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Ryan, Charles (1818–1898)

from South Australian Register

Charles Ryan, n.d.

Charles Ryan, n.d.

from Australasian Pastoralists' Review, 15 October 1898

With the death of Mr. Charles Ryan, at Upper Macedon, on Saturday, says the Melbourne Argus of Monday, passes away one of the oldest colonists, and one of the few who, without taking part in public affairs, have become widely known and respected. Mr. Ryan leaves behind him a widow and several children, including Mr. Charles Ryan, the well-known surgeon; Mr. Henry Ryan, of the firm of Ryan, Hammond, & Mates, of Queen-street: Lady Charles Scott, and Mrs. Ellis Rowan, whose paintings of Australian flowers have earned a world-wide reputation. He was a native of Kilfera, in the County of Kilkenny, but left Ireland when still in his first youth to make Australia his home. He arrived here as early as 1839, and when the country surrounding Melbourne was but primeval forest ventured out into what was then the heart of the bush, and took up a tract of country on the Broken River, where he continued squatting. His station he named Kilfera, after his native town, but it was far less civilized than its Irish namesake, for only two days before Mr. Ryan's arrival two shepherds who had preceded him were murdered by the blacks. Notwithstanding the unfavourable outlook, Mr. Ryan stuck to his ground, and turned the station into one of the most successful of the district, relinquishing it only after some years to take up his better-known place at Longwood. This spot he called Killeen, and it was there that most of his children were born. This property is now in the hands of Mr. Chomley, a brother of the Chief Commissioner of Police, to whom Mr. Ryan sold it on moving to Brighton in the early seventies. But for continuous life in the city Mr. Ryan had no love, and soon he left Brighton for Macedon, where he has resided for the last 24 years. The residence at Macedon, which he occupied until his failing health forced him to seek another less extensive house six months ago, was surrounded with gardens, which for variety of plants and beauty of arrangement is said to be unsurpassed in any private grounds in Australia. As the founder of Ryan & Hammond, Mr. Ryan has a reputation among those associated with pastoral pursuits, extending over the length and breadth of the country, and there were few better known men in Victoria.

During the early days of the colony Mr. Ryan was a participant in many a stirring adventure, and was present at the capture of the notorious Captain Gepp and his gang of bushrangers at the Plenty Ranges. The bushrangers had stuck up a homestead in the locality, and, surprising the men on the station at breakfast, had carried off all the arms in the place, in addition to the rest of their loot. The owner of the property, indignant at the insult more than the loss, visited Melbourne in haste, and, after stating his case, a party, headed by the late Mr. Peter Snodgrass, a brother-in-law of Mr. Ryan, and including that gentleman himself, set out to capture or fight the gang. Reaching the ranges at dusk, the party camped for the night, and on arising next morning at daybreak, one of the avengers found to his dismay that his horse had slipped away during the night. Being well acquainted with the district, Mr. Ryan remained behind with this man while the rest of the party went on; but as some hours' search failed to reveal a sign of the missing animal he abandoned the quest, and set off on his own horse to overtake his companions. The morning was a very foggy one, and after riding some miles at a hot speed Mr. Ryan spied a party of horsemen shimmering through the mist on the top of a hill along the road. Cooeeing loudly, he spurred his horse forward, and dashed right into the midst of the bushranging gang. Mr. Ryan was instantly disarmed, and placed in the centre of the party, while a half-drunken fellow was put with him to act as guard, and was instructed not to be afraid to use the double-barrelled gun he carried if occasion required. As the day progressed, the mist melted away, and the hot summer's sun poured down with such intensity that Mr. Ryan asked that he might be allowed to leave the road, to get a drink at one of the many creeks. Gepp, however, declined to take the risk of letting him go, and offered his prisoner a drink of brandy from a bottle they had among the stolen property. The trouble of opening the bottle then arose, but Mr. Ryan solved the difficulty by producing from his pocket an overlooked knife—a big, heavily-plated dagger, of splendid workmanship. The bottle opened, Gepp glanced at the knife, and with a grin transferred it to his own pocket, remarking that it might come in useful one day. A little further along the road the bushrangers came in sight of their pursuers, and with a chivalry unknown to latter-day criminals released Mr. Ryan that he might join his own party. They then took to a hut, and the others besieging it a fight followed, in which two of the bushrangers were killed. Gepp, the leader of the gang, was struck over the breast, but, strange to say, the bullet was turned aside by the knife he had taken from Mr. Ryan, and the man was captured. Afterwards, when awaiting execution in Melbourne Gaol, he was visited by Mr. Ryan, to whom he said, "I wish I had let you have that drink of water, Mr. Ryan. Then I should have been shot like a man, instead of being hanged like a dog!" During the fight Mr. Harry Fowler, one of the attacking party, was shot by the bushrangers, but subsequently recovered.

Mr. Ryan had almost reached his eighty-first year at the time of his death, and of late he had been ailing considerably—so much so, in fact, that his death had been expected at any moment for some weeks.

Original publication

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Citation details

'Ryan, Charles (1818–1898)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/ryan-charles-889/text26318, accessed 21 November 2017.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2017

Charles Ryan, n.d.

Charles Ryan, n.d.

from Australasian Pastoralists' Review, 15 October 1898