The Ryan sisters were the daughters of Dr Patrick Ryan and Anne nee Stevenson.
Family story has it that one of the sisters was engaged to a British soldier serving in America. Life was very hard in Ireland at the time and the hopes of a better life overseas was attraction enough to encourage two more of the sisters to accompany the third to America.
Upon arrival, they learnt that the soldier had been killed, but there was an opportunity to sail on to New Zealand. The three single girls did so, and arrived with little or no money and no prospects of jobs. The bravery of these girls must have been exceptional. The three settled in Wellington.
Ellen Teresa Ryan was born about 1845 in County Clare, Ireland. On the 14 January 1867 she married Martin Francis Coffey at Wanganui. Martin became a corporal in the Taranaki Military Settlers and then a sergeant in the Police force. He was stationed at various localities around Taranaki. At one time he owned land which included the Hawera Racecourse on Waihi Road, and later owned the Central Hotel in Hawera. Ellen died on the 22 January 1909 at Hawera and is buried in the Hawera cemetery.
Margaret Ryan was born about 1846 in Ennis, County Clare, Ireland. She married Edward (Ned) Collins at Patea in 1876. Ned was apparently quite a character. He was known as a hard working, hard swearing, bullock driver who carted much of the metal for the local roads from Ohawe Beach. Margaret Collins was the first white woman to live in Okaiawa. She died on the 15 February 1937 in Hawera, aged 91 years and is buried in the Hawera cemetery.
Annie Ryan was born about 1855 at Ennis, County Clare, Ireland. She obtained a job as a waitress in a Wellington boarding house. At that time, Cosslett Johnston, who was also a Taranaki Military Settler was farming on his grant on Mangapoua Road, Normanby. Women were scarce in South Taranaki after the wars of the 1860s, and life had its dangers. Cosslett's first house had already been burnt down by the Maori, when he thought it was about time he had a wife. Cosslett walked all the way to Wellington and upon his arrival in the town stayed at a boarding house where he met Annie Ryan. The two were married a week later and then walked back to Normanby, returning to the farm. It is still farmed by the Johnston family today. Annie died on the 29 March 1926 at Hawera and is buried in the Hawera cemetery.
The three sisters had large families when living conditions were primitive and medical help uncertain, but overcame the trials and tribulations of the times.
Noel Johnston, Hawera
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