Seeking Degrees Of Separation For The Thurles Ryan Gathering In August

Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, but no need of six degrees when we take a look at this man. He does not appear in any list of Thurles Town’s most notable ancestors as yet, but was born in Chicago, Illinois on November 11th, 1909 and died on July 11th, 1973,  just 40 years ago this month.

He stood 6ft-4in in height and despite being an American actor who constantly played the screen parts of hardened cops and ruthless villains, the kind of characters that in real life he found totally despicable, he would remain until his death from lung cancer in New York City in 1973 aged just 63 years, a confirmed pacifist.

He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1932, having held the school’s heavyweight boxing title during all four years of his attendance, to begin employment as a stoker on a ship, a WPA worker, and later a ranch hand in Montana.

He was a joint founder of “The Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy’s Hollywood Chapter.”  He served in the cultural division of the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and together with Bill Cosby, Robert Culp, Sidney Poitier, and other actors, he helped organize the short-lived “Artists Help All Blacks,” and was an outright opponent of McCarthyism.  Despite his earlier military service in the United States Marine Corps, he fully supported civil rights issues in America.

He will be possibly also remembered for subletting his apartment in Manhattan, ‘The Dakota,’ at 72nd & Central Park West, to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It would be here that at around 10:50 pm on December 8th 1980, as John Lennon returned to this same New York apartment, that the madman Mark David Chapman would shoot Lennon in the back four times, as the latter entered this building.

Yes, you have probably guessed it by now, I speak of Robert (Bushnell,) Ryan, famous American actor extraordinary, who played lead roles in more than 60 films and whose grandmother (Maiden Name Johanna Ryan,) and grandfather John came originally from our town of Thurles, both emigrating to America just after the Civil War sometime in the end of the 1860’s.

This same Thurles born grandfather, John Ryan, became a carpenter who quickly founded a boat yard, his aim to supply boats for the Illinois and Michigan Canal, latter which ran through Lockport. His grandfather, at some time during these years, was superintendent of that section of the Canal, thus holding a position of some importance in his small adopted town.

The township was largely Irish and Catholic and these Ryan’s were a devout Catholic family. This devout faith did not however prohibit Robert Ryan’s father, Timothy Aloysius Ryan, from marrying a Protestant girl, one Mabel Bushnell. The Ryan’s, by all the standards of then civilized society, were a very fine family, hard working, devout, honourable, and handsome. While not showing intellectual or artistic merit, they are described by Robert himself, as conventional in both their private and public lives.

Actor Robert Ryan, as already stated, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the first born child of Timothy and his wife Mabel Bushnell Ryan. He himself would go on to marry Jessica Cadwalader, a Quaker, on March 11th 1939 and father two sons, Cheyney, a research fellow at Oxford University and a Professor of Philosophy and Law at the University of Oregon, and Timothy (“Tim” named after his father,) and one daughter, Lisa.

His film career which began in 1940 with “Ghost Breakers,” and ended with “The Iceman Cometh,” in 1973, also included the silver screen greats; Crossfire(1947); as Nick Bradley in Born to Be Bad (1950); On Dangerous Ground (1951); as Howard Wilton in Beware My Lovely (1952); as Cass Silver in The Proud Ones (1956); Battle of the Bulge (1965); The Professionals (1966) which obtained three Academy Award nominations; The Dirty Dozen (1967); as Lieutenant General Carson in Anzio (1968); The Wild Bunch (1969); and of course The Outfit (1973).

Maybe Thurles Town Council should unveil a plaque to the memory of his grandparents during “The Ryan Gathering,”  to be held here in Thurles, Co.Tipperary, on the weekend of August 23rd -25th 2013, what do you our readers think?


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