Ryan, John (1925–92), editor, painter, and broadcaster, was born 19 February 1925 in Camden St., Dublin, the third among eight children of Seamus Ryan, businessman, and Agnes Ryan (née Harding), both of Co. Tipperary. His father was the founder of Monument Creameries in Dublin, and served briefly in Seanad Éireann (1931–3). After his death as a sitting senator (30 June 1933), John's mother and his brother Paddy ran the various branches of the thriving family business, which included a chain of shops and cafés. Educated at Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare, in the mid 1940s John studied painting for a time at the National College of Art. In 1949 he founded and edited the literary magazine Envoy, with Valentin Iremonger (qv) as poetry editor, conceived as a successor to The Bell during a thirty-month lacuna in that magazine's publishing history. Though only running for twenty issues (December 1949–July 1951), Envoy was an innovative journal that published the work of many important Irish writers, such as Sean O'Faolain (qv), Brendan Behan (qv), Brian O'Nolan (qv), Francis Stuart (qv), and Mary Lavin (qv). Patrick Kavanagh (qv) contributed a regular monthly diary that received much critical attention. An extract from the novel Watt, by Samuel Beckett (qv), appeared in the issue of January 1950, three years before the book's publication by Merlin Press.
Ryan was a prominent cultural figure in post-war Dublin, mixing with a motley group of writers that included Behan and Anthony Cronin. His autobiographical memoir Remembering how we stood (1975) explores his literary friendships of those years. He owned the Bailey pub and restaurant on Duke St. from 1956 to 1971; frequented by writers and artists, the establishment became renowned for its literary connections. Doing much to promote the work and reputation of James Joyce (qv), Ryan was honorary secretary of the James Joyce Tower Society, founded in 1962, which arranged for the Martello tower at Sandycove to become a Joycean museum. He was secretary of the James Joyce Institute, and edited A bash in the tunnel: James Joyce by the Irish (1970), which reproduced essays on Joyce by writers such as Beckett, Stanislaus Joyce (qv), and Edna O'Brien. Ryan retrieved the door of 7 Eccles St., the real home of Joyce's friend John Francis Byrne (qv), and the fictional home of Leopold Bloom in Joyce's Ulysses, before the building's demolition, and transplanted it to the Bailey, where it was unveiled by Patrick Kavanagh in June 1967. Ryan was editor (1970–74) of the Dublin Magazine (formerly The Dubliner), which, while not having the same literary impact as Envoy, was notable for its many critical articles on the works of Joyce.
As a painter Ryan was largely self-taught, his early work showing the influence of Seán O'Sullivan (qv). He held several one-man shows, was represented frequently at the Irish Exhibition of Living Art and other venues, and exhibited regularly at the RHA till the late 1980s. He also had a strong interest in theatre; his company Envoy Productions designed sets for over forty productions for various theatres, including the Abbey. He produced Beckett's ‘Happy days’ in Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop in Stratford East, London. For over twenty years he was a broadcaster for the weekly Radio Éireann programme ‘Sunday miscellany’. His book A wave of the sea (1981) describes voyages on his boat the Southern Cross, and includes seven of his own illustrations; the sea and sailing are recurring themes of his painting. Ryan married first (1949) Patricia Kinneen, with whom he had one daughter and one son. He married secondly (1964) Deirdre McAuliffe; they had two sons and two daughters. He resided at Elstow, Knapton Rd, Dún Laoghaire. His sister Kathleen Ryan (1922–85), an actress, starred with James Mason in the film Odd man out (1947), directed by Carol Reed. John Ryan died on 1 May 1992 at the Royal Hospital, Donnybrook, Dublin, and was buried in Glasnevin cemetery.