An internationally renowned awards-winning prospector in the legendary Yukon took a nostalgic trip to his ancestral homeland in County Tipperary recently when his parents celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary.
Mr Shawn Ryan (48), originally from Timmons, Ontario, Canada, whose grandfather, William Ryan, was from Carrigeen, Clonoulty, Thurles, met many of his Tipperary relatives when he visited Tipperary with his, wife, Cathy Wood, and his children, Callum (14) and Cheyenne (16), and his parents, Mr Albert and Mrs Jackie Ryan, and also his two sisters, Myra Blow, and Lynne Brousseau, and brother in law, Luke Brousseau.
Shawn and his wife, Cathy, live with their two children in the Yukon where all his amazing mining discoveries were made. William Ryan, his grandfather, left Tipperary for Canada in the late ‘Twenties’ or early ‘Thirties’. Shawn’s great grandfather, Thady Ryan, of Derrymore House, Clonoulty, where another cousin, John Lanigan Ryan, who was present, now lives, was Captain of the Clonoulty team who won the first County Tipperary Senior Hurling Championship. Thady, who Hurled with Tipperary, travelled to America with the legendary “American Invasion” group who are an integral part of Irish sporting history and, indeed, Irish folklore.
While here, in Ireland, the enthusiastic, amiable and internationally renowned prospector and millionaire businessman treated his relatives from Canada, Tipperary and other parts of Ireland to a very fascinating and colourfully informative presentation about his quite romantic life in the fabled Yukon where he has lived for the past 20 years. This presentation in the beautifully appointed Conference Room in the Horse and Jockey Hotel, Thurles, was followed by a sumptuous repast.
The reunion of the Ryans really began following a fax to the Ryans in Canada from Mr Dan Ryan, the well-known Thurles undertaker and local historian in Dublin Road, Thurles. There had been an article on Shawn Ryan in the New York Times. Dan is second cousin of Shawn’s father, Albert, and Dan first brought the remarkable Shawn Ryan success story to the attention of this columnist who met Shawn last week. John Lanigan Ryan is also second cousin of Albert Ryan. Dan Ryan is brother of Johnny Ryan, Croke Street, Thurles, Billy Ryan, Clonoulty, and Paddy Ryan, Glenageary, County Dublin.
Following some investigation, Shawn Ryan’s wife, Cathy Wood, who does all Shawn’s paperwork, he said, declared: ”Yeah, sounds like you got cousins in Ireland”. Shawn said: “So, then my dad, Albert, and My mother, Jackie, were celebrating their fiftieth Wedding Anniversary this year and we decided to bring them over here and we said let’s go find those long lost relatives in Ireland”
Shawn has won two Yukon Prospector of the Year awards, one in 1999 and one in 2010, the Vancouver Award, called The Roundup and that’s the Western Coast Award. And then he received the International Award, the Bill Dennis Award, for prospecting success, in 2011 in Toronto, at the annual Gathering of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, the world’s largest mining convention. The world famous Chilean miners, who made international headlines, and the Prime Minister of Chile attended that prestigious presentation ceremony. Without doubt, Shawn Ryan, by his persistent and indeed, courageous and visionary efforts, has written a whole new and exciting chapter in the great and magical story of the mighty Yukon. And, if Shawn is the hero of that tale, then Cathy is the heroine.
Shawn Ryan said ”We are loving our visit and we are staying at Hugh’s ‘place’ (Hugh Ryan of Matthew Avenue). Hugh and his brother, Donal, are the renowned Thurles architects of DH Ryan Architects in Liberty Square, Thurles. Both are also members of the multi awards-winning Thurles Drama Group to stage next season Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” And both served, like their uncle, Johnny Ryan of Croke St. Thurles, with the local Scouts. At the end of Shawn’s Ryan’s compelling presentation, Paddy Ryan, Glenageary, Dublin, thanked Shawn for the presentation and the many Ryan relatives from Kildare, Kerry, Galway, Dublin, Tipperary and the Yukon for their attendance. The attendance also included Thurles-born businessman, Richard Quirke, and his wife, Anne. Paddy Ryan, who served with the Thurles Scouts also, as did Mr Quirke, is author of a noted book on Archbishop Patrick John Ryan of Philadelphia (1831-1911) which was a finalist in the Biography Section of the Foreword Reviews 2010 Book of the Year Awards in America. Shawn Ryan paid a glowing tribute to his wife, Cathy Wood.
While Shawn‘s persistence and positive attitude and skills undoubtedly brought him incredible success, he recalls with great gratitude the fortitude of his wife, Cathy, on the road to that success.
He told me ”Cathy had to put up with living in an old tin shack for at least six years in the Yukon, with temperatures of fifty below Celsius with no electricity. And you are trying to keep your woodstove going and there’s no running water and you gotta run out to go to the toilet.” It was, he stated “a commitment” for Cathy who came from the city and at any point in time she could have said ‘That’s enough - a normal life, get a real job’. Shawn absolutely enthralled the audience of Irish cousins with his remarkable tales of the Yukon in the “land of the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold” and immortalised in the poems and ballads of writer, Robert Service.
Shawn Ryan said: ”But Cathy was just as much caught up in the adventure as I was. Our job in prospecting is like we’re like a bunch of eight year old kids with Easter eggs. Like it’s always fun, Right? But it gets to be a real pain for your family when things go down and there’s no money. In the mining business you go up and down and there’s a big boom and there’s nothing. The only reason why the guy hangs around for the next boom is because his wife supported him through the low times. At least three or four times we were down to five bucks. So, really, I couldn’t be anywhere without the support of Cathy, Cathy is just as equal and I’m kind of like a figurehead spokesman I’m enjoying my stay here in Tipperary. It’s been great for everybody and we’re going to come back. We just can’t believe the countryside and how friendly and warm the people are. We think Ireland is a special place. My dad is having the greatest time as he grew up with no cousins in Canada. Everybody is all excited. It’s been great for the kids, my sisters, everybody. We come from the Yukon with 34,000 people and Dawson is only 1,500 people. So, it’s a little community and Thurles reminds us of it as it’s a place, too, where people know each other.”
Most people in the Yukon work for the Government. We have a few mines- maybe three small mines”- You do prospecting for the love of it and not the money. It’s great when the money comes in but you were doing it when there was no money” said Shawn. Shawn Ryan said it was their first visit and they were “surprised” by Ireland and he promised again: “We’ll be back”.
And he enthusiastically added ”Stay tuned, there’s more coming. We just made a discovery three weeks ago that’s got everybody excited-another gold discovery” Can’t wait to hear all about it, Shawn! Golden days, indeed! And a very happy 50th Wedding Anniversary to Albert and Jackie, who came a long way to Tipperary to celebrate this very special event Comhgharadachas dhiobh, araon!