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Rediscovering Ginninderra: A database:
John Ryan

Born: 1842; Died: 1916; Married: Martha Rolfe

John, the first of six children of William and Margaret Ryan, was born beneath a bullock wagon just outside Collector on 9 June 1842. Margaret, though heavily pregnant, had opted to go with her husband on a trip to Sydney rather than stay alone at their remote slab cottage at Mulligans Flat. John was duly baptised in Goulburn on 23 June.

Twenty years later John himself was making a living with a bullock team, carting goods of various sorts around the district. In 1864 he and his friend and neighbour Tom Gribble were carting a load from Goulburn to Cooma when they encountered the infamous bushrangers, the 'Clark Brothers' - members of the 'Jingera Mob', named after their hideout in the Jingera mountains. That day, the target was the Queanbeyan Mail Coach, and Ryan and Gribble were invited to share a billy of tea with them after the robbery.

On 22 May 1868, at the age of twenty-five, John married Martha Rolfe at St Gregory's church Queanbeyan. She was a daughter of Anthony and Catherine Rolfe who had settled not far from Mulligans Flat, at 'Tea Gardens'. It is not clear where they first lived, but by 1877 they were residing at Well Station, which had been owned by George Rolfe, Martha's brother. Within a short time however he became the proud owner of Tea Gardens, the Rolfe family by that time having established the nearby Gold Creek station.

John and Martha had eight children, two of whom died in infancy - Margaret (1871-1924), William (1872-1877), Martha (1874-1933), John (1876-1923), Sarah (1881-1926), George (1882-1882) and Edmund /Edward (1884-1953). It is of interest to note that while both his and his wife's parents had migrated to Australia, and a number of his children were to move away from the district, John Ryan lived all his days in what became the capital territory.

John acquired more land, including Portions 21 and 13 (totalling 180 acres) in 1878, and became a highly regarded farmer in the district. Yemen’s Directory of Landholders of NSW (1900) reports that he was growing wheat, maize, barley and other crops, dairy farming and grazing. When. In 1914 he reported through the district that he had a fine thorough bred stallion - 'O'Sitana' - standing. When E K Crace, President of the Ginninderra Farmers Union, invited the NSW Director of Agriculture Mr W S Campbell to give a talk to local farmers, he was also driven out to inspect some of the largest farms in the district; Tea Gardens was one of them. A 1910 press report was complimentary about his operations:

"Threshing operations are in full swing. Mr William Winter, Red Hill, [son of John Winter] who owns a large steam threshing and chaff cutting plant on Thursday completed an eight days engagement on the farm of Mr John Ryan of Tea Gardens and I understand that during the time named some 650 bags of grain (principally wheat) and about 30 tons of chaff were put through. As Mr Ryan has still a large quantity of hay on hand he not only scores an easy first as premier farmer of our district but also carried off the palm for the record crop grown in the district". [Goulburn Evening Penny Post (Wizard’s Notes) 8.2.1910].

As staunch Catholics, John and Martha made Tea Gardens available as a Mass Station for many years (Maher, p.292-3) , and were active fund-raisers for St Gregory's and other catholic causes:

"Twice a year Monsignor Haydon would come out to Ryans at Tea Gardens ....and the local Catholics would gather there for Mass in the lounge room. After Mass a substantial breakfast was provided for up to 20 worshippers, with no-one ever being asked by the Ryans, or even expected, to contribute to the meal in any way" [Canberra Times, 7 November 1992, p 3].

As a prominent farmer John also played his part in the local ploughing matches, hare drives, the Show Committee, and so forth. He passed away on 3 January 1916, some five years after Martha. He left the bulk of his estate to his son Edward, who continued farming at Tea Gardens.

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