Tuesday 23 January 2018

Brewery was a 'safe haven' for WWI troops

Guinness archivist Deirdre McParland and Gay Byrne
Guinness archivist Deirdre McParland and Gay Byrne
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Gay Byrne described the Guinness Brewery and St James's Gate as a "safe haven" for shell-shocked returning WWI soldiers.

The broadcaster was speaking at the launch of the Diageo Guinness World War 1 Archive Exhibition in the Little Museum of Dublin.

More than 800 Guinness employees fought in the Great War with an estimated 103 dying in combat.

The exhibition charts the lives of several of these men - including Byrne's uncle, Richard.

"This is an exhibition that is particularly close to my heart," Byrne said. "Not only did my father and my uncle fight in the war but I am from a Guinness family.

"My father, my uncles, and my beloved sister all worked there. So I grew up with Guinness ringing in my ears."

Byrne's father, Private Edward Byrne, joined the 19th Royal Hussars before the war and served until 1919.

"A lot of men, like my father, were not allowed to wear the uniform when they returned," Byrne said. "They were outcasts. The brewery was one of the few places that welcomed them. It was a safe haven for them."

Guinness made special provisions for employees who joined the armed forces.

A War Gifts Committee was established to dispatch parcels to men in action and the brewery provided financial support to the families of soldiers.

Irish Independent

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