Citizens for a Livable Cranbrook Society provides grassroots leadership and an inclusive process, with a voice for all community members, to ensure that our community grows and develops in a way that incorporates an environmental ethic, offers a range of housing and transportation choices, encourages a vibrant and cultural life and supports sustainable, meaningful employment and business opportunities.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Michael's Musings

Joseph Patrick Ryan: "No country like Canada and British Columbia is its jewel"

By Michael J Morris

Four years ago on December 19, 2009, a founding member of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in Ireland 125 years before, who emigrated to Canada and started a new life in the Kootenays, was honoured in Cranbrook. The GAA is the biggest sports organization in Ireland today.

Joseph Patrick Ryan was remembered at a mass at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church,  with a wreath laying ceremony following at his grave in the cemetery here. The mass was celebrated by Father Harry Clarke and Father Conrado Beloso, and attended by civic dignitaries. Ryan died on March 25, 1918 in Cranbrook.

As many readers will know, for the past four years, I have been writing a weekly column called Chapleau Moments for my home town newspaper, about the life and times of the community. I also post them on my own blog. I will be the first to admit that I don't know too much about the early history of Cranbrook, but found Joseph Patrick Ryan quite interesting so decided to share a bit about him.
Terry Segarty of Cranbrook who organized  the event at the local level said that members of the Knights of Columbus who were celebrating 125 years in Cranbrook and members of the St. Vincent De Paul Society attended. He noted that Ryan was a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus of St. Mary`s Parish.

Terry added that the celebration remembering Ryan's involvement with the founding of the GAA was one of the final events in the celebration of the association's founding in 1884 and was attended by Brian Farmer, of Toronto, president of the Canadian Gaelic Athletic Association, as well as other GAA members. Other dignitaries include John Keane Rosemount, the Honorary Consul of Ireland in Seattle as well as Paul McGarry, vice president of the Seattle Gaels and Jim Cummins, chair of Seattle's Irish Immigrant Support Group.

While attending a mineral exhibition show in Chicago in 1913, Ryan wrote glowingly about his adopted country and city. He said that the minerals, "grasped the eyes and attention of many thousands of people whom fruit and grains did not concern in the slightest and once you had them in conversation it was no trouble to preach the general doctrine that there is no country like Canada and that British Columbia is its jewel."

Ninety-one years after his death. Joseph Patrick Ryan, a son of Ireland who greatly contributed to the early development of Cranbrook and British Columbia, was honoured here by the Gaelic Athletic Association which he helped found in his homeland 125 years ago before coming to Canada. The GAA web site says in part that at 3.00 p.m. on Saturday 1st November 1884, a small group of men ... met in the billiard-room of Miss Hayes's Commercial Hotel in Thurles, and there founded the Gaelic Athletic Association for the Preservation and Cultivation of National Pastimes. Patrick Ryan was there.

In an editorial appearing in The Cranbrook Herald after Ryan died, printed between heavy black bands top and bottom, the newspaper said in part that “a gloom was cast over the city” when his death was reported calling him “Judge Ryan” who “possessed fluency of language to an unusual degree ... his Irish brogue and wit will long be remembered.” It added that as mining reporter for the Herald his place would be difficult to fill.

Ryan who was born in Carrick-on-Suir, Tipperary, in April 1857 became a solicitor in Ireland before emigrating to Canada in 1899 and becoming involved in the life of British Columbia with the Board of Trade, the mining industry, as a Police Magistrate and prominent journalist. 

In a memoir on Ryan's life, his son-in-law Alf MacLochlainn describes him as “a voluble, articulate life -of-the-party” person during the years he lived in Canada.

The Cranbrook Herald of March 28, 1918, gives an overview of Ryan's life in Canada. “Cranbrook lost one of its best known residents through the death of Joseph Ryan ... It is about eighteen years since Mr. Ryan came to Canada from Ireland. He settled first in the West Kootenay, where he spent some six years as a broker and doing conveyancing, his legal training in the land of his birth proving of great value... He moved to this district about twelve years ago undertaking secretarial work in connection with mining undertakings... He was Police Magistrate for several years.

“While not having practical mining experience, Mr. Ryan was a student of geology... He was always optimistic being described as the best advertising medium in the district .”

The Herald also reported on Ryan's funeral which was held in the Roman Catholic church. It reported that Mrs. J.E. Kennedy sang 'Face to face” with deep feeling while the pallbearers were N.A. Wallinger, John Miller, William Greaves, Joseph Brault, Frank Goddens and A.L. McDermott.

Ryan lived in Kimberley before moving to Cranbrook in about 1906 where he became involved in Conservative party politics, but his real interest became the Board of Trade, as his son-in-law notes that he wanted to promote the east Kootenay and Cranbrook in particular.

 By 1910 he had established himself as a public relations officer for the area. He was appointed to prepare a mineral exhibit relative to the mineral wealth of the St.Mary`s Valley for the Spokane Fair. He showed mineral exhibits twice there, once with his friend Noel Wallinger, and at shows in Lethbridge and Chicago.

All in all, Ryan was one of the city's early citizens who made a contribution to the community as well as the province and his adopted country. My email is

Full disclosure: I am not now and never have been a member of the Citizens for a Livable Cranbrook Society; however, I did conduct a workshop for its members for which I was paid.

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