Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The footprints of our brother.

 '(Sir George Grey Special Collections, 4-RIC359)
Karangahake township – Tramway Hotel in the foreground.

The footprints of our brother.
Patrick (Paddy) and William (Bill) Ryan, 1899, Paeroa Cemetery.



Paddy Ryan couldn’t sleep even as the Tramway Hotel, set on the flat of the Karangahake next to the Ohinemuri River, quietened around him on a Sunday night in May 1899.
Paddy was a single man of 25 and worked as a barman for his brother Bill who had taken over the Tramway the year before. 
 Karangahake was a gold town, its mountain honeycombed with mine networks. Ten years previously a breakthrough in the cyanide process of extracting gold from quartz saw a dramatic increase in gold recovery there and three large batteries - the Crown, Talisman and Woodstock – were built.

 The Tramway Hotel, offering wine and spirits of the best quality and good accommodation for travellers, was a large wooden structure.  It had 30 rooms in all – fifteen bedrooms, four sitting rooms and a dining room which seated 25 guests.  It was the scene of raucous conviviality, after hours trading trouble and even inquests when bodies, generally victims of the dangerous Karangahake mine conditions, were brought there.

Paddy, young, fit and healthy, was well known both there and in Auckland where he made a name for himself as a runner and a footballer. He had played three quarter in the Karangahake football team for some considerable time and had represented Ohinemuri the previous season against Auckland. But despite the exertions of sport and work he was greatly troubled by sleeplessness.

When Paddy did not come down the stairs at his usual hour the next morning his brother Bill went to his room to wake him to take charge of the bar. On opening the door he found Paddy in a heavy sleep, cold and almost lifeless. Doctor’s Buckby and Forbes were at once wired for but nothing could be done and Paddy died between 10.30 and 11 not long after the doctors arrived.
An empty bottle of laudanum, often used as a sleeping draught, lay on the table.

“Gloom was cast over Karangahake this morning when the startling news spread,” reported the Auckland Star “...the sad death caused quite a shock throughout the district, where both the young man and the whole of his family are well known and highly respected.”

It appeared that Paddy had taken a dose of laudanum. It hadn’t worked so he took a second, perhaps larger, dose bringing on not only sleep, but death.
After lengthy evidence the inquest jury brought in the verdict that “death was due to the effects of an overdose of laudanum, administered as an opiate, without due knowledge as to the safe amount, and that no blame is attachable to Mr Morton, the chemists assistant.”

Paddy’s funeral took place at Paeroa (Pukerimu) cemetery and was largely attended. The coffin was covered with wreaths, each of the football clubs in the Union sending one. The Reverend Father Hackett conducted a most impressive service.  As mark of respect the next Karangahake – Paeroa football match was postponed.

Paddy was the third son of Patrick William and Mary Earle Ryan who lived in Waitekauri. The death notice placed by his parents poignantly read “He giveth His beloved to sleep.” *
Tragedy was not done with the Ryan family yet.  The next year, 1900, Bill’s little daughter, Nora Kathleen, died at the age of nine months and was buried with her Uncle Paddy.

Two years later Bill himself suddenly and unexpectedly died at the age of 37. “Quite a shock” was noted as being caused around Karangahake again with the abrupt death of another Ryan.   Bill had been laid up for only a short time evidently suffering from gallstones and the end came very quickly despite being attended by Doctor’s Smith and Porter. The Reverend Hackett, who had buried his brother Paddy, was also present when he died.  The cause of death was noted as “an affection of the liver.” The funeral at Paeroa was largely represented by all districts – over 70 buggies and coaches followed the coffin. The brethren of the Oddfellows Lodge of Karangahake were present in large numbers.

Bill had been an enthusiastic supporter of all kinds of sport and was one of the most popular men in Karangahake and his loss was keenly felt. He left a widow, Kate, who continued running the Tramway Hotel.  In time she remarried Peter Crosby and he took over as the hotel’s licensee.

Eight months later the family patriarch was also dead.  Patrick William Ryan had died at his Waitekauri residence aged 70. Dr Craig was thanked for his unremitting care and attention.

Within three years the Ryan family had suffered several blows.  Mary Earle Ryan, mother to the well known and highly respected Ryan boys, lived for another 12 years.  She died at the age of 74 at Devonport in 1914 and was brought back to Paeroa for burial with her sons.   Her death notice advised “By request no flowers or mourning” - there had been flowers and mourning enough.

On Paddy’s side of the column on the grave is inscribed:

That noble kindly nature
So tender just and true
Has left its record with us
Its loveliness to shew
The footprints of our brother
Gleam in the light of love
As Angels bid him over
The Father's house above."

Gone to await our coming.

*From ‘The Sleep’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning www.poets.org/ebbro/
The Tramway Hotel was established in 1800 and burned down in September 1906 when Peter Crosby was still licensee. It became a boarding house in 1909 after prohibition came in.  The Tramway burnt down again in 1916 killing 49 year old Janet Dawson, daughter of the managers, subject of a previous Dead Cert – “A mania for fire-raising.” 

Hotel work ran in the family – another brother, John, was hotel keeper of the Waitekauri Hotel.   Locals knew it as Ryan’s Hotel. The Ryan’s also had three daughters - Kate Adelaide Mary who married James Martin Danaher 1899; Annie T Ryan who married William J Darrow 1876 and Margaret ‘Maggie’ Ryan.

Laudanum is an extract of opium; a potent narcotic historically used to treat a variety of ailments. It was sold without prescription until the early 20th century in many patent medicines. It was widely prescribed and promised to “allay irritation, check excessive secretions, relieve pain and produce sleep” among other cures. Victorian women swallowed it for their vague aches and pains and infants were given doses of it by the spoon full.  The soothing syrup was administered by doctors or brought from chemists and local stores. The Quackery Prevention Act 1908 tried to restrict these patent medicines with little success.  Makers eventually did begin to remove opium and morphine from their medicines in response to public mood and medicinal advertisements stating “free from opium” began to appear. 

Accidental laudanum overdoses were common – regular newspaper reports noted laudanum “inadvertently taken while suffering from severe pain”,   “taken while suffering the after effects of influenza” or “troubled with insomnia”.

Laudanum had long been a drug of choice for suicide and was deliberately taken “while in a mood of mental depression”, “during the effects of a drinking bout, ‘while of unsound mind” or “in a depressed state of mind for some time owing to unsuccessful speculation.”

By 1871 chemists, business people who dealt in mining requisites and grocers who sold medicines had to be legally authorised to deal in poisons.  They were required to keep a book giving the date of sale of the poison, name and signature of the purchaser and name and intended use of poison.  The book was to be always open for the inspection of the police.  No vendor was to sell poison to any unknown person unless introduced by someone known to the seller.  

Chemists were fined and prosecuted for breaching the poisons act which included failing to take stock and balance their opium books or for selling some laudanum “without causing an entry to be made of the sale in his books.”  Chemists who supplied laudanum to a person, later found dead, was charged with “not knowing the purchaser.”
Laudanum is now recognized as being addictive and is strictly controlled and regulated throughout most of the world.

 The Ryan family grave – buried together here are Paddy, Bill, Nora, Mary and Patrick Ryan. This grave also holds the remains of a five year old John Ryan who died aged 5 in 1906 and is buried in the same lot as Paddy.  John is not mentioned on the grave column.

                                                William Earle ‘Bill’ Ryan.
                                       (NZ Electronic Text Collection)

Chlorodyne was invented by a doctor in the British Army and was originally intended to treat cholera.  Its ingredients included laudanum, extract of cannabis and chloroform.
(Thames Star Advertisement 1894)

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert, 2013

(Source: National Library, Papers Past; Ohinemuri Journal, Cyclopedia of NZ 1900, Wikipedia)


Jon said...

What a captivating story of the Ryan family, a tribute to their memory, Meghan. Great use of media, photos and research.
particularly the common use of Laudanum , sheds light on other mysteries when death occurred . I recalled the Poisons Register in my retail occupation and the importance of that.
Thanks Meghan.

Meghan Hawkes said...

Yes, they had some pretty deadly stuff lying around in innocuous looking bottles in those days! There was also something called 'Rough on Rats' which was equally rough on humans and used in many suicides. Thank you Jon.

Tony Ryan said...

Bill Ryan is my grandfathers brother and it is interesting to read about the family Tony Ryan -West London England My email thegrangeman@hotmail.co.uk

Post a Comment