The O'Maoilriains, or anglicised Mulryans, are directly descended from Fergus, ninth in descent from Cathair Mor and are said to have settled in the 13th century in the rich pasturelands of the Golden Vale bordering Tipperary and Limerick.
The O'Maoilriains, who were chiefs of Owney, settled in that territory which is now known as the Baronies of Owney, County Tipperary and Owney-beg in the east of County Limerick and later moved in to the Barony of Kilnamanagh, County Tipperary, where they became very numerous and powerful. The prefix "Maol" or "Mul", which signifies "bald", and is described by some as meaning "Follower of" always referred to the O'Mulryans of Owney but gradually became obsolete, and was developed by Dr. Petty when he completed the Civil and Down Survey's for the Cromwellian Government. Most of the buildings constructed by the Ryans (O'Mulryans) when they arrived in the Owney territory of Munster were demolished prior to, or during the 17th century when their properties were confiscated by Cromwellian forces.
One of the Castles destroyed in the mid-15th century by the Earl of Ormond was Cragg Castle in County Tipperary, six miles south east of Killaloe. Situated on rocky, elevated ground overlooking the River Shannon, this stronghold was built here because of its strategic location. One mile east of Cragg, in a valley, is the ancient burial ground of this branch of the family. Passing through the double style in this cemetery, with its interesting coffin rest (possibly 18th century or earlier) one can see many Ryan graves, and without undue difficulty, read inscriptions going back to the Great Famine era of the mid-19th century.
Other Castles that were destroyed by the Earl of Ormond in the 15th century were Abingdon, County Limerick, and nearby Owney Abbey. A number of Ryans are buried in an ancient, but still used, graveyard surrounding the site of the ruined Abbey, and at a slightly lower level, stand the 20 ft. high remains of a square tower. Tradition suggests that this building was a vicar's choral or other part of the old Abbey. At Newport, County Tipperary, six miles north of Abingdon, is located one of the best-preserved buildings associated with the Ryan clan. The delightful Ballymackeogh House was, for centuries, the home of a branch of the family that originated in the Nenagh (County Tipperary) area. A Mr. Hurley who bought it in 1972 now privately owns it. An ancient church and burial ground for this and other branches of the family down through the years are located beside the long driveway leading to the House.
The ruins of Cully Castle are situated less than three miles from Newport, amongst the foothills of the Slieve Felim Mountains. Confiscated from Teige Ryan by Oliver Cromwell's forces in 1642, this large fortress with rounded corners was granted to a Hardress Waller who renamed it Castle Waller. Once a massive structure with at least two small circular flanking towers, it is now an ivy-clad ruin showing traces of both periods of ownership, including a vast two acres of orchards encircled by high walls. An interesting thing about Castle Waller is that although the ruins of the Castle still stand, we see attached to the one side a more modern cottage residence which is still occupied. Another ruined castle which at one times belonged to the Ryan Family and also in this general vicinity is Castle Craig. It is situated on a dairy farm, but the property is no longer owned by a Ryan. In this area there are also the sites of at least two more ex-Ryan castles, but virtually all trace of them has now been obliterated.
Across the Shannon River in County Clare, the beautiful Cathedral erected by King Donal Mor O'Brien of Thomond at Killaloe was granted to a member of the Ryan family when the monasteries in Ireland were destroyed by King Henry VIII in the 16th century. Historical documents show that William Ryane of Tipperary, Gent, "in consideration of the sum of £6. 13s. 4d. was given it to hold forever on the payment of a twentieth part of a Knight's fee and a rent of four pence." Killaloe Cathedral is still in regular use, as the Church of Ireland's main church in the diocese of that name. Another building that became the property of the Ryans in King Henry VIII's time was the old Augustine Priory at Tipperary Town. This was granted to a William Ryan for £20. A substantial Ryan castle is reputed to have existed at Sologhead, five miles north west of Tipperary Town. Situated in the midst of some of the best land in the Golden Vale, and half-way between the Tipperary hills and the county's central range, this site was one of great importance through the centuries.
Back in the 11th century, the great King Brian Boru had a successful skirmish with the invading Danes at Sologhead. A significant ambush also took place there in the Irish War of Independence earlier in the 20th. century. Although the Castle and the nearby Abbey are no longer visible, grave-diggers often discover the latter's (Abbey's) ancient walls. A fine new church is now located on the site. Ballyryan "the town of the Ryans" - is located near Sologhead and now consists of only a few houses. One such, of note, is a farming property "Ballyryan House" situates several kilometers outside the town and still owned and operated by a Ryan which offers B&B accommodation to visitors.
The Ryans have left their mark not only in the traditional Owney territories, but also all over mid and north Tipperary and East Limerick where they are to be found in almost every parish today. For instance, Holycross Abbey, nine miles north of Cashel in County Tipperary, had an Abbot in 1455 named Matthew O'Mulryan. One of King Donal Mor O'Brien's great buildings, Holycross, was recently extensively restored. Inch House, the home of a branch known by that name is only seven miles from Holycross and is quite close to another prominent Ryan district, Borrisoleigh, where a branch of the family owned 906 acres of land in the 17th. century. Like the powerful Tyrone branch of the family - just south of Nenagh, County Tipperary - many of the Ryans have lived in these areas for centuries but, no doubt, originated from within the Owney territory. Cathair Mor, the Founder of the Clan, is reputed to have been herded across the south of Ireland between the two main territories of the family, Idrone and Owney.
The Ryan surname (and its variant forms) is eight most numerous in whole of Ireland. There are an estimated 28,000 bearers name resident Ireland at present time. However, we must not forget that possibly ten times total Ryans living outside shores - two Americas, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Europe, African continent and, to a lesser extent, Asia and rest world.
FAILTE GO CHONTAE TIOBRAID ARANN
"WELCOME TO COUNTY TIPPERARY"
Being a Ryan, when one starts to think of Ireland, one’s mind naturally turns towards Tipperary, situated in the South/West of Ireland in the Province of Munster. Although the Ryan Family is represented in almost every County and city in Ireland, and way back in the dim and distant past the Ryans were more prevalent in the Province of Leinster, the Ryans many centuries ago appeared in the Province of Munster and quickly established themselves along the border between Limerick and Tipperary where they rapidly became the Family of influence and power in the Baronies of Owney and Owneybeg. The Family influence grew rapidly as did their numbers until the Ryans were so numerous in Tipperary that it became a trite saying that "One could hardly throw a stone down a street in Tipperary without hitting a Ryan". And so it became natural to associate Tipperary County with the Ryans and the Ryans with Tipperary County.
It seems natural although in truth the Ryan family did not really originate here and are associated with other areas and Counties in Ireland. Nevertheless it is true to say that Tipperary is considered the home of the Ryans. So any Ryan when visiting Ireland most naturally finds his or her way to Tipperary, just as we did when we went to Ireland in 1995. Tipperary is probably best known, world wide, from the World War 1 Song “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” which, in fact, was written by an Englishman who had never even seen Ireland, let alone Tipperary, and it became a popular song on both sides of the trenches. The song is still popular to this very day, but the ironically amusing about the "Long Way" thing is that, when we arrived in Tipperary in 1955, it was not long before we were confronted with a roadside sign which, with typical Irish humour, said “SEE, IT’S NOT THAT FAR AFTER ALL”.
Tipperary derives its name from –Tiobraid Arainn (The well of Aran) - a well situated just off the present Main Street of Tipperary Town, which is, or rather was, (the well I mean) considered sacred, and at which King Brian Boru is reputed to have washed his wounds after a battle. However, in common with many other Irish towns Tipperary Town traces its origins to the Normans, who invaded Ireland, and around the end of the 12th. century established a settlement to the north-west in the vicinity of the present town. The motte and bailey built by the Normans then, can still be seen today.
Note: A motte and bailey are ancient forms of structures and earthworks, commonly used during this era.
Main Street, Tipperary as we saw it in 1995
However, the future King John of England later built a castle in Tipperary, and every trace of this structure has since been obliterated. Later during the Cromwellian suppression of Ireland, all land in Tipperary was confiscated to the British Crown; Irish landowners were deprived of their ownership; and the town became the property of a wealthy English gentleman and merchant by the name of Erasmus Smith
The area between Limerick, in County Limerick; Nenagh, Thurles, and Tipperary Town in Tipperary is considered the cradle of the modern Ryan Family. Known collectively as the Slieve Felim area as it contains the Slieve Felim Mountains. An area on this North/Western border with Limerick was a district known as Owney and Owney Beg which gave its name to the Ryan Family which was then known as the Owney Ryans or the Ryans of Owney There a number of places and areas in Tipperary which are intimately associated with the Ryan family. Mostly these are concentrated in the North of the County in the region around the Slieve Felim Mountains, and names like Newport, Nenagh, Cashel, - the Rock of Cashel being famous, of course, for its association with St. Patrick - Clonmel, Thurles and others bring a gleam to the eye of every Ryan that visits Tipperary. Within this area around Newport there are the ruined remains of no less that four Ryan Castles. And while visiting Ireland I was fortunate enough to visit two of these ruins.... These were the Castle Craig and Cully Castle, this last named having been confiscated by Cromwell, and awarded to one of his financial backers, an Englishman named Waller, who subsequently renamed it Castle Waller.
Castle Waller formerly Cully Castle
The ruins of a Ryan Castle (Cully Castle) situated in Northern Tipperary. The ruins are completely covered in ivy, but note the more modern cottage built on to the ruins, which was still occupied. The Castle was confiscated from the Ryan Family by Oliver Cromwell, and presented to one of his supporters, Col. Waller who renamed it as "Castle Waller". In the picture the ruins are being inspected by Ted Ryan (nearest to building) and his brother Bernie Ryan during a visit to Ireland in 1995.
This Castle situated in the Sleive Felim Mountains of Northern Tipperary was confiscated by Cromwell from the Ryan Family and presented to a supporter Col Waller, who renamed it "Castle Waller". You will note from the picture that all the ruins of the castle are overgrown and covered with ivy, but interestingly a somewhat more recent cottage has been attached to the ruins and is still occupied. The ruins are being inspected by Ted Ryan (Aust) - nearest to ruins- and his brother Bernie Ryan during a trip to Ireland during 1995.
It is interesting to note that even today the name Ryan is prevalent throughout Tipperary and it is not uncommon to see the name proudly displayed on business houses and Hotels, throughout the County. Even when searching for the Ryan Castles in 1995 we had recourse to Ryan’s Hotel in Newport for directions, were welcomed with great Ryan cordiality and warmth, and quickly put on the right track On another occasion while seeking proof of our family roots we visited a Ryan Pub in Thurles and were directed to Ned Ryan, or "Ned the Undertaker" as he was known, who proved a mine of information and assured us that we probably belonged to the Ryan Family known by the nickname of "Ryan Castle". It is a shame that we have not yet been able to corroborate this assumption.
There are many more towns and areas in Tipperary which prove a natural enticement for the tourist, such as Cashel, Holy Cross, Nenagh, Thurles, Clonmel to name but a few. However, for myself, my brother and our wives, who made the trip to Tipperary in 1995 there are several which stand high in our memory, and of these the most remembered is the Glen of Aherlow. The Glen stretches for some 15 miles from Bansha in the East to Galbally in the West a most picturesque village at the mouth of the Glen and only 9 miles from Tipperary Town. The Glen is nestled between the Slieve na Muck hills to the North, and the Galtee Mountains to the South, and provided a haven of refuge for the Raparees –- the Irishmen who had been dispossessed of their lands and became outlaws during this troubled periods of Irish History -– the most famous and well known of these being Edmund RYAN or “Eamonn an Chnoic” or “Ned of the Hills” The area is justly famous for its outstanding scenery and beauty and a marvellous view of the Glen can be enjoyed from the statue of “Christ the King” on the Coach road.
When we visited Ireland the Clan Ryan treated us to a magnificent banquet masterminded and controlled by Mr, John Bradshaw of Tipperary Town, at the Aherlow House which is situated overlooking the Glen not far from the Statue. Here we were treated right royally by the Clan Ryan, Tipperary, and experienced a memorable time. Only a matter of several miles to the west of Tipperary town, any Ryan visiting Tipperary, and interested will find a small village called Ballyryan, may spend a night at a farming property which prides itself on its “B&B” (bed and breakfast) facilities, and is run by the original family of Ryans who still farm the property.
All things considered Tipperary is a well worth destination for any person fortunate enough to make the journey, and particularly so if he/she happen to have Ryan connections. Anyone contemplating a visit would be well advised to contact Mr. John Bradshaw, at the Clann na hEireann Office at 45 West Main Street, Tipperary Town, who will undoubtedly give you the best advice and guidance possible. If you do just tell John that Ted Ryan from Gympie, Queensland sent you.
You could also look up Willie Ryan mine host of the "Nellie O'Brien" pub in Main Street, Tipperary Town who just after our visit to Tipperary was elected as Chieftain of the Clan Ryan Tipperary, or Con Ryan who lives on the Clonmel Road, only a short walk from the Main Street of Tipperary and you could say the same thing to them.
Here I must add a post script as I have recently been advised that Willie Ryan has now relinquished the "Nellie O'Brien" and the best way to contact him would be through John Bradshaw. To the best of my knowledge Con Ryan and his wife are still residing on Clonmel Road.