A frequent collaborator of Paddy Killoran in the 1930s and John O'Neill in the 1950s, Paul Ryan was a multi-instrumentalist, known for playing fiddle, viola, clarinet, and accordion. Classically trained, he was active as a teacher and performer from the 1930s through at least the 1960s.
Born on June 30, 1913 in New York to Irish parents, Ryan came from a large family. His brothers Thomas and James were also musicians. James Ryan is credited as the saxophone soloist on the 1934 recording of Killoran's Pride of Erin Orchestra's “Sweeps/Heirloom” set of hornpipes; Paul may have played clarinet on the recording.
Paul Ryan traveled with the Killoran group to Ireland for the 1932 Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. Other band members included Michael Whitey Andrews, Jim McGinn, Jack Healy, and Paddy Killoran himself.
S. S. Laconia Passenger List, August 1932
Paul is known to have recorded some duets with Paddy Killoran for the Dublin Records label later in the 1950s or 1960s. You can hear him playing viola on “The Pride of Rockchapel/Sarsfield's” set from the Irish Traditional Music Archive website.
The Dublin Records label was co-founded by accordionist John O'Neill, and Paul Ryan was part of O'Neill's house band at the Jaegar House in Manhattan. Paul can be heard on both of John O'Neill's recordings, Irish Folk Music and Irish Ballroom Dancing.
Paul Ryan is also remembered as a teacher among the New York Irish community. He is known to have taught Kathleen Collins fiddle for a number of years, as well as accordion to her brother Dan Collins.
A short interview and solo recordings of Ryan were made by Ciaran Mac Mathuna for RTE in 1962. These were broadcast as part of Job of Journeywork and were released on RTE cassette 124.
Note: Any other information about Paul Ryan would be greatly appreciated. I have been unable to determine his date of death and have been unable to locate his son, Paul Ryan, Jr. who I believe may still be alive. Please contact the Archives if you have any more info.
Jeff Ksiazek, Archivist
Many thanks to Paul Groff, Ted McGraw, Don Meade, Luke O'Malley, Hugh O'Rourke, Sean Quinn, and Philippe Varlet for their help.