Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Cecil Godfrey Ryan (1866–1954)

by Rod Hunt

This article was published:

Cecil Godfrey Ryan (1866-1954), mine manager and mining engineer, was born on 30 July 1866 at Brighton, Victoria, third son of Charles Ryan, stock agent, and his wife Marian, eldest daughter of John Cotton. His elder brother (Sir) Charles Snodgrass became a distinguished surgeon and his elder sister Marian Ellis a successful flower painter. Cecil was educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School (1879-83) and the University of Melbourne and gained considerable gold-mining experience in Western Australia and New Zealand before moving to Tasmania in 1900 as manager of the Pioneer Tin Mining Co.'s mine at Pioneer (Bradshaw's Creek). On 28 April 1909 at Derby with Presbyterian forms he married Audrey Lyla Colvin Learmonth, niece of the other prominent tin-mine manager of the area, Lindesay Clark.

On the sale of the Pioneer Co.'s leases to the Endurance Tin Mining Co. in 1934, Ryan continued as manager to 1939, although after intermittent illness he had moved to Launceston in 1937. He remained a member of the company board and a consulting engineer until his death.

Ryan was one of the most innovative figures of the north-eastern Tasmanian tin-fields. He was responsible for the introduction of hydro-electric power to the Pioneer mine in 1908; the company generating station built under his direction was later linked to the State hydro-electric grid. His use of the centrifugal-pump and sump method revolutionized local tin-mining and he was also involved in timber-drying experiments. Under his astute management the Pioneer mine paid over £500,000 in dividends.

Ryan was prominent in local affairs and won great respect for his wide-ranging capabilities and sound advice. He was a member of the Ringarooma Municipal Council in 1909-37, paying particular attention to transport and health matters and, during the Depression, unemployment relief. He served as deputy warden for some years and was a justice of the peace and member of the local licensing bench. Prominent in the extension of hydro-electric power to the north-east, in 1934 he was appointed deputy associate commissioner of the Hydro-Electric Commission.

A fairly tall, handsome, benevolent, friendly but quiet man who 'at his most amusing … looked ferocious', Ryan was a prominent member of the Anglican Church and an active sportsman, fisherman and hunter. Well-travelled and cultured, he shared a family interest in the natural world and collected works of art. He was a member of the Launceston and Melbourne clubs, and sometime director of the Australian Mines and Metals Association.

Ryan died of heart disease at Launceston on 22 June 1954 and was cremated. His wife survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Loone, Tasmania's North East (Launc, 1928)
  • M. Casey, An Australian Story, 1837-1907 (Lond, 1962)
  • J. Reynolds, Men and Mines (Melb, 1974)
  • G. and S. Miller, Of Rascals and Rusty Relics (Hob, 1979)
  • North-Eastern Advertiser, 24 Dec 1909, 6 May 1910, 19 Dec 1911, 16 Dec 1927, 26 Aug 1929, 24 Apr, 25 Sept 1931, 9 Sept 1932, 21 July 1933, 13, 16 Mar, 17 Aug 1934, 14 Mar 1935, 13 Oct 1936, 9 Feb 1937, 10 Aug 1937
  • Examiner (Launceston), 23 June 1954
  • Tasmanian Mines Department, Mining managers register (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Rod Hunt, 'Ryan, Cecil Godfrey (1866–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 22 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


30 July, 1866
Brighton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


22 June, 1954 (aged 87)
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.