Cowra – Cowra in Days Gone Bye by J C Ryall.201

Cowra in Days Gone Bye






[Edited by grandson Chas W Ryall, formerly of Cowra.]



This  document, carefully assembled in 1990 by Chas Ryall, the grandson of J C Ryall, whose Cowra Free Press chronicled much of the early days of Cowra and district. Since it is a such a valuable resource for those researching genealogy and the related local history of our early pioneers, I have included it on my website, acknowledging that it is the work of others. Though the text is fully searchable, I have added the Index. To give the reader some background to Mr Ryall, I am including here his Obituary:

Late Mr. J. C. Ryall

At the grand old age of 91 the death took place at his residence, Macquarie-street, Cowra, on Monday afternoon of Mr Joseph Charles Ryall, who founded the ‘Free Press’ 57 years /ago, .and still remained associated with it up to the time of his death. Death followed an illness of about two months’ duration. A native of Cashel, Tipperary, Ireland, the late Mr Ryall came to Australia when, but eight years of age, the trip out in those days in a sailing vessel occupying three months. He was the eldest son of the late Mr Joseph Ryall, an Irish lawyer, who later became Grenfell’s first legal practitioner. It was Mr. J. C. Ryall ‘s intention to follow in his father’s footsteps, but a breakdown in health prevented his doing so. His early years in this country were spent in Sydney, and it was there that he heard the call of the goldfields and worked on many of the leading fields of the State, notably the Snowy (Kiandra) and later at Grenfell, with varying success.

In 1873 he conceived the idea of embarking on a journalistic career, and ultimately established the ‘Free Press,’ the first few issues of which were published at the office of the ‘Grenfell Record.’ Meeting with a ‘ great measure of success’ Mr Ryall then established himself in an office ; adjoining the site now occupied by the Rural Bank, and from then until the day of his passing sought by every means in his power to further  the interests of the town of his adoption. He was the author of a great number of our now flourishing public institutions, and the moving spirit in most of the activities of the day.

The first honorary secretary of the  District Hospital, the P.A. and H. Association, and the Literary Institute, Mr. Ryall, with his well known flair for organisation, worked most whole-heartedly and successfully to put these institutions on a firm foundation. He was also keenly interested in the early life of the Cowra District Band, and was at one time its President and a trustee. In the agitation for the constructinon of the Blayney-Harden loop  line his greatest success was achieved, it being freely admitted at the time that his advocacy was a very material factor in having the work proceeded with. In later years his advocacy of the necessity for the extension to Grenfell, Canowindra and Eugowra was none the less ardent. Other extensions he fought for unsuccessfully were Cowra to Crookwell, Canowindra-Gregra and South of the Lachlan. He was also prominent in the early’ agitation for the construction of Wyangala Dam. On the occasion of the holding of the Jubilee Show in 1930 the commitee of the P.A. and H. Association presented Mr Ryall with a beautifully illuminated address in recognition of his valuable work. This was amongst his most treasured possessions to the end, in addition to an easy chair presented to him a number of years ago by some of his co-workers in the political field. Mention of the latter brings to mind the fact that he was on many occasions requested to allow himself to be nominated for Local Government honors and also in the higher sphere of public life, politics. But he was at all times firm in his refusal.

The Cowra Jockey Club, of which he was a committeeman for years, also owes much to the late Mr Ryall, it being largely due to his efforts, in association with Hon. T. Waddell, that the area now universally known as ‘the Randwick of the West,’ was secured. He was a life member of this club, as well as other of our public institutions. He also filled the positions of President and judge on several occasions. For a number of years he was a member of the local Land Board, being succeeded on his retirement by his son (Mr. J. H. Ryall). For many years he was Deputy Sheriff, a position he still retained to the time of his death.

The late Mr. Ryall was also a Justice of the Peace for very many years; and one of the earliest members of the Country Press Association; also of the local Rifle and Cricket Clubs. Cowra will be the poorer for the passing of this scholarly gentlemen, who, right to the end maintained the keenest interest in the welfare of his home town, so advantageously situated nl the Valley of the Lachlan, and its people. He was married at Liverpool to Miss Nora Yorke, who predeceased him by some eight years. The members of the family are: — Messrs Joseph Henry (Cowra), Charles de R. (Randwick), William A. (Cowra), Norman P. V. (Cowra), Vivian (Leeton), and Edgar S. (Cowra). Two daughters (Ellie and Viva) and one son (Claude) pre deceased him. There are also nine grandchildren living, one having died. Deceased was uncle to the members of the  Postlethwaite family of Grenfell. [The Grenfell Record and Lachlan District Advertiser Thursday 8 August 1935.]


As to the background to the papers, Mr Ryall’s Foreword below speaks for itself.



This collection of memoirs by the late Joseph Charles Ryall was published in the “CowraFree Press” over a period of twenty seven years.

Most of the articles have been copied from files of the “CowraFree Press” held by the Public Library of New South Wales.The articleswere not well presented in the “Free Press” and few were furnished with paragraphs. I have attempted to correct this deficiency and have added captions. With this exception, I have endeavoured to present the articles as they were written and have retained the Webster spelling which my late grandfather used almost exclusively.

Some of the articles are repetitious, but by use of the Index most items of interest should be readily located. Comments concerning some Cowra residents and some politicians would be considered by many to be libellous today. Frank and earnest, with a no-holds-barred backing for any worthy cause, he was both honest and kind hearted. He had a well developed Irish inspired sense of humour and would just as readily retell a joke against himself as he would about others.

It was his intention to assemble and publish his memoirs in book form. He died on 5th August 1935 at his residence in Macquarie Street, Cowra, a short distance from the “Free Press” printery.

Chas W. Ryall

Cowan 5th August 1990.



The texts of the 179 page document are here:

Part       Ryall's Pages      Published from


1 – 8 27 February 1908.


9 – 16 14 December 1921.


17 – 28 21 January 1922.


29 – 37 13 December 1923.


38 – 50 15 February 1924.


51 – 65 17 February 1928.


66-78 16 March 1928.


79 – 96 6 April 1928.


97 – 118 11 May 1928.


119 – 134 20 July 1928.


135 – 149 28 September 1928.


150 – 160 21 February 1930.


161 – 179 8 March 1934 to final publication date 29 April 1935.

………………………………….and the full Index  is here.