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Gay to follow dad's wartime footsteps in France

GAY Byrne has revealed how a chance comment on air led to him discovering about the wartime exploits of his late father.

The presenter (78) departs to France this weekend to visit the battlefields of the First World War.

The trip will be recorded for a forthcoming RTE documentary tracing the former Late Late Show host's father Edward, and other Irishmen who fought in the Great War.

Growing up, Gaybo said his father never discussed his time at the front, so he was amazed recently to be presented with a book tracing Edward Byrne's time in the army.

The book was written by Wicklow historian John Goodman.

"John had heard me mention on air that my father had in World War I, But that I knew nothing of this because he never spoke about his time in France.

"He went looking at the National Archives in London and I was astounded when out of the blue he sent me a book detailing my father's history in the war," Gay told the Herald.


The semi-retired presenter was astounded to read that the late Guinness worker had enlisted in 1913 with his five brothers, a year before the outbreak of war, and been part of a cavalry regiment in France.

"You had to be an expert horseman, swordsmen and a good shot to get into the cavalry.

"My dad was all three, that amazed me. What must it have been like for him, charging into battle? Two of his brothers ended up dying in the war," he added.

One of the most poignant periods Gay found in the war record was leave his father took from the front in 1917.

"He went to Belfast and that's where he met and married my mother. What must it have been like then for him, going back to the front and knowing his chances of surviving were growing shorter by the day."

But Edward Byrne made it back to his sweetheart, took a job with Guinness, and lived until 1952.

Gay will travel to the National Archives in London as well as Windsor in the UK for the as-yet-unnamed RTE documentary which is being screened in 2014, to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.