The presumption is that already, and for some years to come, he worked in conjunction with Ned Ryan at.Galong. In 1840 he was officialIy gazetted as a squatter in his own right: at Balgalal, Binalong, with 16,000 acres. Conway‘s name stood out boldly in the very early (1851) Larmer map of the Lachlan District.


With the death (or – after the lapse of seven years – the presumed death) of his wife in Ireland, Matthew married ElIen Ryan, at Galong. Of the seven children born to this couple, only three reached maturity: Mary (born 1843), Ellen (1847) and John (1851).


The Government Gazette of 6/2/1854 stated that Matthew‘s Balgalal property was 4600 acres. (This ‘shrinkage‘ was the common occurrence at this period of our colonial development: the original holders were required to surrender much of their original holdings.) But Matt was a welI-established man with a three-bedroom mud brick home and – at his death in 1869 – possessed of 700 sheep, 200 cattle and 100 horses.


Three children survived their father.

  • John, just eighteen in 1869, inherited Balgalal. About 1885 he sold the property and took over an hotel in Hay. There he died the following year. He had not married. * Mary, firstborn of the Conway children, married Timothy Ryan of Derrengullen in 1864. Timothy was the son of Owen Ryan and Catherine Walsh, highly respected pioneers of the district. Tim and Mary are featured again in the chapter entitled: Ryans of Swan Hotel, Binalong. They had nine children, of whom only three married. Their daughter Kathleen had issue but, regrettably, this line died out.


  • ElIen, Matt and Ellen’s younger surviving daughter, married William Harris Howard (16/4/1868). They were blessed with nine children and (in 1994) their line continued vigorously into its sixth Australian generation.

Matthew Conway lies at rest in Galong cemetery, not far from the vault that enshrines the remains of his friend, Ned Ryan. Ellen, Matt’s widow, lived on to 1890 and is buried in the cemetery at Binalong.



Like the patriarch Jacob, John Ryan served a long colonial apprenticeship before he was rewarded with his own land and his own lady.


In 1850, a 2000-acre property known as the Reedy Creek run was purchased by ‘John Corrigan Ryan’. (The original squatter on this run was a William Dale. The transfer to Ryan was recorded in the Gazette of 1851.) John Corrigan’ was our John. In 1850 his brother Thomas joined him in this venture.


In 1853, John married Mary Hickey of Boorowa. The marriage took place at Galong; the nuptials were registered in the Yass records. (This was still twelve years before Boorowa became a parish.) Five boys and four girls were the fruit of this union. Three of the boys died in childhood. It might be noted that the latter children (from 1866) were born at Balgalal (for midwifery reasons?).


At this point we shall anticipate part of the thumb-nail biography of John’s younger brother, Thomas. Thomas died in 1857. Six years later his widow Mary (nee O’Brien) re-married. Her second husband took up residence at the Reedy Creek run which now went by the new name of Cumbamurrah. The livestock was divided between John and his sister. Before 1865, John selected land in the Murrumburrah district. (In March, 1865, bushrangers Ben Hall, Gilbert and Dunn took two horses from John’s Murrumburrah station, telling John he would be advised later of their whereabouts. The horses were never recovered.)


Grevilles Post Office Directory of 1875-77 lists John as having a property at Barwang, Murrumburrah.


John needed a larger holding to meet the needs of his large family, and the land that beckoned him was situated between Cowra and Darby’s Falls. Thus Northwood came into being in February 1880. This demesne became synonymous with hospitality and involvement in community affairs.


In these latter years, he handed over the management of the property to his son Thomas. John died in 1891 and was buried at Cowra. A spokesman for his many descendants in the Cowra and Gilgandra districts, some now sixth generation Australians re- member his name with great respect, gratitude and affection Always a devout Catholic, (he) would walk eight miles to Cowra to attend Mass if horses were not readily available. In his final years he spent much of his time reading his prayer book”.



Thomas married Mary OBrien of Boorowa, at Boorowa, in 1850. Their nuptials were recorded at St. Augustine‘s, Yass.

The little we know of Thomascareer has already been mentioned. In 1850 he was associated with his brother John in the take-over of the Reedy Creek run. At Gundagai in 1857 he was thrown from a dray and killed. His children were Ellen (born 1852); Thomas (1854; born at Balgalal), John (1856) and Mary Josephine, born posthumously in August 1857.


The two daughters of Thomas and Mary married Cahill brothers. Ellen wedded Michael Cahill of Gunning Flat in 1873. Mary Josephine wedded John Joseph James Cahill Jugiong in 1883.


As regards the two sons of Thomas and Mary: John remained single. Thomas married Anne Magdalen Cooney. Children of the Ryan-Cooney union included Thorn (who married Kath Garry) and Owen (who married Bobby Roche).


The Mary Ryan (nee OBrien) who was widowed in 1857 re-married in 1863. Her second husband was James Barry, “son of Darby Barry, Farmer”. It seems that Darby Barry and Laurence Barry could have been in a squatting partnership on land to to west of Conway’s Balgalal, towards Mount Bobra. (In the Commissioner of Lands report of April 1844, Darby Barry was named as the owner of Binalong Station. In subsequent report, the owner was given as Laurence Barry.)


There were five children from this second marriage of Mary: Jeremiah (c. 186: Annie (c. 1867); Timothy (c. 1870); Patrick (c. 1874) and a boy who died in infancy. James Barry died in 1875, aged 38. The twicemarried Mary lived till 1898 and was buried in Galong cemetery, in a plot adjoining that of Matthew Conway.



The research on the above was done by descendants of Matthew Conway and Ellen Ryan: P. Howard and Agnes Bonnington. I corresponded for years with Philip Kennedy Howard. I respected him as a most methodic researcher and valued him as a good friend.


The work done on Harris of Kalangan does not strictly pertain to the Ryans of Boorowa. But brief word on an important name in the district might not be amiss.


Doctor John Harris reached the Colony as a member of the N.S.W. Corps in 1790. The famous story of his naming the Sydney inner suburb, Ultimo, can be read elsewhere. He took up squattage at Kalangan (did he ever actually set foot on the place?) and in 1837 wrote an exasperated letter to his manager there, demanding an account of affairs “at my Stock station in the County of King called Callangan or Kolangan I have to request that you will take under your direction Mr. James Roberts ….. Mr. Stinson .. you will name superintendent ... ” Harris went, to suggest the Order of the Boot for various employees. He reasonably observed that, as there were no butter returns, the dairy could be reduced. “I think 98 cows too many to be kept for milk … ”


The references to James Roberts and Samuel Stinson are interesting. Roberts would almost certainly have been the squatter of the Currawong and Milong runs. Stinson was the husband of Elizabeth McGee, daughter of Dr. Harris‘ sister. Dr. Harris had invited Stinson and family to emigrate from Londonderry.


In 1818 a nephew and namesake of the surgeon reached the Colony. This younger John Harris did spend time at Kalangan as manager of the property. Surgeon Harris had no issue. His nephew John did not marry. However the surgeon’s brother WiIliam had a daughter Jane. Jane Harris married WiIliam John Howard. One of their sons was WiIliam Harris Howard. WilIiam Harris Howard married Ellen Conway, the daughter of Matthew Conway and Ellen Ryan.


And THAT is the link-up of the HARRIS family with the CONWAY/RYANS.


Return to 1839 Ryan………. or ……….Ryan Family by APB 1984