Robert Hugh Cryan was born in Rogue’s Hollow, just south of Ohio Street in Buffalo’s Old First Ward in March of 1928. The child of Irish Immigrants, “Hugh” (as he was called) was known from his earliest years for his deeply sentimental nature and proclivity for emotional displays, often including tears. Hugh himself speculated that this was, in part, due to his status as the last of 17 children, all of whom shared the pastime of trying to make their youngest sibling cry. That this treatment continued during his years at Lacryma Christi School is hardly surprising given that his siblings constituted a large portion of the student body.
After leaving school, Cryan initially secured employment operating a carousel. He was asked to leave when his tendency to burst into tears whenever remotely sentimental music played on the calliope alarmed children. A series of other jobs ended for similar reasons until he found a position manually setting pins at Recckio’s Bowling Alley on South Park, where the sounds of his intermittent bawling and wailing were masked by the din of happy keglers at play.
Though he never visited Ireland – or any part of Buffalo north of the Malamute Tavern for that matter – he was deeply devoted to his ancestral homeland. He was unable to say the word “Ireland” without an emotional hitch in his voice, and often spent St. Patrick’s day in a state of tearful dehydration.
“It wasn’t that Hugh was sad all the time,” commented his widow, Mairead N. Cryan, “though he was sometimes that, of course. But he also cried when he was happy. And when he was angry. Or laughing. And occasionally when he was sleeping. And any time he heard the song “Danny Boy.” Or met someone named “Danny.” Or saw a boy.”
A long-time parishioner at St. Pantaleon, he was a familiar sight with the babies in the church’s cry room. He is survived by his wife, their six children, 14 grandchildren, and by his eldest brother, Brian.
“Hugh was a good sort, though a bit on the weepy side, if I’m honest.” said his brother today. “But I always told him, “It takes a big man to cry. And a bigger one to laugh at that crying man.”
A wake for Mr. Cryan will be held at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum on Porter Avenue on Friday, March 7 from 7-11 pm. Please contact Mr. Pete Reiling for tickets. All proceeds will benefit Irish Classical Theatre Company, a well-regarded exponent of Hibernian dramaturgy.