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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
William Ryan

Born: 1812; Died: 1857; Married: Margaret [Byrnes]

William Ryan and his wife to be, Margaret Byrne were both natives of Moycarkey, County Tipperary. William, born in 1812, was the nephew of 'Old Billy Ryan' who was sentenced to transportation for 'insurrection' in 1823. Old Billy, having gained his certificate of freedom, had sent word to his brother Timothy from the small farm he was setting up at Mulligans Flat, telling him of the great opportunities that Australia offered. It was Timothy's son who took the bait, and he and wife Margaret embarked for Australia on the 'Orestes' on 6 January 1841 after marrying on 11 September 1840.

They entered Sydney Heads on 14 May 1841, and were soon on their way by horse drawn spring cart, to Ginninderra. It was customary for new settlers in the Limestone Plains district to be taken to their destinations by a teamster on his return trip from Sydney, loaded with station supplies. The journey would take around three weeks. Reunion with William's uncle at his modest hut at Mulligans Flat would have been very welcome.

Billy and his nephew set about reconstructing the little dwelling . The original hand-cut slabs were re-used in the new house, which they moved to slightly higher ground to avoid flooding from the Ginninderra Creek. They also dug a well, making the fetching of water for household use a much easier chore. As well as building a home and working their land, William supplemented their income by working as a 'bullocky'. The little slab cottage - with the later addition of a weatherboard extension - would be home to the Ryan family for over a century.

During these first decades of settlement aboriginal groups were still encountered. There was an extensive aboriginal campsite not far from the Ryan farm at Reidsdale where large corroborees were held from time to time (Bofinger, 9). In mid winter 1842 when Margaret was expecting their first child, she opted to go with William and his bullock team on a journey to Sydney, rather than stay home alone. They were not far into the journey, on the Sydney side of the village of Collector, when their son John was born beneath the bullock wagon.

Following Old Billy's disappearance the following year, William and Margaret took up the lease on the property, and over the next decade produced five more children (Timothy (1844), William (1846), Edward (1849), Margaret (1851) and Martin (1854). Characteristically all family members played their part in the household work and the farm work, and Margaret's load increased when William was away on haulage trips. According to Bofinger, son John was a pupil at the short-lived (1844 - 1851) Palmerville C of E school established by George Thomas Palmer, but it is hard to see how any of the other children might have got schooling. There was no school at Ginninderra until 1872, and the Mulligans Flat school - just across the Gundaroo road from the Ryan home - was not established until 1896. According to the shipping records William and Margaret could both read, but not write. They were however fully versed in catholicism, and as staunch Irish Catholics made sure that their children followed the teachings of the church.

In 1855 William was still listed (Electors, County of Murray 1855/6) as 'Leaseholder - Mulligans Flat', but was negotiating to purchase his farmland. His negotiations came to an abrupt end when he met with a fatal accident. Returning on his young horse from Queanbeyan, his dogs ran out to greet him, frightening the horse, which threw him. William was forty five at the time, his wife and mother of his six children was only thirty nine. She did not re-marry, but became a farmer in her own right. She carried through the negotiations to purchase the leases that William had begun before his death, securing portions 42, 43 and 44, Parish of Goorooyarroo in 1857 - a total of just over 100 acres and progressively expanded. A remarkable woman.


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