Bishop Ryan High School, the third Catholic high school to be built in Hamilton (after Cathedral Boys and Girls) was named after Bishop Joseph F. Ryan, a staunch supporter of Catholic education in the province. This would also be the first of seven co-educational Catholic high schools to be built in the city. There already existed three private Catholic girls schools, Loretto, Notre Dame and Mount Mary Immaculate. These schools were financed and staffed by religious orders. Since separate schools at the time did not receive any funding for the construction of new schools from the Provincial Ministry of Education, the money for building the new Bishop Ryan was both donated by the parishioners of the Diocese of Hamilton and was raised in a fund-raising drive in the whole Catholic community. The cost of construction was approximately $1,000,000. The Board of Governors, who financed and administered grades 11-13 as a private school, chose a 15 acre site at the junction of Queenston Rd and Parkdale Ave beside St Eugenes Catholic Church: 166 Queenston Rd. Because the new school would not be ready for occupancy until 1959, the 177 Grade 9 students were housed in temporary quarters in the basement of St Eugenes Elementary School when they began high school in September, 1958. The Hamilton-Wentworth Roman Catholic Separate School Board co-operated with the Board of Governors in supplying the temporary facilities at St Eugenes and in administering grades 9 and 10, which were publicly funded and supported by the Provincial Government.
Bishop Ryan requested that the School Sisters of Notre Dame take over the teaching and administration of the new school. Grade 8 graduates from Holy Family, St Johns, St Eugenes, St Helens, Blessed Sacrament, St Margaret Mary in Hamilton and students from the Fruitland and Winona schools would make up the student body. The boundary between BR and Cathedral was set at Gage Ave above and below the escarpment. That first year the students had to pay a tuition fee of $3.00 per month to attend Bishop Ryan. The first staff consisted of Sister Joan Boyer (first principal, 1958-1962), Sister Raphael Arnold, Sister Clarice Missere, Sister Frances Cabrini, Miss Sandra Agro (Giammichele) and Mr Gerry Ward.
The new school building was officially opened at a gala celebration in the school gymnasium on April 16, 1959. Classes began for the Grade 9 students in the new B.R. on Friday April 17, 1959. In the four subsequent years other parts of the school were opened to accommodate students from
Grades 10 to 13, one year at a time. Enrollment grew steadily to just under 2000 students until a “satellite” school had to be set up at St Francis Xavier Elementary School to house Grade 9 students from Stoney Creek, Winona and East Hamilton. To relieve the overcrowding at the main campus, the satellite operated from 1971 to 1975.
Bishop Ryan High School was housed in this building at 166 Queenston Rd until the move to new facilities at 50 Albright Rd, second semester, 1991. The Hamilton Public School Board transferred the facility at 50 Albright Rd, Elizabeth Bagshaw School at the time, to the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic Separate School Board to accommodate the BR community in February, 1991. A new era began at the “new” BR in a more modern school with completely renovated classrooms and facilities. The building was new, but the BR spirit continued from its original site. Cries of “We are BR” still filled the hallways and sports fields.
At present there are plans for a third reincarnation of Bishop Ryan High School at the corner of Trinity Church Rd and Rymal Rd on the mountain- new up to date facilities, but the same BR spirit, “where faith, pride and effort promote excellence”.
( School motto: virtus et scientia: “goodness and knowledge”)
Dan Smith (BR teacher, 1970-2003), a Celtic forever