The Ryder Family of Castle Street, Wicklow Town

The story of four generations of Irish seafarers and coastal traders from County Wicklow.


In the early twentieth century, coastal trading supported the movement of goods along the east coast of Ireland and the west coast of Wales and England. This was a centuries old activity and a way of life for many families on both sides of the Irish sea.

The Ryder family lived in Castle Street, in Wicklow Town. Civil records of marriage show that George (John) and Elizabeth Jane Bassett were married on 18 August in 1863 in St. Livinius, Church of Ireland Church in Wicklow Town. John at that time was a seaman and his father, John, was also noted as a boat owner on the marriage certificate. Together John and Elizabeth went on to have eight children namely George (1864-1922), John (1866-1920), Baby Ryder (1868), William (1870-1900), Richard (1873-1955), Henry (1876-1954), Anne (1878-1925) and Elizabeth (1881-1888). After 35 years of marriage John died in 1898.

As time passed, and the children grew up it is possible to trace them via the census records. In 1901, Eliza and Anne are living in Castle Street, Wicklow Town, Eliza is a dressmaker and Anne is living there also. The three surviving sons George, John and Henry were together on a ship in Dublin Port namely the Elizabeth Alicia. George was the ship’s master, John the ship’s mate, and Henry one of two able seaman. The boat is described as a schooner, which Cleare and O’Leary define as ‘a fore and aft rigged vessel with two or more masts approximately equal height’.

William, their brother, had also been a seafarer but he died in tragic circumstances in 1900. He made his last voyage on the Erin, a schooner owned locally in Wicklow by Mr J. Pim. The ship was in Liverpool about to make a return journey when at seven o’clock on the morning of 13 January the steamship Blackrock collided with it at speed. The Erin sank immediately with both William and the captain, George Newman, on board. The cabin boy survived. Neither man’s body was recovered. The official logbook and account of the voyage and crew is recorded in detail, along with the ship’s owner, in the Records of the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen, 1860-1921 held in the National Archives of Ireland. The place of and year of birth of the crew is also recorded as well as their positions and when they joined the ship. In the case of William, he had joined on 1 January 1900 in Wicklow. The records also note any deaths on board during the voyage, and on this occasion both Newman and Ryder are listed as drowned as a result of a collision with the SS Blackrock in Liverpool.

In 1911, Eliza and Anne remained in Castle Street in Wicklow Town, with Eliza continuing to work as a dressmaker and Anne keeping the house. George, who had married in 1890, was recorded with his family in Marsh Lane, New Ross, County Wexford. His wife Sarah, son John and daughters Elizabeth, Sarah, Florence and Isobelle are present. John and Henry can be found on the Elizabeth Alicia docked in New Ross harbour (the same boat that they were registered in in the previous census) along with a seaman named William Ryder. It is believed he is their nephew, the second son of George and Sarah, keeping up the family’s seafaring tradition. A number of the family are buried in the family plot in Wicklow Town Graveyard.