The Wingham Stationmaster’s house is one of those rare survivors that has thus far escaped demolition. Although it has seen better days, a community drive is underway to save the 1911 cottage.1 But who was Wingham’s first stationmaster?
Patrick Ryan was born in Mangalore, Victoria in 1879. His father was a railway man who worked in Tasmania, Victoria and NSW. Patrick’s own railway career began as a junior porter at the Hawkesbury River Railway Station in 1896.2 He then worked at various stations until his post as Wingham’s first stationmaster in 1913.3
Stationmasters supervised employees, managed public relations and were in charge of the safe and efficient operation of the station. They held positions of great responsibility which often came with a residence.
Patrick’s wife Mary and four of their children lived with him in the cottage that was located across the tracks from the station. The modest weatherboard cottage had five rooms, a bathroom, and wash house surrounded by a picket fence.4
Although stationmasters were relocated every few years, they were encouraged to involve themselves in the life of the town.5 Unable to enlist in WWI, Patrick instead established the Wingham Voluntary Workers’ Association. Patrick and this association built a cottage for Mrs Thiele whose husband was killed in France which left her and her small children homeless.6 Patrick was also a fine cricket player who played in first grade teams.
In 1919 Patrick was promoted and transferred to Newcastle. On his departure from Wingham he and Mary were given an engraved teapot that remains in the family. Patrick went on to become a senior railway traffic inspector and in 1935 his swift actions averted a serious train crash.7 He died in 1945 aged 65.8
Author: Janine Roberts
1 SMH, 29 January 1912, 10.
2 Family history from Michael Ryan, great grandson of Patrick Ryan, 2022.
3 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 21 January 1919, 2.
4 Gloucester Advocate, 29 May 1909, 14.
5 The Argus, 24 November 1922, 8.
6 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 31 July 1917, 2.
7 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 13 December 1935, 4.
8 Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 17 April 1945, 3.