His­to­rian helps Gaybo tell his fa­ther’s story



A WICK­LOW His­to­rian played a ma­jor part car­ry­ing out re­search into the ac­tiv­i­ties of Gay Byrne’s fa­ther as a mem­ber of the Bri­tish Army dur­ing World War I.

‘Gaybo’ will present an RTE doc­u­men­tary ti­tled ‘My Fa­ther’s War’ cen­tred around Ed­ward Byrne’s ser­vice on the front lines in France. It will air next Mon­day on RTÉ One at 9.30 p.m..

Wick­low town his­to­rian, John Good­man, was a key re­searcher into Ed­ward Byrne’s ser­vice and trav­elled with Gay to France and Bel­gium to film the doc­u­men­tary.

John’s in­volve­ment com­menced some time be­fore the life and times of Ed­ward Byrne was even be­ing con­sid­ered for a TV show.

‘I heard Gay Byrne on the ra­dio a cou­ple of years ago talk­ing about not know­ing much about his fa­ther’s ser­vice dur­ing World War I. I re­search war soldiers as a labour of love so I rang up Gay and asked him if he would like me to carry out some re­search into his fa­ther. He said ‘yes’ and I present- ed him with my find­ings about 18 months ago.’

Ed­ward was the son of Alex Byrne, a coach­man for the Earl of Meath, and grey up in Wick­low, work­ing with horses at Kill­rud­dery House and Gar­dens. The Earl of Meath en­cour­aged the sons of work­ers to sign up with the Bri­tish army be­cause there wasn’t enough work at Kill­rud­dery to sus­tain them all.

Ed­ward joined the Bri­tish Army in 1912, two years be­fore war broke out. Re­mark­ably, seven of Ed­ward’s broth­ers also fought in the war.

‘ There wouldn’t have been many fam­i­lies that would have had that num­ber of sons tak­ing part in bat­tle,’ ex­plains John.

‘ The Byrne fam­ily were re­ally lucky that all their sons sur­vived the war and ended up com­ing back to Ire­land.

‘How­ever, while Daniel re­turned home, he was still re­ally a ca­su­alty of the war. In 1922 he died from com­pli­ca­tions brought about by gas poi­son­ing he suf­fered dur­ing com­bat.’

While on the front-line Ed­ward served with the Royal Horse Ar­tillery and the Hus­sars.

Af­ter the war had ended Ed­ward Byrne went on to marry Mary Car­roll, orig­i­nally from Bray, and landed a job with Guin­ness on a de­liv­ery barge. How­ever, his ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing War time had a con­sid­er­able im­pact on him through­out his re­main­ing years.

‘Gay said his fa­ther used to wake up sud­denly in the mid­dle of the night suf­fer­ing from night­mares from his time on the bat­tle­field,’ adds John.

‘He was emo­tion­ally scarred by ev­ery­thing he had gone through and some of the hor­rific sights he had wit­nessed.

‘He was in­volved in so much - from the first and sec­ond bat­tle of Ypres to the Bat­tle of the Somme and the cav­alry charge at Le Cateau. It re­ally is re­mark­able that he sur­vived the war at all con­sid­er­ing all he had to go through.’

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