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Thomas Ryan (1790–1846)

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Thomas Ryan (1790-1846), soldier, was born on 26 August 1790 in County Fermanagh, Ireland. At 15 he joined the 104th Regiment as an ensign and became a lieutenant in the 50th Regiment in October 1808. He was promoted captain in September 1819 and major in August 1830. He served in the Walcheren expedition in 1809 and later in the Peninsular war where he received several wounds at Fuentes De Onoro. After ten years service at Jamaica, he was appointed K.H. and went to Van Diemen's Land with his wife and son in the George the Third, which struck a reef near the southern entrance to D'Entrecasteaux Channel on the night of 12 April 1835 and became a total wreck; only 161, including 81 convicts, were saved out of the ship's complement of 295.

In December 1835 he was appointed to command the troops in northern Van Diemen's Land and made a justice of the peace. He remained in command there until 1839, interested himself in the building of the Ross Bridge and, when he departed, was given a farewell address by the northern residents and cheered by the convicts for his just administration. In 1838, while in temporary command of the Hobart Town garrison, he administered the oath of allegiance to Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Franklin on the accession of Queen Victoria. Next year he superintended the building near South Port of a monument to those lost in the wreck of the George the Third.

In June 1839 he joined the headquarters of his regiment in Sydney. Franklin was not sorry to see him go. 'I am heartily glad Major Ryan is going away not I trust to return … He got into a sad scrape at Launceston … through some intrigue with a man's wife and the story says was thrashed. He certainly had the marks of a Black Eye when he dined on the Pelorus … What an old Debaucher he must be'. Ryan was commandant at Norfolk Island from September 1839 to March 1840 when Captain Alexander Maconochie succeeded him.

He left for India with his regiment in January 1841, was promoted brevet lieutenant-colonel in April 1844, and fought at the Maharajpore in December 1843. On 10 February 1846 he was severely wounded at the battle of Sobraon, and died from his wounds before hearing that he had been appointed C.B. in April. On a monument at Canterbury Cathedral his name headed the list of officers and men of the 50th Regiment who fell in the Sutlej campaign.

Select Bibliography

  • A. E. Fyler, The History of the 50th or (The Queen's Own) Regiment (Lond, 1895)
  • G. Mackaness (ed), Some Private Correspondence of Sir John and Lady Jane Franklin, vols 1-2 (Syd, 1947)
  • Hobart Town Courier, 8 Mar, 5 July 1839
  • Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston), 9 Apr 1839
  • WO 25/794.

Citation details

'Ryan, Thomas (1790–1846)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


26 August, 1790
Fermanagh, Ireland


1846 (aged ~ 55)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.