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Name: RYAN, Ronald William 'Bill'

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Nee: son of George Ronald Ryan, bro of Cynthia (Allen, then Kofsky)

Birth Date: 31 July 1908 Cradock, S. Africa

Death Date: 18 Oct 1985 Malindi, Kenya

Nationality: Irish

First Date: 1920

Last Date: 1985

Profession: White Hunter, farm manager, Thomson's Falls in 1938

Area: Rumuruti

Married: 1. 1929 Kathleen Mary 'Molly' Wedd b. 20 June 1908 Langport, Somerset d. 21 June 1989 Ladysmith, Canada (div. 1940s, later Mrs Renwick) 2. 1963 Kathy Fellows d. 1971

Children: George Roy 'Robin' (1932); Olivia Mary 'Tinks' (1933)

Book Reference: Irish, Mrs M. Hoey, Hut, Stephen Smith, Wheel of Life, Kingsley-Heath, Chandler, First Wheel

General Information:

Mrs Hoey said - 'an expert wagon driver as a child ..... They had a pretty tough childhood, having no mother and living pretty rough - it says a lot for Daddy Ryan that his two children turned out so well. 
Gazette 6 Dec 1938 Aberdare Voters List
Irish - One of the most colourful members of the Irish Society during the fifties was Bill Ryan who had arrived in Kenya in 1920 escorting his sister Cynthia, several years his junior, to join his father who had a soldier settler farm at Rumuruti. Bill had an unusual facility for coping with situations even at the tender age of 11 and, on finding there was nobody to meet them on their arrival at Mombasa, he arranged for his sister and himself to travel up on the train to Nairobi. Although he had 25 rupees in his pocket he managed to get taken to Nairobi for nothing travelling in the guard's van. No doubt the Railway staff feel that children should be looked after! On arrival at Nairobi there was also no one to meet them. Nothing daunted Bill found his way to the Norfolk Hotel where he got housed and fed and while there scrounged a lift on an ox-wagon to take them to Rumuruti, a journey of about 160 miles. Between Gilgil and Thomson's Falls they met their father's ox-wagon en route to meet them.
Obviously communications were very poor in those days hence the mix up of dates for their arrival. His father must have been very proud of Bill who had got his sister there safely with his 25 rupees still intact in his pocket! Bill was brought up on the farm with no really formal education except from his parents. In fact he was very well read and loved the theatre never missing a 'First Night' at the Donovan Maule Theatre. He also learned to hunt and shoot game for the'pot' and by the age of 14 was a brilliant marksman.
He had a varied career first working at the age of 16 for Uganda Railways shooting buffalo to feed the Railway workers. Then he became a farm manager and later a sawmill manager but no matter what his job was all spare time was spent tracking and hunting. Bill joined Ker & Downey Safaris in 1954 as a professional hunter. He was appointed White Hunter for the film 'The Lion' and also took out many television crews making wildlife documentaries. He was a most popular hunter with a large clientele who came back time and again to go on safari with Bill. In spite of his boyhood love of hunting and shooting later in life he confided to me that he preferred photographic safaris as he had grown to respect the animals even more over the years and had no desire to kill them only to preserve them.
He married Cathy, a widow, in 1963. His previous marriage had broken up in the 40s so this was a big step for Bill who had been very much the man-about-town during the 50s and early 60s. It turned out to be a great success as Cathy was the most delightful vivacious person who sadly died very suddenly in 1971. Some time later Bill gave up hunting altogether and returned to Malindi. There is a very good caricature of Bill hanging in the Lord Delamere Bar at the Norfolk Hotel drawn by Sammy Clayton.
My personal memories of Bill are legion. He was shot in the arm accidentally at Naro Moru in the late 20s and had many other narrow scrapes with leopard, buffalo and lion, but getting mauled on the foot by a leopard did not deter him from dancing at Hallian's Club plaster and all. One Christmas he called on my sister and myself and presented Somali swords and spears to all 5 children then ranging in ages from 12 to 4. What a day we had trying to ensure that no one got damaged in the war games that ensued. A trip to the game park with Bill was an eye-opener as he found so many of the smaller rarer animals to see such as bat eared foxes which I had never seen before and only once since. It was a sad parting for his family and friends when he died quite suddenly in 1983, but the memories remain of his tremendous sense of humour, his wonderful story-telling ability and his warmth and kindness. We all knew St. Patrick's Day would be a wild one if Bill was in town!
Stephen Smith - Bill Ryan, who used to hold his cigarette between the second and third fingers of his right hand and with his elbow held high in the air. People thought he was effecting rather a swagger whilst he smoked and regaled them with amusing hunting stories around the camp fire. Little did they know that a client had shot him in the elbow with a .470 elephant gun. The bullet tore down the length of his forearm and came out through the palm, hitting as it did so, the stock of his rifle which flew from his hands. He wasn't swaggering, his arm was permanently bent that way.
Wheel of Life - Bunny Allen - .. The shooting of the unlucky Bill Ryan on a rhino hunt. Mind you, it’s a great wonder to me that there aren't more accidents on hunts, especially when there are too many people on the scene. At this particular time we had four guns. That was probably two too many. We were on the lower slopes of Mount Kenya trying to chase off an insistent rhino. The wretched old rhino insisted on chasing Jack Soames's cattle off a salt lick that really belonged to anyone who cared to use it. The rhino apparently had other ideas. As we approached the salt lick, with not a cow in sight, the rhino winded us and came on like an express train. This was almost completely open country with no bushes to dive into, and we were a large target of seven, with the three trackers. Four rifles fired, almost as one. Down went the rhino - and Bill. One of the shots had gone through his right arm, and the shock put him flat for a moment or two. However he was up in a trice and put a finisher in the great beast. Poor Bill. He was in great pain, but full of guts. He blamed no one. It might have been any one of us, but he did not make accusations. Needless to say, we got him off to Nairobi, into hospital, as quickly as possible. The roads were very bad in those days, and the journey took many hours. It must have been absolute hell for him. He took a long time to recover, and when he did he had only about 50 per cent use of his right arm. It was yet another lesson learned: not to have too many guns.
Encounter - His grandfather hailed from Tipperary, which probably does not account for the fact that Bill Ryan has "certificates" to prove he is an Honorary Colonel in the Governor of Georgia's Militia and an Honorary Citizen of Atlanta. Neither can the birthplace of his grandfather be held to account necessarily for the day he first met film star William Holden, one of the founders of the now famous Mount Kenya Safari Club, and asked in all innocence, "Now tell me, what do you do for a living …..?" ……. For Ryan, at the age of 12, his serious hunting ("It was simply to defend our cattle") started in the Kenya of the early twenties. "We were called on in those days to act as guides to visiting hunters, and one was usually called on only once a year far a safari lasting anything from 3 to 6 months …… it was a social thing more than a commercial enterprise, though it grew eventually into the professional hunting that we know today."
Ryan took out his first client when he was 14 - and an experienced enough guide he must have been, for at this time he had already shot the big five and had saved the life of a man who was being mauled by a lioness, an action which was to result later in the award of the Boy Scout Silver-Gilt medal for bravery. He had his own first serious escape some 6 years later in a brush with a rhino and a shooting accident that left him permanently with a stiff right arm. But on the subject of danger generally, Ryan, like his fellow hunters in East Africa, is both philosophical and practical. "If you know your job well and do it professionally you must eliminate most of the danger ….." As for the most dangerous animal? "That, invariably," says Bill smiling, "is the one that bites you." But, he adds, more seriously and in common with most hunters, "almost certainly a wounded buffalo …… he will take to the cover most advantageous to himself; has the advantage over most other species of being able to see, hear and smell, and is the most difficult to stop." ……….
Although associated for many years with one of the biggest safari organisations in Africa, Ker, Downey and Selby Safaris Limited, Bill Ryan, and many other leading hunters like him, operating both independently and with the other leading safari firms, are personally in demand for safaris sometimes booked more than a year ahead. "A safari," says Ryan, "and a hunting safari in particular, is a very personalised thing. You start out with clients, but almost invariably you finish up with lasting friends, and what could be more rewarding than that ……" In the case of the "Respected Elder", as he is known by the Kikuyu people whose language he speaks fluently and whose folk-lore and proverbs he is more conversant with than those of his own countries of origin, we know that the bonds of friendship, linking East Africa with many parts of the world, have been firmly established over the more than 40 years he has put into the business of being simply (as he puts it) a typical professional hunter.
Kingsley-Heath - Best-known Professional Hunter at Ker & Downey Safaris. Most entertaining of persons and universally popular. Vice president of the EAPHA. Director of Ker & Downey Safaris Ltd. When I [Kingsley-Heath] departed. Died at age 80 in Malindi.
First Wheel - 1928 - across the river … 5 miles distance, lived Bill Ryan, whom I [Bunny Allen] got to know very well and we had quite a few early hunts together.
Hut - Mgr Anstey
Gazette 27 Dec 1985 probate

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