Thursday 19 October 2017

Dedicated Frank helped change the face of athletics in the town

FRANK BYRNE, Wolfe Tone Terrace, Dundalk who died peacefully in the Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda on November 2 was a talented athlete and a prime motivator in the development of amateur athletics in the town.

Born in 1925, the eldest of a family of eleven of Joe and Margaret Byrne from Nicholas Street, Frank unselfishly shared the responsibility of looking after his younger siblings with his parents and continued the role after their deaths.

He left school in the CBS at 14 to work in the local shoe industry with Hallidaysand was with the firm until shortly before they departed Dundalk. His job was that of a 'clicker', and he later imparted his skills of cutting leather to trainees at Castle Shoes.

Frank signed up to do his duty during the World War II emergency with Local Defence Forces (LDF) which were trained in the event of an invasion. His duties were with the Maritime Inscription unit and he was proud of the contribution the unit made.

Athletics was always the dominant force in Frank's life. From boyhood he was a keen participant and developed into very accomplished sprinter, winning three Louth titles in successive years. Such was his appetite for running that he competed until he was aged 40.

Throughout his years as an athlete, Frank always encouraged others and, when he retired from active participation, he became involved in coaching some of the town's best athletes in his own club, Dowdallshill and later the Cardinal D'Alton Club, a club he helped form. Frank developed an expert's knowledge on the latest training methods and was ahead of his time in placing emphasis on the importance of nutrition. For that reason his views were always well respected.

He encouraged contacts with foreign alheletes and was deeply involved when a group of German athletes visited Dundalk in 1971 and when the Dundalk athletes made a return visit to German the following year they saw at first hand the preparations for the Munich Olympics.

In his youth, Frank also played football with Dowdallshill, and won a championship medal with the club. Appropriately members of the club formed a guard of honour at Frank's funeral. He supported Louth all his life, travelling to many away games.

Coming from a family of eleven, Frank always realised the importance of husbandry in the home, and for that reason his neat garden at the rear of his Wolfe Tone Terrace home was a source of all kinds of fresh food for his family, from potatoes to the tomatoes he grew in his greenhouse. The garden was a great source of pleasure to Frank even up to the weeks before his death.

When he married his wife, Maura, a native of Dublin Street, the family were the first to move into the newly built Wolfe Tone Terrace houses, where they enjoyed a happy, contented life bringing up their six children. They travelled extensively in more recent times to many parts of Europe, America and Australia.

A very quiet man, Frank read extensively and consequently developed a deep knowledge on a variety of subjects. His life was built round his family and his love of athletics and he encouraged all his children to participate.

His death after a comparatively short illness during which he got exceptional care in the Lourdes Hospital has impacted greatly on his children and grandchildren for he was an inspiration for the manner in which he led his simple but fulfilled life.

His family are also grateful to his carers, Catherine, Briege and Noeleen who ensured that he got his wish to live alone until having to go into hospital a few weeks before his death.

Frank is survived by his sons, Eamon (Blackrock), Frank (Meadow Grove), Sean (Point Road) and Joseph (Naas), daughters, Marie Norton (Ennis) and Maureen McKenna (Bishop's Court), brothers, Michael (Marian Park), John (Cluan Enda), Hughie (Meadow Grove), sisters, Briege Lennon (Point Road), Olive (St. Clement's Park), and Mairead McCourt (New Jersey), 16 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, nephews, nieces, relatives and friends.

He was predeceased by his wife, Maura (neé Larrissey) in 2002, brothers, Tommy, Joe and Gerard and sister, Agnes Clarke.

Having reposed at his home, Frank's remains were taken to St. Nicholas Church where Requiem Mass was celebrated by Very Rev. M. O'Hagan Adm., who delivered the eulogy. Also present was Bishop Gerard Clifford, a cousin of Frank's wife, Rev. C. Cumiskey, C.Ss.R., St. Joseph's and Very Rev. P. Keenan, P.P., Haggardstown.

The Readings were give by grandchildren, Conor McKenna and Yvonne Byrnes, while the Prayers of Intercession were led by grandchildren, Sinead Staunton, Orla, Niamh, Barry and Siobhan Byrne, Christina McKenna and Anne Norton. The Offertory Gifts were presented by grandchildren, Aoife and Stephen Byrne and the gifts that symbolised Frank's life were presented by grandchildren, Emmet and Colm Byrne. The beautiful music was provided by organist, Olivia Finnegan and the soloist was Roisin Crawley.

After Mass burial took place in St. Patrick's cemetery and the exceptionally large attendance at the Mass and interment reflected the strong family links with the town and the high regard by which Frank was held.

Month's Mind Mass will be held in St. Nicholas Church, on Sunday, December 16, at 12 noon.