Monday 23 October 2017

Billy Byrne

A gentleman who made an ordinary life extraordinary

BILLY Byrne, who died last month, was an ordinary man, whose life was so exemplary that he lifted the ordinary to an extraordinary level. He was a parent who believed the one thing you give your children is unconditional love. He believed that if you belong to a community, you give to that community: that actions spoke louder than words when you believed in something, as he did about his religion -- or Ireland in the World Cup.

His was a life lived in South County Dublin. He was born, educated, apprenticed, married and lived out his working life within a radius of a couple of miles. And yet his knowledge of human nature was universal. He exemplified John B Keane's maxim that from his corner of the street, you could see all human life.

Billy, the eldest son of Phil and Ellen (Nellie) Byrne, was born in Dromartin Terrace Goatstown on March, 14, 1928. He had three brothers, Roy, Phil and Frank, and one sister, Bridie. He went to Dundrum National School and the Christian brothers in Westland Row. He was apprenticed to Miller & Beatty as a carpet fitter and worked in O'Dea's in Wolfe Tone Street, but eventually became self-employed. He was member of the Pioneer Association all his life.

In 1953, he married Angela Scanlon, a local Dundrum girl, in the church in which he had been baptised, Holy Cross in Dundrum. They had two children, Philip and Miriam.

It was typical of Billy that when he did move out of South County Dublin -- as he did in order to bring his wife and children on holiday -- he chose one of the furthermost points of the west of Ireland, Kilbaha on Loop Head in Co Clare. What irony then, when they discovered the lighthouse keeper was from Goatstown. Staying over Keating's Pub in that tiny hinterland, he ensured that they saw a different Ireland: one of stony fields, famine walls and Penal churches; the warmth and riches of fisherman and farmer and the Irish language still spoken as a living tongue. He was devoted to his family and to his extended family. He had 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. And while he could not transport such numbers to Kilbaha, he brought them to the trout farms in Co Wicklow where the number of children always exceeded the number of fishing rods available.

He was described as "the rock who was always there", because of his unconditional support and love for his family during difficult times.

He loved sport all his life and when he was young, he played football, hurling and tennis. In 1948, he was the last winner of the Meadowbrook Cup in Dundrum Lawn Tennis Club before its closure. He managed a number of football teams in Ballinteer, Kilmacud and Milltown. He obtained his first passport in order to support Ireland in Italia '90 soccer World Cup in Rome, where a visit to the Vatican was an added bonus.

He was an avid reader and was never without a detective novel in his hands, especially the works of James Patterson, Lee Child, Glen Meade, Colin Forbes and John Connolly. He was a huge fan of David Attenborough and nature programmes on BBC.

Described by many as a kind, humble and quiet gentleman, he was also truly devout, especially in his devotion to the Blessed Virgin. He helped in the foundation of the new parish church in Ballinteer, St John's, and was the collector at first Mass every Sunday.

The void left in the lives of many by the passing of Billy Byrne is truly testimony to the wonderful qualities of this life less ordinary.

Sunday Independent

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