08 March 2014

Edward Michael Ryan 1878 – 1969


Subject: Edward Michael Ryan
Date: Dec 1908
Photographer: Unknown
Found: Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand

Today’s photo I found a few days ago while on holiday at Waiheke Island, an island in the Hauraki Gulf of Auckland, New Zealand. It’s a photo postcard addressed to Mr McGinity at Maamara Cres, Wellington, NZ postmarked Dec 1908 from Springfield, Mass (which I presumed was Massachusetts USA). Part of the address had been crossed out and it looks like it was redirected from the Wellington post office on 19 Jan.postcard-back

Edward Michael Ryan was born in Stretford, Lancashire, England in 1878, his birth was registered in the 3qtr in the Barton upon Irwell registration district. I found him in the 1881 census almost straight away but wasn’t positive I had the right person until I found this death notice in a NZ newspaper on Papers Past:-


Brothers Edward Michael & Cunningham Rowan were the sons of Cunningham Rowan Francis & Elizabeth Jane Ryan from Ireland. In 1881 Edward Michael was living at home with his parents in Ashton upon Mersey in Cheshire, in 1886 his brother Cunningham Rowan was born in Ashton upon Mersey. Father Cunningham died in 1888 & although son Cunningham was living at home with his mother in the 1891 census, along with nine other siblings, Edward Michael wasn’t one of them, he was aged 12 and a boarder in the ‘Manchester Warehousemen & Clerks Orphan School’ in Stockport Etchells, Cheshire.

Cunningham Rowan was still at home with his mother & siblings in 1901 but I wasn’t able to find Edward Michael, it seems from this 1926 newspaper article that he may have been away fighting in the Boer War at the time:-


He must have arrived in New Zealand shortly before 1904 when he first joined the Y.M.C.A, the article fills in more details about his life with the Y.M.C.A and I think it must have been them who sent him to the USA sometime before 1908 where he was living when he sent his photo postcard to Mr McGinity at Christmas 1908. In the USA 1910 census I found him still living there in Springfield, Massachusetts. Although the census doesn’t show it I think he was living in some sort of establishment, maybe studying at a school or university of some sort, everyone on the same census page was listed as single and had no occupation apart from the wife of the head of the house who was listed as a matron of a student’s hall, another person who was a dormitory servant and another person who was the manager of the restaurant.

He was listed as single (on 26 Apr 1910) but by 1911 Edward Michael is back living in Wellington, NZ with his wife Edith & listed as the Boys' Director of the Y.M.C.A, however there is no marriage in New Zealand so I think they were most probably married in the US before returning home, so I have no maiden name for Edith but it could possibly be Parton.

Soon after WWI ended he & his wife & two children, Maybelle Parton born 29 May 1911 and Walter Vernon Villiers born 31 Mar 1916, both in Wellington, left on the ‘SS Tainui’ on the 3 Jul 1919 for London (according to the passenger list they were visiting Ireland), they all returned to NZ on the ‘Beltana’ on the 16 Dec 1919.


There is much to be found about Edward Michael Ryan and the Y.M.C.A on Papers Past, unfortunately they only go up to 1945 so far. Both Edward Michael & Edith, along with son Walter, are all buried in the Karori Cemetery in Wellington, Edith died in 1928 aged 51, Edward in 1969 aged 91 & Walter in 1995 aged 79. Maybelle was a teacher & she never married, she died in 1998, place of burial is unknown. I don’t know whether Walter ever married, it doesn’t seem like it as in the various electoral rolls I’ve found him in over the years there is no one listed as living at the same address.

I haven’t found Edward Michael Ryan on a passenger list when he first arrived in NZ although his brother Cunningham Rowan was listed on the ‘SS Surrey’ leaving Liverpool for Wellington on the 3 Dec 1906 aged 20, a farm labourer. 8 years later he joined the Canterbury Mounted Rifles (listed as Rowan Ryan) and on the 14 Dec 1914 left for Egypt with the NZ Expeditionary Forces, on the 9 Aug 1916 he was killed in action and is buried in the Kantara War Memorial Cemetery in Egypt.


The next of kin, Mrs Wrigley, was their sister Mildred Ryan who married William Sugden Wrigley in Derbyshire in 1906. Their other siblings were:-

William Villiers 1870; Ellen Gray 1872; Jackson Porter 1874-1878; Sarah 1876; Anna Frances 1880; Sydney Hamilton 1881; Elizabeth 1882; Jane Hamilton Rowan 1884; Catherine Gray 1887; Matthew Fletcher 1889.

Their mother was Elizabeth Jane Porter 1843-1903 & their father Cunningham Rowan Francis Ryan 1841-1888, he was the son of William Villiers Ryan & Sarah Hamilton Rowan who were also the parents of the following children, all born in Ireland:-

Edward Villiers 1835-1874; Sydney Hamilton 1838-1877; plus at least three more with unknown birth & death dates - John Nashville; Matthew Fletcher & Mildred.

Cunningham Rowan Francis Ryan was the executor to two of his brothers’ wills, Edward Villiers Ryan & Sydney Hamilton Ryan, neither of whom were married at the time of their deaths, nor did they list any children of their own in their wills.

So far all I know about William Villiers Ryan is that he was born about 1811 and was the son of Edward Michael Ryan, a captain in the British Army who is mentioned in this 1924 NZ newspaper article:-


Wikipedia gives an account of the Battle, this is just a small excerpt:-

In the Battle of Villers-en-Cauchies, fought on 24 April 1794, a small Anglo-Austrian cavalry force routed a vastly more numerous French division during the Flanders Campaign of the French Revolutionary Wars. Villers-en-Cauchies is 15 km south of Valenciennes.

Emperor Francis II awarded 8 British officers involved in this action with a special gold medal since at that time it wasn't possible to award the Military Order of Maria Theresia upon foreigners; later, in 1801, after a change in the order's statutes, these same officers were appointed Knights of the Military Order of Maria Theresia. The recipients were Major William Aylett; Captain Robert Pocklington; Captain Edward Michael Ryan; Lieutenant Thomas Granby Calcraft; Lieutenant William Keir; Lieutenant Charles Burrell Blount; Cornet Edward Gerald Butler and Cornet Robert Thomas Wilson. Of this medal only 9 pieces have been struck: 8 awarded and one preserved at the "Münzkabinett" in Vienna. Besides the mentioned piece preserved in Vienna, two original groups of medal and Maria Theresia's Cross appeared on the collecting market resp. in 1966 (belonged to Cornet E. Butler) and in 1967 (Capt. R. Pocklington), both sold by Spink & Son, London; the second, auctioned by Sotheby's in 1903, later in the Whitaker collection, this dissolved from 1959 onwards.


So far I haven’t been able to ascertain just who Mr McGinity was although there was a John McGinnity and a John Maginnity living in Wellington during that time. There was also some other postcards in the same shop addressed to a Miss A McGinty of Maarama Crescent, I purchased one of them which was a photo of a young girl sent to Miss McGinty but with no name for the person it was from.

How they all ended up on Waiheke Island, at the other end of the North Island to Wellington, is a complete mystery to me!


If anyone knows anything about or is connected to the RYAN (or McGinity) family please do contact me, I would love to pass this photo onto a family member, even a distant one. Contact by email is preferable but if you are going to leave a comment please don’t forget to include your email address.

Dawn Scotting

References: Papers Past; NZBDM Online; ancestry.com.au; PRONI; Cenotaph Database; Wikipedia; CWGC.

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