By Carmel O’Callaghan



Dr. Richard Ryan—On the morning of July 12th 1871, there stepped from the Dublin train at Kells station a tall, handsome, young man, who, in a soft southern accent, inquired if a car from Bailieboro’ awaited him. The car (an Irish jaunting car) was there, and no time, was lost in speeding home towards Bailieboro’. The visitor did not halt till he came to the workhouse gates. He arrived simultaneously with the Poor Law Guardians who were meeting to appoint a doctor for the Workhouse. Hospital. He attended the meeting, and only then announced his name and made application for the vacant post. His Nationalist supporters had been warned beforehand and turned up
to a man. They elected the visitor as M.O. of Bailieboro’ Workhouse and Hospital, the first of his creed, perhaps, to occupy such a post in Ulster. Thus began the long, and eventful career in East Cavan of Richard Ryan, M.D., which terminated with his death on the 6th inst. at the Villa, Bailieboro’. Although a young man, he came with honours and experience uncommon. When the Franco-Prussian war broke out in 1870 the old current of Irish sympathy towards Franco carried with it most of the young Irishmen of the time. An Irish Ambulance Corps was formed for the purpose of ministering medical aid to the wounded French soldiers within the war zone. Richard Ryan, the youthful Limerick man, was one of the first to volunteer.

How well he played his part on the Field of battle we can infer from the fact that the French Government later awarded him the French War Cross, an honour only conferred for distinguished service. His sound constitution and robust health enabled him to discharge his medical duties, over a wide area, in adverse weather conditions, with apparent nonchalance. Often he travelled on an ordinary trap, for days and nights without sleep, except what he snatched on the high trap on his way from one patient to another and, with the medical treatment, he seldom forgot to administer a few homely jokes that never failed to soften the sufferings and brighten the spirits of his clients. The Bailieboro’ Hospital he regarded with the deepest concern, and went, day after day, around the wards, bringing comfort to all and relief to many a patient, in pain. The prominent place he occupied in the religious, social and political events of his time are too well known to need rehearsing. The appeal of charity or religion always met from him, a welcome and generous response.


For many years the inmates of Bailieboro’ workhouse, at each recurring Xmas, were treated by the doctor to a generous feast, and there, in the midst of them, talking to Maggie and Kate and Mick, could be seen the picturesque personality dominated by the fine old patriarchal head of the doctor himself.


His faith in the tenets of his Church was adamant, and he practised it’s doctrines with rigorous accuracy. He so impressed his family with religious principles that two of his daughters have consecrated themselves to God for service in Pagan lands. Likewise, in temperance, while a total abstainer himself, he strove by precept, as well as example to inculcate the youth of the district into habits of temperance and, with this end in view, was president and an active member of the local Temperance League.


An energetic participator in the political movement, led by Parnell, his influence, in no small degree helped return his friend, Joe Biggar to a seat in the British Parliament.
Being one of the first Catholic magistrates appointed in the county, he had to take a seat on a bench, coloured by tradition and sentiment, by anti lrish views and sectarian prejudices; but, the strong assertive character of Dr. Ryan, backed by his intimate knowledge of the fine points of the law, soon nullified the feeble efforts of the last survivors of Feudalism, and made the Court a centre where rich and poor could approach and receive justice, tempered with mercy. May he rest in peace. (The Anglo-Celt, 11 December 1926).


He married Elizabeth Farrelly, a daughter of Mr. John Farrelly of Bailieborough, they had twelve children, two of whom became doctors and two solicitors in a well-known firm, in Dublin. Dr. Richard Ryan and his wife are the only lay people buried outside St. Anne’s Church in Bailieborough on the Virginia Rd.