2 August 1921

8th Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

page 10673


Senator PEARCE:
Minister for Defence · Western AustraliaMinister for Defence · NAT

(By leave). - I move) -

That this Senate records its sincere regret at the death of the member for West Sydney (the Honorable Thomas Joseph Ryan, K.C.), and expresses its profound sympathy with his widow and the members of his family in their bereavement.

The appalling suddenness of Mr. Ryan’s death must have impressed us all. It is but two weeks since the late member for West Sydney was present in the House of Representatives, apparently on. the full tide of a successful public career, and in the full vigour of manhood. Hie was a dominant personality, which made itself felt in both State and Federal politics.. In Queensland, he had risen to the highest position in political life, and in Federal politics, he had attained a prominent place. With force and pertinacity as a political fighter, he combined the grace of a charming manner, which, at no time, perhaps, was more noticeable than during the last week of his parliamentary service, when, in the midst of political strife, he was able to hold out the right hand of friendship to those with whom he was vigorously contending in the political arena. The standard of public life cannot rise higher than the standard of the lives of the individual members of Parliament, and it is essential to the welfare of the Commonwealth that it shall be a high one. The intellectual attainments of Mr. Ryan, and his consequent power and force, cause his death to be not merely a party, but a national loss. The Commonwealth Government has arranged with the Government of Queensland to honour his remains with a State funeral; but we feel the inadequateness of both acts and words to console those whose loss is the greatest - his nearest and dearest, his widow and chil dren. Mrs. Ryan was a true helpmate of her husband, and in public life was of the greatest assistance to him. We can only pray that the Great Comforter of the widow and the fatherless may sustain them in their great loss. At this moment all political animosities, all political differences, fade out of sight, and in passing this motion, we join together in recording our sense of the loss which the community has sustained by the death of a nian who, having rendered service to his country, has been cut down in the full vigour of manhood, by this early closing , of his career.

Senator PRATTEN:

– As a representative of the State of New South Wales, where the late Mr. Ryan also represented a constituency, I rise to second the motion. For the third time within a few short months, we have heard within the walls of this Parliament the rustling of the wings of the dread Angel of Death. We mourn Mr. Ryan as one who, in the short time that he was a member of the House of Representatives, impressed his personality on that Chamber and on the Parliament. The more he became known the more was he respected. He has been cut off in the prime of life, in the full vigour of his intellectual powers. His death is a sacrifice to what he considered his duty, for duty means following the course which one conceives to be right. Those of us who travelled often backwards and forwards between New South Wales and Victoria with Mr. Ryan probably knew him better than other members of the Parliament; and all who were brought into close touch with him found his disposition genial, urbane, and in every respect admirable. He had many political friends and .political opponents; but outside of politics he had not, I think, many real enemies. A short time ago, in connexion with the death of a colleague, he uttered, in the other Chamber words so eloquent that- 1 may be pardoned in quoting them now, because to my mind, they , exactly fit this occasion. The speaker, who has now himself been called away, then said -

Such happenings as this should incline us to think more kindly and generously of one another in public life. The suddenness of death makes us realize what frail creatures we are. It should certainly make us feel humble when we are shown how truly in the midst of life we are in death.

We now express in. words as we would in actions, were it possible, our sincere sorrow at the death of a prominent Australian, who was a leading member of his party. He lived a strenuous, but fair, political life, and now that his voice is hushed in death, our hope is that he may rest in peace.


– As one of the representatives in the Senate of the State of Queensland, where the late Mr. Ryan lived for a considerable period, and of which he was Premier for some years, I beg to support the motion which has been so sympathetically moved by the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) and seconded by Senator Pratten. In doing so, I desire to associate myself with their kindly and commendatory references to our deceased friend and late colleague in this Parliament, who has been taken from us with such tragic suddenness. It seems to me but yesterday that I heard the late honorable gentleman speaking in another place of the brevity and uncertainty of life in connexion with the death of the Honorable James Page. At tha.t time, little did any of us think that Mr. Ryan would be. the next member of the Federal Parliament to be claimed by death. While we must all reverently bow to the will of Providence, we cannot help marvelling why one who had scarcely reached middle age, who physically was so robust, whose mind was so alert, and who was so richly endowed with natural ability, should so suddenly be called away. After attaining manhood, he has been allowed to live but half the allotted span. But perhaps, after all, life should not be measured by years- alone, and if it is to be measured by effort and achievement, the late Mr. Ryan has lived longer than most men, for his was a strenuous, purposeful, and successful career. In life most of us regarded the late Mr. Ryan as a political opponent - I am sure that ie how he desired us to regard him - but all such thoughts are forgotten in the great sorrow that has overtaken us. To-day we mourn his loss as that of a personal friend, a capable public man, and as a worthy eon of Australia. Yet our loss is small when compared with that of those who were near and dear to him, and whose hearts to-day are t stricken with grief at the loss of a husband and father.

To them we can but offer, in terms of the motion, our sincerest sympathy, and pray that in passing through the valley of the shadow they may” be Divinely sustained and’ comforted.

Senator LYNCH:
Western Australia

– It may seem somewhat inappropriate for me to add to what has already been said concerning the death of the Honorable T. J. Ryan j but before I conclude I hope to supply a special reason for expressing my regret and sympathy concerning the death of our late friend. His death has come upon us with the suddenness of a thunder-clap. A few days ago - in fact, only a few hours ago - the late Mr. Ryan was full of life and spirit and abounding hopes for the future; but he is now no more. His death brings forcibly homo to us the uncertainty of life and the slender thread which binds us to this fleeting and uncertain existence. He has gone, and all that has been said concerning both his private and political capacity I fully indorse. For those he has left, including his faithful wife, we have nothing but the deepest sympathy. Like a true and” devoted woman, she was beside her husband in life, and she was also at her place in the hour of death. We can only trust that the High Providence will guard those he has left and the spirit of the departed dead.

The special reason why I wish to add my expression of sympathy is this: If I may be pardoned for sounding a personal note, I may say that I recall the fact that during recent years I adopted a certain attitude in the public life of this country which brought me words of approval from many people, but which, on the other hand, caused feelings of bitter resentment. But, notwithstanding that, so long as- 1 have known the late Mr. Ryan, both as Premier of Queensland, when I was as much with him as I was later on against him, and in later years, during which there has been a change in our political beliefs, there has been no change in our personal relationship. When I had. the experience of treading the high road of liberty, I always found in the late Mr. Ryan not only unasked uniform courtesy, but one who made the high road to liberty easier, ‘and as regards the right to think fully and independently, one who also made it safer for future generations to tread. In the death of Mr. Ryan a gaping breach has been made in the public life of this country, and because of the friendly handshake with -which, he has always greeted rae, I have been prompted to offer my personal appreciation of one -who -was a good citizen, a scholar, and an honorable public man.

Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.

Senate adjourned at 3.20 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 August 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.