Mr Edward Ryan was born in Ballynaveen,1 in the townland of Emly in Co Tipperary, Ireland on 28 January 1888.
Coming from a Roman Catholic family, he was the youngest of four children born to Daniel Ryan (b. circa 1839), a farmer, and Alice Power (b. circa 1847) who were married in 1881.
His three siblings were: James (b. 1882), Bridget (1883-1975) and Lena (b. 1886).
He appears on the 1901 census with his family living at house 3 in Ballynaveen when he is described as a 13-year-old scholar. The home address would be house 9 in Ballynaveen by the time of the 1911 census but Edward was not present here and was listed elsewhere as a boarder at 18 Hume Street in Mansion House, Dublin where he was described as an unmarried motor engineer.
Ryan boarded the Titanic at Queenstown as a third class passenger (ticket number 383162 which cost £7, 15s). His destination was the home of his sister Bridget (Mrs James Welch) in Troy, New York. Although on the passenger list he had been listed as a general labourer, when he arrived in New York he gave his occupation as chauffeur.
On the night of the sinking Edward managed to board lifeboat 14 wearing a towel over his head, a fact which he freely conceded to his parents in a letter dated 6 May 1912.
"I stood on the Titanic and kept cool, although she was sinking fast. She had gone down about forty feet by now. The last boat was about being rowed away when I thought in a second if I could only pass out [i.e. get into the boat] I'd be all right. I had a towel round my neck. I just threw this over my head and left it hang in the back. I wore my waterproof overcoat. I then walked very stiff past the officers, who had declared they'd shoot the first man that dare pass out. They didn't notice me. They thought I was a woman. I grasped a girl who was standing by in despair, and jumped with her thirty feet into the boat."
Edward may have been the man whom Officer Lowe pitched violently into another lifeboat during the operation to empty lifeboat 14 of its passengers and distribute them to other boats, discovering a much too agile occupant to eager to slip pass undetected.
In an interview many years later Ryan recalled that he bunked with two other men who at the time of the collision were fast asleep. He was still awake and trying to clean his smoking pipe, hunting for a piece of wire to unclog the piece but being unable to find anything when the ship struck the iceberg. He immediately woke his cabin mates and informed them that something had happened; apparently they took no notice and went back to sleep. Ryan reported that he never saw them again.
Reaching the upper decks he reported that he slid down the falls of an aft lifeboat. Once safe he discovered that he still had his pipe with him and made a search for tobacco in his trouser pockets, managing to pull together a few scraps that he was able to light, much to the chagrin of a first class lady in the boat who asked him to stop smoking, she perhaps thinking that he was acting too unconcernedly. Ryan freely admitted that he was "scared stiff" at the time.
Following the disaster Edward lived in New York for three years but returned to Ireland and then settled in Hull, Yorkshire, England in 1916 where he worked for the engineering firm Rose, Downs and Thompson Ltd and later again for Ideal Standard Ltd. He was married in 1916 to Gertrude Annie Glave (b. 6 January 1887 in Newington, Hull) and had three children: Norman Frederick (1917-2003), Monica (1923-2005, later Mrs David Bannister) and Kathleen (1925-1952, later Mrs William Meek).
During the 1950s and with the renewed hype around the Titanic disaster Edward got the chance to become reacquainted with several other survivors and he was a special guest at a screening of A Night to Remember in 1958. Ryan was widowed when his wife Gertrude died in 1970 and he also suffered the loss of his youngest child Kathleen in 1952. He resided for several years at Welwyn Park Road in Hull before transferring to Kingston Old People's Home in Pearson Park, Hull where he died on 5 November 1974 aged 86.
His son Norman died in 2003 and his daughter Monica Bannister in 2005, both in East Yorkshire.