A blog about Commissioner William Harold Ryan would be interesting; one of his earliest announcements in the top job promised to seek various pay increases for all Queensland Police. Later, as a means to reducing crime in the suburbs, Mr Ryan introduced a bicycle patrol, and it was he who sanctioned the recruitment of the State’s first Policewoman. There were other achievements, however when we opened our paper file on Mr Ryan the following article said it all, published in the Brisbane Telegraph 17 July 1954, author unknown, the day after he was tragically killed:
Mr William Ryan, former Police Commissioner, who died in the Brisbane Hospital last night, was one of the fabulous figures of the Queensland Police Force. Mr Ryan was stuck by a taxi near his home in Sherwood Road last evening and died in hospital a few hours later. He was 81 years of age. He joined the police force in 1893 as a constable and rose through the ranks to be appointed Commissioner in 1925, retiring from the force on May 8, 1934. Mr Ryan served throughout the whole of Queensland – Townsville, Bowen, Woolgar, Charters Towers, Proserpine, Plane Creek, Ravenswood, Cairns, Mareeba, Roma Street, Petrie Terrace, Georgetown and Charleville.
Fabulously famous in the north in the days gone by for his black tracking exploits, Mr Ryan always proved himself an expert bushman. He became known as the ‘Flying Sergeant’, a nickname which cattle thieves bestowed upon him. The north in those days was riddled with cattle thieves and Mr Ryan had a habit of bobbing up everywhere most unexpectedly to get his man. When his presence in any particular area gave rise to suspicion he would casually remark, “I am going fishing”. Thus he became known in the north not only as the ‘Flying Sergeant’, but as an expert angler.
In 1901 he rescued three girls from drowning at Sarina Inlet and won the Bronze Medal of the Royal Humane Society for his bravery. One of the girls became the wife of ex-Inspector F.B. Kearney, of Kedron, and one his own wife. To carry out the rescues Mr Ryan, then a young constable, swam more than two miles. Semi-conscious at the end, he still had the hair of the third girl clenched in his teeth as they were dragged from the water near the beach. As he walked out of his office in 1934 for the last time on his retirement he once again casually remarked, “I am going fishing”.
This information has been supplied by the Queensland Police Museum from the best resources available at the time of writing. The Police Museum is open 9am to 4pm Monday to Thursday and 10am to 3pm on the last Sunday of the month (Feb-Nov) and is located on the Ground Floor of Police Headquarters at 200 Roma Street, Brisbane. Contact: E: [email protected]
“FROM the VAULT- CoP William Harold Ryan” by the Queensland Police Service is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (BY) 2.5 Australia Licence. Permissions may be available beyond the scope of this licence.