History: Looking Back

Looking Back feature: Mother Ryan: The untold story of Thirroul’s Johanna Ryan


Ryan’s Hotel Thirroul in the 1950s

FIFTY five years after the death of her husband, Irish hotelier Johanna Ryan was finally reunited with her spouse Michael, laid to rest beside him in the Catholic section of Australia’s largest cemetery. The year was 1956, and the grand old landlady, who ruled her pubs with an iron fist for over four decades, was no more.

This is the untold story of Thirroul’s own ‘iron-lady’, a hotelier, mother, and entrepreneur, who lived most of her long life as a widow, and who left Thirroul, the Ryan’s Hotel.

At the grand old age of 94, Johanna Ryan died upstairs in the Surry Hills Commonwealth Bank building at the corner of Crown Street and Lansdowne Road on August 2 1956. She was being cared for by her daughter Frances, the wife of bank manager, Vincent McDonogh.

The retired hotelier’s heart had finally given-up. She was buried at Rookwood, where her elaborate headstone sits today under the sprawling branches of a Camphaloral tree.

Read the full story at the Looking Back website.


About Mick Roberts

A Sydney journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in Australia for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick has owned and managed several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW. He currently calls the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills home.


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