Mourners pay tribute to 'the man who built London'
Published 04/10/2013 | 05:00
IN death, as in life, he just kept on giving.
Business tycoon, celebrated horse owner and greyhound breeder Patsy Byrne was an incredibly generous benefactor. He never had to be asked to assist young emigrants seeking work, neighbours in need of support, sports events requiring sponsorship or charities in need of funds.
And yesterday, as he was laid to rest in his native village of Duagh, Co Kerry, his generosity continued as mourners were invited to make donations to Christina Noble Children's Foundation rather than leaving flowers to wither at his graveside.
The accomplished businessman and larger-than-life personality died, suddenly, at the age of 64, on Monday.
Mr Byrne divided his time between his home village and Surrey in England, where he was frequently referred to as 'the man who built London'.
The chief mourners at the funeral service in a packed St Brigid's Church were his heartbroken wife Bridget, sons Michael and Sean, and daughter Siobhan.
Also there were his brother Johnny, sisters Helen, Lizzie and Mary, son-in-law David, daughters-in-law Louise and Michelle and his grandchildren Patrick, George, Connell, Seamus, Mia, Jake and Ella.
The worlds of business and sport were well represented and those that turned out to offer their sympathies included business baron JP McManus; Tipperary North TD Michael Lowry; broadcaster Micheal O Muircheartaigh; singer-songwriter Paddy Reilly; horse trainer Michael Hourigan; and former Republic of Ireland star Niall Quinn, who Mr Byrne had installed as chairman of Sunderland FC.
The small church was packed to capacity well before the service began at 11am, and several hundred mourners remained on the grounds outside, where a canopy and a PA system had been erected.
Mr Byrne was chief executive of construction and engineering powerhouse, Byrne Group plc, which he founded with his brother. In London, all employees of Byrne Group companies stopped work at noon for a five-minute silent tribute to remember their boss.
In a moving eulogy, Mr Byrne's eldest son, Michael, described him as an inspiration and a "go-to man" for anybody that had a problem. He said his father had left Kerry in short trousers "with little more than the shirt on his back" but through hard work and determination, he had built an empire.
He said his father had a number of trademark sayings and the main one was that it is always better to give than to receive. During the funeral Mass, Mr Byrne's grandchildren brought gifts to the altar to symbolise his life. They included a coursing jacket and the prestigious Kerry National Cup which his horse, White Line Star, recently won at Listowel Races.
There was laughter and applause in church when other gifts passed on to the priest included a cigar and a copy of 'The Racing Post'.
Chief celebrant, Fr Jerry Devlin, a close friend of the Byrne family in London, said Mr Byrne was a gifted, larger-than-life character who had touched many lives through his generosity. Mr Byrne was laid to rest in Springmount cemetery in his beloved Duagh.