All one needed to do was look at the title of this soap opera to find what was at its core – family; the Ryan family, to be specific. The Ryans were a big, middle-class, close-knit Irish-Catholic family. And the center of the action was at Ryan’s Bar in New York City.
Ryan’s Hope — The Ryan Family
Maeve (Helen Gallagher) and Johnny Ryan (Bernard Barrow) were the traditional, conservative matriarch and patriarch of their family, not always an easy thing when it came to their formidable and more liberated offspring.
Oldest son Frank Ryan (Michael Hawkins, Andrew Robinson, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Geoffrey Pierson, John Sanderford) was considered the Ryans’ golden child. He could do no wrong in the eyes of his parents, which is why they were so upset when they found out that the young politician was being blackmailed because of an adulterous affair.
Frank was unhappily married to Delia Reid Ryan (Ilene Kristen, Robyn Millan, Randall Edwards, Robin Mattson) and in love with Jillian Coleridge (Nancy Addison Altman). His mother was appalled that he would want to divorce his wife and break up the family that included their young son, Little John Ryan (Jadrien Steele, Jason Adams). Frank would continue to be at odds with his parents’ morals as he found himself embroiled in scandals and affairs.
Frank’s brother, Patrick (Malcolm Groome, John Blazo, Robert Finoccoli, Patrick James Clarke), was more happy-go-lucky than his elder sibling, but problems followed him just the same. Pat became a success in his career as a doctor at Riverside Hospital but a failure in his romantic life as a series of relationships led nowhere.
Kathleen Ryan (Nancy Reardon) was the eldest daughter in the Ryan clan and off living her own life in Pennsylvania. She was married to a man named Art Thompson (Gregory Abels) and had two daughters, Deirdre (Rachel Robinson) and Maura “Katie” Thompson (Lauren O’Bryan, Julia Campbell). Though Kathleen wasn’t always with the Ryans in New York, she did show up occasionally to share in family time.
Mary Ryan (Kate Mulgrew, Mary Carney, Kathleen Tolan, Nicolette Goulet) adored her eldest brother, so when she found herself attracted to the reporter who was trying to dig up dirt on Frank, she didn’t know what to do. But Jack Fenelli (Michael Levin) proved too irresistible for Mary and the two began a fiery romance. Unfortunately, Johnny and, particularly, Maeve didn’t approve of Jack, so a headstrong Mary decided to move in with him. Jack was eventually, but reluctantly, welcomed to the family after he and Mary were wed and had a daughter, Ryan Fenelli (Kerry McNamara, Jenny Rebecca Dweir, Yasmine Bleeth).
Siobhan Ryan (Sarah Felder, Ann Gillespie, Marg Helgenberger, Carrell Myers, Barbara Blackburn) was the youngest of the Ryan children and as such, felt like a bit of an outsider. And her free spirit conflicted with the traditional morals of her parents. Siobhan took up with seemingly-innocent Joe Novak (Richard Muenz, Roscoe Born, Michael Hennessy, Walt Willey), but he was actually part of a family of mobsters. Sadly, that connection caused the Ryan family its greatest tragedy.
Mary Ryan, who’d become a reporter, was investigating Joe and his family. As a result of her investigation, Mary’s car was tampered with and she wound up dying in a terrible accident. Her death led to Siobhan leaving Joe, though the two would continue an on-and-off romance for years to come. The couple had a son, Sean (Danny Tamberelli) before Joe was finally killed.
Some new Ryans passed through town as Johnny’s nephew and niece from Chicago, Barry Ryan (Richard Backus) and Elizabeth Jane “E.J.” Ryan (Maureen Garrett) visited their relatives in New York, but their stay was shortlived.
A new generation of Ryans were out and about, giving Johnny and Maeve grief. Mary and Jack’s teenage daughter, Ryan, created her own set of difficulties for her father and grandparents when she took up with Rick Hyde (Grant Show). Jack now played the part of the disapproving parent, to which Ryan settled that by eloping with Rick. And Little John was now an adult with an out-of-wedlock son named Owen (Jamie O’Neill). Owen’s mother, Lizzie Ransome (Catherine Larson), soon came to town to cause additional grief for the Ryans.
Whether it be cheating spouses, unfortunate accidents, or embarrassing scandals, nothing could unglue the Ryan bond. Despite differences in ideas, morals, and lifestyle choices, the Ryan family always came together as a solid unit. And nothing signified that coming together more than on one of the happiest holidays for the Ryan clan, St. Patrick’s Day. Nobody in town wanted to miss celebrating in Ryan’s Bar, where everyone would gather to hear Maeve sing “Danny Boy.” That’s a family tradition that fans of Ryan’s Hope surely miss each year!