Dr James Ryan recalls his childhood in Wexford, his involvement in the Republican movement and his activities in the GPO during the Easter Rising.
James Ryan was was born in 1884 in Tomcoole, County Wexford. He was influenced in his political outlook by his older siblings who lived in Dublin. In 1911 he won a scholarship to study medicine in UCD and while there met others who had a similar outlook including Eamon Dore. They set up a Gaelic Society, a GAA Club and a Pipers Band.
Ryan joined the Irish Volunteers on their inception and was a member of 'B' Company, 1st Battalion, Dublin Brigade. Within a year he was sworn into the IRB by his close friend Seán MacDiarmada, who Ryan remembers as 'a most lovable character'.
He was under no illusion that the Volunteers would take up arms to fight for freedom.
It was an effort to do something more for our country, it was of course a physical force effort.
In March 1916 Ryan was told by his Commanding Officer that there were big manoeuvres planned for Easter. At that moment Ryan realised that the fight was drawing near.
On the morning of Saturday 22 April James Ryan set off from Dublin to Cork. He had been asked by Seán MacDiarmada to deliver a message to Tomás MacCurtain, Commanding Officer of the Cork Brigade, with word that the Rising would start the next day. After some difficulty he managed to locate MacCurtain and delivered the dispatch and returned to Dublin that evening.
Later that night Eoin MacNeill sent for him and asked Ryan to go back down to Cork with the countermanding order. Ryan left Dublin almost immediately. Arriving in Cork at 12 o’clock the next day he delivered MacNeill’s order which was accepted without question by MacCurtain.
On Tuesday 25 April he made his way to the GPO where he was assigned to take charge of the hospital which as Ryan recalls was very basic.
They went to a few shops and they got some dressings and a few bottles of iodine. They had no sedative of any kind except a tincture of opium.
The most serious case Ryan had to deal with was James Connolly who was shot in the ankle. Throughout the week Ryan was in contact with all the leaders, especially Tom Clarke who came to Ryan specifically to tell him why they had fought.
He said that I being in charge of the hospital might be spared but in the end very few might be spared when the British would rush the place. And he said he wanted to tell me the whole story so I would know.
By Friday 28 April the the GPO was in flames and the Volunteers had no choice but to evacuate. After removing the wounded, the garrison made their way to Moore Street.
Padraig Pearse had a sword in his hand and he used to drop the sword as each man made his dash across.
After the surrender Ryan was arrested and imprisoned in Stafford Prison and Frongoch Internment Camp, Wales. He was released in August and resumed his studies and qualified as a doctor in 1917. Ryan rejoined the Volunteers and during the War of Independence was appointed O/C Wexford Battalion, IRA. In 1920 he was appointed Commanding Officer of the South Wexford Brigade. As a result of the 1918 General Election Ryan was elected TD for Wexford in Dáil Éireann.
James Ryan took the anti-Treaty side during the Irish Civil War. He was a founding member of Fianna Fáil and until his retirement in 1965 served as a Cabinet Minister. Dr James Ryan died in 1970, he was seventy-nine years old.
Dr James Ryan was interviewed for the RTÉ Television project ‘The Survivors’ on 29 March 1965.