Professor John Ryan

Emeritus Professor of Folklore and Heritage - Faculty of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences and Education; School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

John Ryan

Phone: +61 2 6773 2601



He has lectured and been published in many countries and was Visiting Professor in Folklore at the University of Sheffield in 1995 and again in 1999. He also took a leading part in the Summer School for Tolkien Studies at the University of Otago in 2007 for Pacific Rim countries. His antiquarian interests have made him ever more concerned with heritage matters, both in Australasia and world wide. He has long been a leading historian of historical and cultural matters concerned with Northern New South Wales.


MA (NZ), MA (Oxf), PhD (Cambr.), PhD (UNE), Hon D.Litt (UNE), Einstein Medal, Dip. Cont. Ed. (U.N.E.), F.S.Antiq. (Scot.), F.R.G.S.
[In 1992 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the American Tolkien Society.]

Teaching Areas

(Undergraduate, and higher levels M.A.)

  • Australian Folklore and Australian Folk Speech
  • History of the English Language, Global English, Lexicology
  • Variously in composition, writing and earlier "culture" units.
  • John has supervised numerous theses on speculative fiction, folklore, (neo-Mediaeval) fantasy, Australian fiction, migrant writings, mediaeval literature, (English) lexicography, onomastics, and (historical English/Australian English) dialectology.
  • Regularly called on as Higher Degree examiner in these fields for many universities.
  • Much experience in assisting non-native speakers with their prose style.

Research Interests

  • Australian Folklore/ Folkloristics, i.e. the Traditional (oral, customary) Culture of non-Indigenous peoples;
  • Austral(as)ian English language, especially in relation to its British antecedents and as used by particular writers (i.e. their stylistics);
  • New England Heritage matters, especially the writings, customs, legends and other folk materials relating to the Northern third of New South Wales; and a range of similar interests in the Otago (NZ-Scottish) identity and the related (cultural) diasporas;
  • Australian Biography, especially relating to the New England region's personalities of significance;
  • History of the University of New England, and, particularly, its various  (nearer) cultural outreaches  since  its foundation;
  • Onomastics, i.e the field of proper names  - especially Australian - has long been a particular interest.
  • Career-long interest in the Dickens periodicals, and had several such scholarly committments in the bicentennial year, 2012.
  • Much planned participation in the sesquicentennial of scholarly teaching in Scottish New Zealand (2013)
    • He supplied material for the major such book, ed. by Dr R. Sweetman, Above the City.

Research Supervision Experience

  • Australian Folklore 
  • Folklore in its impact on (Norwegian ) Music
  • Regional Lore in Australia up to c.1914
  • Applied Folklore – as in neo-mediaeval stories
  • Fantasy, especially with neo-mediaeval elements

Masters' theses have been in the fields of Middle English, Fantasy, Neo-Norse writings, Regional Heritage, etc.


Recent Books and Monographs

  • (Ed.) (with Warren Newman), Came to New England.  Armidale : University of New England, 2014. PP. xxiv,  462.
    • 'Introduction', pp. xvi- xxiv.
    • Ch. 23, 'Zelman Cowen (1919-2011): The man  who changed  the tone and style of the University  of New England for ever', pp. 241 -248;
    • Ch .24, (with Jennifer (Dunton) Garden, 'Arthur Dunton: U.N.E.'s most remarkable distance teacher', pp. 249 -261
  • (Ed.) (with R. J. Smith), Australian Folklore vol. 28,  2013 (in Press).  
  • In the Nameless Wood (2013)
  • Tolkien: Cult or Culture? Armidale: Heritage Futures Research Centre, University of New England. Revised edition (2012), pp. xiv, 239. ISBN 978-1-921597-41-1.
  • (chief editor) New England Lives IV (2011), pp. xx,206.
  • (senior editor) Australian Folklore No. 25 (2010) [Anniversary Issue], pp. xx, 292 [Editorial, pp. ix-xiv.]
  • (principal author), with Arnold Goode, Robert Haworth and Peter O'Donohue, Golden Words and a Golden Landscape: Essays on Uralla gold mining history and a glossary of the miner's language in Australia from the 1850s to 1905.  Armidale: Arts New England and the Uralla Shire Council, 2010. Pp. xv, 181.
  • Tolkien's View: Windows into his World, Zurich and Jena, Walking Tree Publishers, in the Comare Series, 2009. Pp. xv, 289.
  • (Ed.) with Warren Newman, New England Lives III. Armidale: University of New England, in association with the Armidale and District Historical Society, 2008. Pp. xx, 206.
  • Tales from New England. Armidale: Heritage Futures Research Centre and Woodbine Press, Lane Cove, 2008. Pp. xiv, 284.
  • (Ed.) MyClymont's Vision and the 5th Anniversary Conference of 2006, Armidale: School of Rural Science and Agriculture, University of New England 2007. Pp. 205, with many photographs and tables.
  • 'Wright on Education', A Commemorative Miscellany.  Armidale: Wright College Association, University of New England, 2006. Pp. xxii, 288, with much photographic material.
  • (served editorial board from 2004-2006). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Folklore and Folklife, 4 vols, London and New York: Greenwood Press, 2006 [Vol. I, xx, 450; II, xviii, 1-482; III, xviii, 1-550; IV, xviii, 1-414]. Main contributions to Vol. I, Oceania etc.

Some Recent Refereed Articles and Chapters

  • 'Some memories and customs of Dunedin, the capital of Scottish Southern New Zealand, 1938 to 1942',  Play and Folklore, no 57, April 2012, pp. 18-19.
  • 'Epilogue' to E. Wilson, New Collected Poems: 1952 to 2012, pp. xxi-xxvi. Armidale Kardoorair Press, 2012.
  • 'Men and a River', Armidale and District Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, vol. 55, (2012), pp.121-124.
  • 'Postscript to Men and a River', Richmond River Historical Society Bulletin, vol. 23, pt. 2, (2012), pp. 6-8.
  • 'Introduction', pp. xiii-xx, to New England Lives IV. Armidale: University of New England and the Armidale and District Historical Society, 2011.
  • 'Foreword' , pp. vii-xx, to Louise T.Daley's Men and a River: Richmond River District, 1828-1895.  New and fully  revised Second Edition, edited by Robyn Braithwaite. Lismore:  Dragonwyck Publishing, 2011. [The work was assisted by  grants from  the Royal Australian Historical Society and Arts New South Wales.]
  • 'Thomas Galloway, M.D. (c.1779-1852), pp. 1-36, in New England Lives IV .[v. supra]
  • (with Robyn Riley),  'Dr. Margaret  Spencer, O.A.M., ...and Dr. Terence Spencer: A Supportive and Selfless Team . . ever serving Whole Communities'   (in the last), pp.109-126.
  • 'Traditions in Exile: Canada, Australia, Their Own Countries' Folklore Disciplines', e-Tradition Today, No.1, 2011, pp. 35-48.
  • (with Mark Gregory) 'Archie Green 1917-2009: An American Always Said to Have Been "Called to Labor" ' , Australian Folklore vol25, 2010, pp. 6-9.
  • 'Villages Old and New', Australian Folklore, No.25, 2010, pp.22-31.
  • 'Introduction' to Edwin Wilson 'New Selected Poems. a Collection of Flowers 1967 - 2009', (Woodbine Press: Lane Cove) 2010, pp. ix-xvii.
  • 'Folklore Today And Folklore Tomorrow? Folk's Problems In The Shrinking World', e-Folklore, Vol 46 (2010), pp.159-178.
  • 'A world of Insight and Wisdom that Came from the Pacific, or Epeli Hau'ofa on All our Human Follies', Australian Folklore, No 24 (2009), pp. 152-168.
  • Obituary: Epeli Hau'ofa (1939-2009), Australian Folklore 24 (2009) pp.5- 8.
  • 'By the Burn's Side, Or, An Attempt to create a mid-twentieth century (family) Legendary, from Scottish Southern New Zealand', Australian Folklore, No 24 (2009), pp. 235-246.
  • 'Tolkien on Play', in vol. 2, pp. 722-723, of The Sage Encyclopedia of Contemporary Play (ed Rodney Carlisle). London: Seven Oaks etc. 2009.
  • 'Australia's Lost Folksongs: Percy Jones, etc.', Australian Folklore 23 (2008), pp. 12-18.
  • 'Reflection' (pp. 13-18) – Included in the Symposium, 'Russel Ward – Influence and Inspiration' in Journal of Australian Cultural History, Vol. 10, No. 2 (2008)
  • -- Review of John Kennedy's Translating the Sagas, Paregon, vol. 25, 1 (2008), pp. 233-235.
  • 'From a Mining Warden's Verandah – Thomas Browne – Ehtnographer', Australian Folklore, 23 (2008), pp. 94-108.
  • -- Review of Paul Freedman and Monique Bourin, eds., Forces of Servitude in Northen and Central Europe, Paregon, vol. 25, 1 (2008), pp. 274-275.
  • 'Wilfred Anne Trindale, Folklorist', by Anne Trindale with J.S. Ryan, Australian Folklore, 22 (2007), pp. 12-18.
  • 'The Nation-Probing Tales of Keith Garvey', J. S. Ryan with Robert James Smith, Australian Folklore, No 22 (2007), pp. 25-42.
  • -- 'To Establish and Affirm Our Collective Identity: Armidale and District Historical Society: Its First Fifty Journals', Armidale and District Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, No. 50 (2007), pp. 1-18.
  • 'The Vietnam Experience', J.S. Ryan with S.L. Mason, Australian Folklore, 22 (2007), pp. 182-191.
  • -- (ed.), McClymont's Vision: The Challenge Remains, (Armidale: University of New England, 2007) In the last, 'G.L. McClymont: One friend's perspective on the man and his work' (pp.179-186), and (with B. Bindon and L. Piper), 'Introduction', (pp.13-18).
  • -- 'Wright College as Nurturer of and Context for Evocative/Provocative Australian Tales', pp. 56-100 in Wright on Education (q.v.) [2006].
  • -- Review of Judith Weiss (ed.), Wace's Roman de Brut, Paregon, v. 23, 1 (2006), pp. 247-248.
  • -- Review of 'Sounds Irish': The Irish Language in Australia, by Dymphna Lonergan, in Australian Studies, v. 1(1) 2006, pp. 156-157.
  • -- 2006, Theme essay: 'Australia (British)', pp. 277-292, in The Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Folklore and Folklife, (vol.1),  ed. William M. Clements, Greenwood Press, London and New York.
  • -- 2006, 'Hero', pp. 44-47, in The Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Folklore and Folklife, (vol.1), ed. William M. Clements, Greenwood Press, London and New York.
  • -- 2006, 'Uplands Always Attract',  pp. 1-9,  in High Lean Country: Land, People and Memory in New England, Alan Atkinson, J. S. Ryan, Iain Davidson and Andrew Piper (eds.), Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2006. --
  • 2006, 'On 'Remittances' from England', in Wright on Education: A Commemorative Miscellany, J. S. Ryan (compiler), The Wright College Association, University of New England, Armidale, pp. 1-11.
  • -- 2006, 'Stories and Prose', in High Lean Country: Land, People and Memory in New England, Alan Atkinson, J S Ryan, Iain Davidson and Andrew Piper, eds., Allen & Unwin, Sydney, pp. 296-307.
  • -- 2006, 'Pacific Ocean Influences in Wright and a not so fictional perspective in post millennial human follies', in Wright on Education: A Commemorative Miscellany, Compiled by J. S. Ryan, The Wright College Association, University of New England, Armidale, pp. 187-201.
  • -- 2006, 'The range - and purposes - of Australian public festivals that are functioning at present', Folklore: An Electronic Journal of Folklore, vol.34, no., pp. 7-30.
  • -- 2006, 'Arakoon: The Lore Surrounding the Gaol', Australian Folklore, vol.21, no. 2006, pp. 99-112.
  • -- 2006, 'History, Historians and the Many Earlier Wright College Shapers of New England's and of Australia's Self-perception', in Wright on Education: A Commemorative Miscellany, J. S. Ryan (comp.), The University of New England, Armidale, pp. 101-129.
  • -- and Smith, R.J., 2006, 'Manifestations of Terror: English Folklore, Winston Churchill, Les Murray, and Sydney's Black Dog Institute', Australian Folklore, vol.21, no.2006, pp. 30-47.
  • -- 2005, 'Some Account of the Life and Work of John White (1913-), Australia's Most Senior Recorder of Folk Life, as well as a remarkable "Literary and Music Man'' ', Australian Folklore, vol.20, pp. 1-10.
  • -- 2005, 'Transformation of the Concept of "Heritage''', Australian Folklore, vol.20, pp. 59-74.
  • -- 2005, ' "The Great Grey Gaol by the Sea" - and the developing lore and associations of one such place of incarceration, Trial Bay Jail, New South Wales', Australian Folklore, vol.20, pp. 182-196.
  • -- 2005, ''Just some childish itch to play detective?' The Literary Career of Robert Barnard: Armidale's Sometime Author of Detective Fiction', Biblionews and Australian Notes & Queries, vol.31, no. 348th December 2005, pp. 126-156.
  • -- 2005,  'The Memorial Grove: Judith Wright "Has Come Home at Last'' ', Armidale and District Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, vol.48, pp. 179-187.
  • -- 2005, 'A review of 'Capital Offences: Geographies of Class and Crime in Victorian London' by Simone Joyce, Australian Journal of Victorian Studies, vol 11, pp. 190-93.


Many of the current 161 articles of mine in the MLA Bibliography are now electronic, as are some 19 of mine in that resource under John Ryan.  Most / all are also available electronically through the Dixson Library, University of New England, as are a number of my books, such as the doctoral thesis, 'A history of adult education at and through the New England University College and the University of New England, 1948 to 1980'.

He is renowned as a former student studying under J. R. R. Tolkien, on whose works he has written much, including:

  • Tolkien: Cult or Culture? (1969)
  • The Shaping of the Maker of Middle-Earth (1992)
  • Tolkien's View (2009)
  • Tolkien: Cult or Culture? (Revised 2nd edition, 2012)
  • In the Nameless Wood (2013)

(The last is much concerned with Tolkien's responses to Lydney, Gloucestershire, in the later Roman period.)


  • FRSA; FRGS; Fellow of the Commonwealth Academy of Biography (Cambridge); F.Soc.Antiq. (Scot.); Member of AIATIS since 1968; Life Member, The Philological Society (London);
  • Editor of Australian Folklore: A Yearly Journal of Folklore Studies (1992-); Chief Editor (2004-)
  • Editorial Board Member of Folk Life: An Ethnological Journal (2000-2009) (one based in Western Europe, but concerned with British culture/like diasporas worldwide);
  • Editorial Board member (2003-2006) for The Greenway World  Encyclopedia of Folk Lore and Folk Life (4 vols.).
  • Editorial Board Member of Seven: An Anglo-American Literary Review (1997-), and there he specializes in advising on its Tolkien scholarship);
  • Former long time Editor, Journal and Proceedings of the Armidale and District Historical Society,  now Life Member;
  • Founder of New England Lives series, 1998 and continuing chief editor.
  • American Names Society, Life Member;
  • Heritage Futures Research Centre (UNE) (2001-);
  • Social History Curators Group (UK), elected overseas member, 2008-.

Consultancy Interests

Largely in the areas of regional cultural projects and their historical aspects, especially in Northern New South Wales, with methodological and editorial advice.

Assessing others' papers for Australian and other scholarly journals.

Advisor on Celtic materials, assessor of bush ballads, etc., as at the 'Celtic Country festivals', 2009 onwards.

In August 2011, Participated in the Eminent stream of the Oral History program of the National Library of Australia, held in Glen Innes. He recorded 6 hours of interviews based on his work as a writer and folklorist. This was supported by about 70,000 words of related text.