Tuesday 18 June 2019

Peter played a huge part in community life in Bree

Obituary: Peter Byrne

The late Peter Byrne
The late Peter Byrne

The end of 2018 was tinged with sadness for the people of Bree as they bid a fond farewell to a real community stalwart in the form of Peter Byrne.

Peter, of Curraghnaboola, Bree, had been ill for some time, but nevertheless, his death cast a real cloud over the community ahead of the Christmas festivities. He was a man who had done so much in his life to contribute to the social, sporting and cultural life of his area and, indeed, the whole county.

Peter grew up in a GAA family in Clonmore, Bree with his three older brothers all featuring for Ballyhogue; so it was no wonder that he was completely immersed in the GAA activities of the parish. Starting off with the Bree school team he soon progressed to adult ranks and won Wexford Junior football titles with Ballyhogue in 1955 and 1961 and was on the panel in 1962 which won the first of three in a row County Senior Football titles. He played minor hurling for Wexford in 1951 and was on the Wexford Junior Football team which reached the Leinster Final in 1956. He also contributed greatly to the administrative side of Ballyhogue GAA.

Apart from being involved as trainer and selector of many teams over the years, he served as club secretary in the early 1950s, was co author of the history of the Ballyhogue Club which was published in 1973. He was also Chairman in the mid 1980s when a second pitch was provided and the Sports Complex built.

When Peter married Anne Kehoe of Ballybane, Davidstown in 1958 they took over the farm in Curraghnaboola. They began developing it into a modern progressive farm and switched to milking in 1962. Peter was a model farmer and won a number of awards for the quality of his stock and of his milk. He was elected to the Committee of Wexford Milk Producers in 1980 and served as its treasurer for over 15 years.

Peter was very proud of the parish of Bree and everything and everybody in it. He played a central role in the development and improvement in many of the facilities in the area over the past sixty odd years, making Bree the hub of much of Wexford's sport and culture. He was one of those who, in the mid 1960s, saw the need to replace the old Bree Hall with a new modern structure.

The new Hall was opened in 1969. In its early years it played host to many of Ireland's top show-bands with Peter acting as Entertainment Manager. It also became a popular location for hosting County Finals of talent competitions of many of Wexford's organisations such as Pioneer, Youth Club, Scór and Community Games.

Peter had a lifelong interest in all matters relating to shows and the stage. His first introduction came when he was involved in producing the Ballymorris Tops group in the very popular 'Tops of the Parish' held during the 1970's. Macra na Feirme is one of the longest established organisations in Bree. Peter made a massive contribution to the Macra Light Entertainment competition and produced Bree Macra shows to win the National title in 1983, 87, 93, 97, 99 and 2000.

A proud member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, Peter produced the Bree Parish entry into the Pioneer Variety Show competitions for a number of years and, with the addition of a few extras, the same group normally took part in the Wexford area section of the John Player Tops. He also produced a number of the items for the Réadóirí Talent competitions. 'Maternity Problems', written and produced by him took All Ireland honours in 2004 in the Senior Novelty Act while an entry entitled 'Emigration and Famine Times' scooped the top honours in the Junior Novelty Act section of the 2006 Réadóirí.

Peter became involved with the GAA talent Competition Scór in 1970 and produced the Ballyhogue entry in the Novelty Act section for many years. He served as County Chairman of the competition for a number of years and perhaps his proudest moment in Scór came when 'The Life and Times of Fr John Murphy', which he created and produced, and which included three of his grandchildren, won the All Ireland Scór na nÓg Novelty Act in 2004. His expertise was also used by the local ICA group when producing pageants and he was a guiding hand for Bree based traditional Irish group Celtic Roots in its early years serving as its chairman for a number of years and enjoyed travelling with the group on some of their foreign trips.

Peter became involved with Bree Athletic Club shortly after its establishment in 1970. He was the Club Secretary for 25 years and also served as Treasurer up to about ten years ago. He coached athletics in Bree field for many years and athletes under his charge won numerous individual and relay medals up to and including All Ireland level.

Peter's interest in Athletics meant that he, along with a number of others, were the prime movers in the starting of Wexford Community Games in 1971. He and his wife Anne, with the help of others, then started and were the leading lights in the Bree Davidstown Cloughbawn Community Games area for many years. The focus in the early years was athletics and the area had many successes on the Athletics track. Community Games brought in a Variety competition in 1980 and a show produced by Peter won the first ever National Community Games Variety Competition. Bree repeated the feat in 1997,'98 and 2001. When the Culture Competition was introduced to Community Games he took on that challenge and produced the All Ireland winning groups in 2003 and 2005.

Peter and Anne shared a lifelong love of racing and they were regular attendees at the Listowel Harvest Festival for over forty years. They were able to indulge their passions for racing in latter years by becoming proud owners of a number of horses in training. They enjoyed racecourse success with horses such as Jacksons Gold and Condara although surely Peter's biggest thrill came when Shaciara, bred on the home farm in Curraghnaboola, triumphed in Down Royal in 2010 in their specially chosen blue and white racing colours.

Because of his long involvement in and the great work he did for his local community Peter was the recipient of a number of awards to mark his contribution. He won the Personality of the Year Award in the Bree Parish Awards in 1974. The local community surprised him with a 'This is Your life Special' in Bree Hall in 1999 where a large number of people from all walks of life came together to recall his many traits of character and also to recognise his great work for the local community. He was the winner of the Community Award in the Wexford People/Rehab Person of the Year of the Awards in 2005 and indeed so impressed were the judges with this contribution that he was also awarded the overall title of Person of the Year.

One of Peter's passions was jotting down his recollections of things past and by writing poems. He himself acknowledged that these poems weren't masterpieces or works of art but they were a regular feature of family gatherings to celebrate birthdays, weddings or anniversaries. He also used this medium to record significant sporting or cultural events in the local area. He was delighted in 2006 when a book of his poems and recollections entitled 'A View from Bree Hill' was published. He started the Bree Parish Journal in 1986 to document the history, the traditions and most importantly to highlight the achievement of the people of the area.

Though Peter took delight in groups under his charge winning titles or medals, it wasn't the ultimate goal of his intentions. Peter didn't measure success in terms of medals, but rather in the growth and personal development of anyone who came under his care. Every child, teenager or young adult who came under his care learned more about themselves through Peter's efforts. He recognised their abilities and indeed their potential. He nurtured these talents and gave so many people the courage to go out on the playing field, running track or on stage and give of their best. Many of those who came under his care remember not the medals or titles won but rather the fun times in Bree and in locations around Ireland. They remember fondly all the funny things that happened and all the friends that they made during those times. Peter was the catalyst for so much of that.

Peter was well respected around the county for his level-headedness and his ability to give advice or even a helping hand. He helped many people out in times of trouble, whether it was farming, financial, employment, personal or even someone just needing a bit of encouragement or maybe just being told to cop on. Nothing was too much trouble. He always gave honest and sound advice. If Peter Byrne said he would help you, he did.

Large crowds arrived at the family home in Curraghnaboola to pay their respects following his passing. Bree Church was overflowing on the Saturday morning for his funeral mass. Following a moving ceremony in which all of his grandchildren played prominent roles Peter was laid to rest in Bree Cemetery close to his beloved Ballyhogue GAA Field and Bree Hall. Peter was a dearly loved husband to Anne and a kind and loving father of Clare (Doyle), Stella (Crean), Eileen (Cody), Anne Marie (Furlong), Peter and Nuala (Cullen), and a much loved and doting granddad of his twenty one grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

He is sadly missed by his grieving family, his grandchildren, great grandchildren, sons in law, daughter in law, brothers in law, sisters in law, relations and a wide circle of friends.

May he rest in peace.

Enniscorthy Guardian