Henry Ignatius Dudley Ryder

The following biography is taken from ‘Reminiscences of 70 Years’ by Father Denis Sheil, who died in 1966 in his 97th year.

Fr. Ignatius Ryder was a tall dignified man with a beautiful sonorous voice, highly distinguished features, majestic altogether in appearance – one good Protestant lady who lived in the Hagley Road said that whenever she saw Fr. Ryder walking down the road she wanted to become a Catholic.

He was a great Theologian, much esteemed by the best judges of his time. A convert, and the grandson of a Bishop of Lichfield, he was the son of one of the four ‘beautiful Miss Sargents’. One of these ladies married Dr. Manning and so Ignatius was the Cardinal’s nephew. Mr. and Mrs. Ryder had been received into the Church in Rome with their three children during a holiday abroad and on their return the young Ignatius (or rather Henry, Ignatius was chosen for him when he became an Oratorian since there was already a Father Henry Bittleston in the Community) was sent to live with the Fathers at Maryvale and later at Birmingham. He went then to Rome for the two year’s Philosophy course and then came back to study Theology for the priesthood in our House under the direction of Fr. Flanagan. When Fr. Flanagan retired from the Oratory to go and live in Ireland Ignatius himself became a good theologian but always asked his former master’s opinion of anything he wrote later.

Of ceremonies he had little idea, though of course he was always perfectly dignified in all he did. Naughty and wilful with some he always submitted to my severe rulings as Master of Ceremonies.

Of theology he was a master and after his death a number of his more notable papers, together with some of his sermons, were collected and printed. His most important publication was a refutation of Canon Littledale’s attack on the Church. He went into thousands of small points that the Canon had collected and produced a complete defence of the Church – this book was the cause of several distinguished men joining the Church.

Cardinal Newman died in August, 1890 and Fr. Ignatius was elected by the Fathers to be the second Superior of the House. The important matter of the biography of the Cardinal was left by the general agreement of the Fathers to await a somewhat calmer atmosphere than that which surrounded the Cardinal during his life and the years immediately after his death.

The last years of Fr. Ignatius’ life were darkened by a severe stroke which put an end to all his activities and interests; he was a complete invalid under the constant care of a nurse. In those days, competent male nurses were rare, and it must be said that death came as a welcome release from all his sufferings.