Fintan Byrne (b. 1946)
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Fintan Byrne (b. 1946)


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Fintan Byrne describes his father’s background and his childhood home in Ballintubber in Co. Wicklow. Tommy Byrne served his apprenticeship as a grocer in Dunlavin and later set up his own business in Blessington in his early twenties. The Black and Tans evicted him from his shop, an event which resulted in his decision to join the South Co. Dublin Brigade IRA. He was to serve some time in Mountjoy Prison, though neither he nor Fintan’s mother, Mary Moore, ever spoke about this time. Subsequently, Tommy Byrne worked with Wicklow Co. Council in Rathdrum but was forced to retire early due to ill-health. Fintan considers where his father was in 1916 and how he became involved in the struggle. Tom Watkins was a friend, and Fintan remembers visiting his home. He explains that the only tangible item to survive from that time was his father’s War of Independence medal. Fintan’s late brother, Vincent Byrne, was the author of a book on the history of the town entitled The four stone tree: a history of Blessington. The book includes a chapter on the activities of the period and it was here that Fintan learned about his father’s activities. He recalls his mother talking about people being on the run in Manorkilbride, not far from Blessington. She also recalled some young women who were used as messengers in an informal way. Fintan was 10 years of age when his father died. He remembers him as a quiet and peace-loving man, which is somewhat at odds with what he later discovered. His father did not support the Treaty but Fintan never heard of any backlash against him from pro Treaty advocates. In as much as Fintan knows, the other members of his father’s family did not become involved, but continued to farm in Ballintubber. Before his death, his father worked for many years in Rathdrum and would come home at the weekends. Fintan feels that most of his father’s friends would have been living around Rathdrum and Aughrim. Tommy Byrne never applied for a military service pension. Fintan discusses an article published in The Irish Times on September 2nd 1920 regarding a court martial of two men, one of whom was Thomas Byrne. On this occasion he was found not guilty though he had been in possession of arms and ammunition. Fintan discusses the period when his father was imprisoned in Mountjoy during the War of Independence, and went on hunger strike. Tommy Byrne was quartermaster of the IRA unit in Blessington, and Tom Watkins was with the unit in Saggart in Dublin. Fintan discusses a photograph of the two men supposedly taken at Manorkilbride, possibly at the location of the firing range at Kilbride today. Fintan does not recall his father marking the anniversaries of Easter 1916. He discusses the foundation of a brass band in Blessington, of which his father was a founder member and of which he and his brothers were members. He recalls going with the band to Arbour Hill, and this is the only occasion on which he remembers his father attending a commemoration ceremony. Tommy Byrne’s old home place in Ballintubber is discussed. As far as Fintan knows, none of his father’s family was involved in the Easter Rising. Tommy neither spoke about the time nor did he write about it. Fintan discusses some old photographs discovered by his brother Vincent during his research for his book. Their mother Molly lived to a good age and her reverence to Éamon de Valera is recalled. He speaks of bringing her to view the remains of de Valera as he lay in state in Dublin following his death.

Additional information



Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

24.80 MB

Product ID:



Tommy Byrne (Interviewee’s father)

Recorded by:

Maurice O'Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore