The Byrnes of Downes, Cloncurry and Kilcock.


            The yDNA 67 marker count between the Byrne families of Clonmore, Co. Carlow and Kilcock, Co Kildare indicate a male ancestor to both families who lived an estimated thirteen to sixteen generations ago.



While this is strictly a “working pedigree”, and the lineage may change as more evidence comes to light, it is soundly based upon a fairly recent proven DNA connection between Derek Byrne and the descendant lines of Hugh O’Birn of Ballinakill.

            THE DOWNES

            Recent questions have arisen as to the traditional Gabhal Raghnaill descent of the O’Byrnes of Portrushin and Clonmore.  The belief that the Butler Earls of Ormond transferred the substantial and strategic Clonmore Castle together with over 3,000 acres simply does not seem feasible.  The fact is that the Butlers were coming close to annexing the entirety of Gabhal Raghnaill territory into their earldom.  When Tibbot Walshe, the Butler agent at Arklow, actually succeeded in a military occupation of Glenmalure, there is no hint that that Feagh McHugh O’Byrne’s grandfather, the besieged Sean O’Byrne, made any attempt to appeal for help to either the powerful Byrnes of Newrath, nor to his contemporary, Lorcán O’Byrne of Portrushin.  The fact is that the O’Byrnes at Glenmalure were estranged from the rest of the clan.  All the leading branches of the O’Byrnes almost despised the Gabhal Raghnaill, and while the O’Byrnes were Butler allies, the Gabhal Raghnaill alone stand out as enemies to the Butlers and consequently Fitzgerald allies. 

            If Lorcán was not of the Ranelagh kin group then to which branch of the O’Byrnes did he belong?  DNA results also show a link between Henri O’Byrne of St. Gery, Val Byrne, and Derek Byrne.  Henri’s lineage goes back through the Byrnes of Mullinahack, and then to the Byrnes of Saggart.  Until recently the origins of the Byrnes of Saggart was somewhat of a mystery but a study of the seventeenth century coat of arms granted to the ancestor of the Byrnes of Cabinteely shows that they are the same variation as used by the Byrnes of Cabinteely.  This together with the memory of a lost letter that used to be in the St. Gery archive, connecting the family to Cabinteely, virtually confirms the link between St. Gery and Cabinteely.  However, if the Cabinteely tradition is correct that they were descended from the O’Byrnes of Newrath, then it also lends further support to the notion that the O’Byrnes of Clonmore belonged to Críoch Branach rather than Gabhal Raghnaill. 

The evidence now suggests that Lorcán was a leading member of the O’Byrnes of the Downes, perhaps a son of Fearganainm Roe O’Byrne of the Downes who is known to have been a close ally of the Butlers.

            Although an important and prominent branch of the O’Byrnes in Co. Wicklow, and closely related to the ruling house of Newrath, the O’Byrnes of the Downes seem to disappear from Co. Wicklow in the course of the sixteenth century.  I would suggest that this is because the O’Byrnes of the Downes became the O’Byrnes of Portrushin and Clonmore.  Lorcán O’Byrne most probably occupied Portrushin in late 1536 or in 1537 as a dependable Butler ally.

            One further piece of circumstantial evidence lies in the fact that in 1667, when Col. Robert Byrne was captured entering Ireland on a mission from France, among his documents was found a Downes pedigree and a Kavanagh pedigree.  The fact of the Kavanagh pedigree rather suggests Co. Carlow, (Clonmore).


             It would seem that the Butlers desperately needed allies against their powerful rivals and neighbours, the Fitzgerald earls of Kildare.  In 1538, Fearganainm Roe O’Byrne together with Teige O’Byrne of Kiltimon, as leaders of the clan, formed a pro-Butler alliance with Gerald Aylmer against the Fitzgeralds.  The origins of the alliance lie in the attack on the O’Byrne’s lands by Lord Grey.  Teige O’Byrne complained to the council in June 1538 about Grey and found support in Gerald Aylmer and George Allen, who was of the Butler faction.  Grey was openly accused of pillaging the lands of the O’Byrnes.  

            This attack had in fact been an indirect action against the Butlers and it seems that the pro-Butler alliance came about at Aylmer’s suggestion. The lands around Portrushin had recently been forfeited by the Fitzgeralds because of the rebellion of Silken Thomas.  These lands were granted by Henry VIII to the Butlers, then briefly taken back and regranted to the Boleyn family until the execution of Anne Boleyn in 1534 when Portrushin and its hinterland was again re-granted to the Butlers.  They had not the chance to secure these former Fitzgerald lands the first time round.

The importance of the Butler friendship towards the Newrath and Downes branches of the O’Byrnes cannot be underestimated.  They had worked successfully together in politics, regularly backing each other’s cases in Dublin.  It seems logical that the Butlers invited Fearganainm or his immediate family to become their chief tenants and clients in Portrushin.  The Downes received a chunk of profitable and fertile land and in turn the Butlers secured it against Fitzgerald claims.  The O’Byrnes of the Downes had military resources, while the Butlers in effect also created a buffer zone between their heartland and the hostile and equally ambitious Fitzgeralds. 

The arrangement reached its natural conclusion in 1574 with the transfer of Clonmore Castle to Hugh O’Byrne.  Not however without the notice and resentment of the earls of Kildare, who on several occasions had tried to lure the O’Byrnes of Clonmore away from their Butler allegiance, and who variously acted as if the O’Byrnes of Clonmore were his rightful clients anyway.  All pretence was dropped when Fitzgerald executed two of Hugh of Clonmore’s sons.

Similar patterns occurred with the Butler loyal Aylmer family whose heartland was even more precarious in Co. Kildare.  The Butlers also granted Donadea Castle, Co. Kildare, to the Alymers in 1597.  This indicates that the O’Byrnes not only occupied Portrushin, but together with the Aylmers, portions of land in Co. Kildare itself, which had formally belonged to the now disgraced Geraldines and which had come into Butler hands.


            A picture is beginning to emerge where it is apparent that the O’Byrnes of Portrushin had an even larger sphere of influence than originally thought.  It must be the same branch of the clan who is mentioned as occupying Tankardstown, and who also appear with what must be Portrushin descendants at Cloncurry, Naas, Prosperous, Clane, and Caragh, the same geographical region of Co. Kildare.  In fact the O’Byrnes were spreading across the northern Ormond territorial outposts during the 1500s.

            A pardon was granted to James mac Gerald O’Byrne of Tankardstown, a horseman (cavalry soldier or knight) in 1571, showing that the family were already well established there.  It is likely that Garrett, (Gerald) a son of Hugh Geangach O’Byrne of Clonmore Castle, was the first to settle at Tankardstown. 

Phelim Byrne of Tankardstown had a son Gerald Byrne (1680-1762) of Ballysallagh, and Gerald had a “natural son” James Byrne (1728-1738).  ‘Phelim Byrne of the Mansion House at Tankardstown’, is recorded on a memorial inscription at Johnswell, to the Purcells, Byrnes, and Doyles of Ballysallagh.  His son Gerald married into the Purcell property at Ballysallagh, which eventually passed to the Doyles. 

A Daniel Byrne of Tankardstown is mentioned in 1703.  The Denis Byrne of Tankardstown who married Mary Byrne in 1742, and settled in Athy, may have been Daniel’s son or grandson.  

The evidence suggests that the legitimate Byrnes of Tankardstown died out and that the Tankardstown estate did not pass to the illegitimate descendants of Gerald Byrne (1680-1762).  Instead it reverted to the line of Hugh Geangach O’Byrne of Clonmore, thereby passing to a second Phelim Byrne of Tankardstown, fourth son of Edmund Byrne of Ganaun.


            The presence of gentry Byrnes in this area of Co. Kildare is confirmed by the existence of an armorial monument to the Byrnes, which would appear to include the name of the Daniel who was living in 1703. There is an O’Byrne coat of arms cut below an inscription, which reads;

                “Here lieth ye body of Margrate Dilon who deceased February ye 7th 1816 aged 68 years & also ye body of Danniall Byrn who deceased May ye 39 17[ ]8 aged 77 years.  Erected by Barnaby Byrn”.

            Mainham, by its location, could well be the oldest burial ground for the Byrne families of Tankardstown, Kilcock and the elusive Rathmore’s. There are three Byrne gravestones erected inside the ruin of the old church at Mainham. One to Denis of Downings, another to Thomas of Raheen and the third to Terence Byrne of Rathmore, who died in 1853 and his wife Anne, who died in 1865.

            The fact that the armorial to Danniall Byrn is on one of the outer walls of this church ruin would surely indicate a connection between all of the Byrne families interred here.


            The historical connection between the Byrne’s of the Downes which began with the alliance between Fearganainm Roe O’Byrne and Gerald Aylmer in 1538 continued through the centuries and is evident in the census records for Ballycannon, Cloncurry in 1911. The Byrne’s not only fortified and farmed Aylmer land, but they were buried alongside them and at one point even married into the aristocratic Aylmer family.

            Edmund Byrne of Ganaun (d.1737) married a daughter of Hugh Roe Byrne of Ballymanus.  It appears that his second son, John Byrne, acquired an estate at Cloncurry after Edmund’s third son Charles of Sleaty, having converted to the Protestant faith, dislodged his siblings by evoking the Penal laws.  The cloncurry connection with this family goes back to Gerald Aylmer who had aided Fearganainm Roe and Teige O’Byrne and was, according to the Aylmer family pedigree, the uncle of George Aylmer of Cloncurry (1540-1582).  

            The Prerogative Wills have a record for a Gerald Byrne of Cloncurry, which shows that he was deceased, and his will probated on 21st May 1770.  Gerald was described as farmer, of Cloncurry.  It shows him to be husband of Eleanor Byrne, father of Thomas Byrne, his natural son, father of Mary Byrne, his natural daughter, father of William, his illegitimate son and brother to Bridget Byrne.

            The Griffith’s Valuation for Cloncurry shows that by the mid 1800s the land was in the possession of John Byrne Senior and his children. This would suggest that Gerald’s son, Thomas, died unmarried and without issue. John Byrne was the eldest son of James Byrne, Gerald’s younger brother, and would have been Thomas’s nearest male relative.

            The land at Cloncurry appears to pass down through this line as the census records for 1901 and 1911 show a Patrick Byrne living at Ballycannon, Cloncurry with two male farm servants and two female domestic servants. He has no wife or children but is obviously living comfortably. The records for the 1901 census show a Patrick Byrne living at Johnstown South in Naas. He is living with his sister Elizabeth and his niece, Elizabeth Mary Aylmer, aged 20.

            Elizabeth was the daughter of John Aylmer and Catherine Byrne who married on the 12th of September 1872. The marriage certificate shows that John’s father was also John Aylmer and Catherine’s father was James Byrne. The Aylmer family pedigree shows a Michael Aylmer of Courtown and Ballycannon born around 1750. His son John (1783-1857) became High Sheriff of Kildare in 1819. The Aylmer pedigree shows he had a son Michael and eight daughters from two marriages. Catherine’s husband John must be connected to this line as Patrick Byrne was farming land in Ballycannon in 1901. It is possible that John was an illegitimate son or removed from the Aylmer pedigree because of his marriage to a catholic.

            It looks likely that Patrick Byrne was the last in the line to farm the land at Cloncurry and Johnstown. It is not known what happened to Elizabeth Mary Aylmer at this time. The Aylmer family lived at Donadea Castle until 1935. Justin Aylmer, the 10th Baronet, died unmarried in 1885. His sister, Caroline Maria Aylmer, daughter of Sir Gerald Aylmer, inherited the castle and was the last of the family to live there. She died on the 13th of May 1935 and is buried in the family crypt in St. Peter’s Church on the estate. The title of Baronet passed to a cousin. The property was sold on Caroline’s death, to the Department of Lands. Today the castle is in ruin and the vast demesne has become a public park.

            The current Baronet Aylmer is Sir Richard John Aylmer, born in 1937, he was educated at Harvard University in the United States. He succeeded to the title in 1987 and his son, Fenton Paul Aylmer, born in 1965 is his heir.


              The two Byrne graves at Cloncurry next to the Bury family plot contain the remains of Hannah Byrne, born circa 1742 and died on the 23rd of January 1791 aged forty-nine years. Her gravestone was erected by her sons James and Patrick.  Thomas Byrne, also buried in the plot, died in 1793 at the age of forty-six. The inscription is extremely eroded but the words ‘their brother’ are visible, the term brother was often used for cousins at the time.  

            Alongside Hannah is another Byrne gravestone.  It was erected by Jane Byrne of Possextown in memory of her husband Thomas who died on the 23rd of September 1847 aged 68 years.  This shows that he was born somewhere around 1779 and is Hannah’s son; she was about 37 years old at the time of his birth. There are two children buried in the same grave as Thomas, Mary who died in 1835 aged eleven and Patrick who died in 1838 aged six. There is no record, as of yet, of any surviving children.

It is interesting that the senior male members of the family, Gerald who died in 1770 and James who died in 1784, are not buried at Cloncurry cemetery. The likelihood is that they were buried in a plot reserved for senior male members of their family at another location.

The fact that members of this branch of the Byrne family are buried at Cloncurry Cemetery, and next to the Bury family plot, is noteworthy in that this is the familial burial place of the Aylmer family.

“The manor of Cloncurry became the property of the Aylmer family, whose ancient castle was defended for the Parliament in 1643, by Colonel Monk, but had to be abandoned for want of provisions.

The ruins of a Church still remain at Cloncurry, but whether it be that of St. Mary and St. martin, assigned to the Augustinians, in 1210, or that pertaining to the Carmelite friary, founded in 1347, cannot be well ascertained. It is more likely to be the latter, which we find referred to as still existing in 1618. – Vide Antea. This Chruch was some 75 feet in length, by 30 in width; the walls are three feet 8 in. Two narrow windows are in the west gable, which terminates in a double belfry. The doorway is in the southern wall. A large mound, probably the site of a fortified residence, stands to the north-west of the ruins. A large plain mausoleum, belonging to the Aylmer family, adjoins the Church. The surrounding graveyard is still used.”

                                                (Kildare online Electronic History Journal: Kilcock)

The Byrne family at Cloncurry are interred next to the Bury family plot just beneath the ruin of the old church. The daughter of Charles Aylmer had become part of the Bury family when she married Charles Bury of Downings, Co. Kildare in May 1759. This ongoing connection to the Aylmer family is noteable in historic terms as it would appear that important branches of the ruling house of the O’Byrne’s were connected through a pro-Butler anti Fitzgerald alliance which had its beginnings as far back as 1538, when Teige of Kiltimon and Fearganainm Roe O’Byrne of the Downes made an alliance with Gerald Aylmer. It was the Butlers who granted Donadea Castle, Co. Kildare, to the Aylmer family in 1597. Before that Lyons was the old seat of the Aylmer family, which they eventually lost to Baron Cloncurry.

The Byrne family’s connection to the Bury family is seen in the Griffith’s Valuations for Caragh in the 1800s. Edward Byrne is listed as having a small holding here next to a larger section of land in the name of Denis Byrne. Both sections of land are next to Downings House, the ancestral home of the Bury family. As of yet, we have not ascertained the relationship between Edward and Denis. According to the grave stone, Denis died in 1865 at the age of 56. His birth certificate shows he was actually born in 1807 making him 58, but such discrepancies are not uncommon. The stone was erected by his nephew Darby Kirwan, whose Father, Tim Kirwan was married to Mary (Bess) Byrne, sister of Denis.

Darby was born in Kilpipe in the parish of Kilavanney Co. Wiklow in 1846. The Griffith’s Valuations for Kilpipe show land in the name of Tim Kirwan’s sister, Margret, in Ballymanus. We also find a Hugh and James Byrne living in Ballymanus at this time. Indeed the wealth of Byrne’s and Doyle’s living in and around Kilpipe would suggest links to Ballysallagh and Tankardstown which is backed up further by the evidence at Mainham cemetery.


   In volume 1 of the memoirs of Myles Byrne there is a reference to a Mrs. Meagher who, according to the account, was obviously a very influential figure and held in very high esteem. She was the mother-in-law of Dan Kerwan who was killed by cannon ball at the battle of Vinegar Hill in 1798. Mrs. Meagher, being a Byrne before her marriage was related the Byrne’s of Ballymanus.

“I must not omit to metion the name of a generous high-minded lady, who came to our camp at Mount Pleasant, for the purpose of aiding and assisting Billy Byrne to get several prisoners liberated. This lady was Mrs. Meagher, of Coolalugh, whose son-in-law, Dan Kerwan, was one of the leaders of the county Wicklow men, and who distinguished himself so much at the battle of Arlkow; he enjoyed great influence in our army. Mrs. Meagher being a Miss Byrne before her marriage, and related to the Ballymanus family, and possessing very graceful manners, succedded beyond her expectations………I must here mention how I became connected with Mrs. Meagher, and her son-in-law, Dan Kerwan. The latter married about 1795 my brother-in-law’s sister, Miss Mary Doyle, of Ballytemple.”

                                                            (Memoirs of Myles Byrne:Vol.1: p.117-118)

Denis Byrne of Downings who is buried at Mainham cemetery was married to Catherine Kirwan. It was his nephew by marriage, Derby Kirwan who erected his tomb stone. Denis’ sister Mary married Tim Kirwan who is the nephew of Dan Kirwan mentioned above.

According to the Griffith’s Valuations of 1851, Edward Byrne (b.1801) was leasing land in Downings from Denis. As stated before, we are not yet sure of the relationship between the two men, but it is fair to say that they were related in some way and most probably cousins.

Another important piece of evidence which links the family to Muskeagh and Mrs. Meagher is seen on the baptism records for James Byrne and Anne Dunn’s children. Records for the area show an Edward Byrne and his wife Sarah Askins (she was a lutherin) living in Muskeagh in the early 1800’s. They have four children, William, Charles, Edward and Susanna. Many of the sponsors of Edward and Sarah’s children are the same sponsors that appear on the baptism records for James and Anne’s children in Castledermot.

The reason why Muskeagh is important is that it is in Kilpipe, the same geographical area as Ballymanus and Clonmore. Mrs. Meagher was from Coolalugh in Kilpipe and the 1851 records show that Susanna Byrne above is still living there.

Records show that Denis of Downings was born in Crann, Kilpipe and the executor of his will was a Joseph Byrne of Muskeagh, Kilpipe.  So, we see here a spider’s web of connection from Edward Byrne of Downings to the Byrnes of Muskeagh who are connected to Mrs. Meagher (nee Byrne) of Ballymaus who is, in turn, a leading figure of influence in the area, according to the accounts of Myles Byrne himself.

The story which is unfolding from this evidence shows a family who are dispossessed through Charles Byrne of Sleaty evoking the Penal Laws which forces sections of the family to move from Ballinakill and Clonmore to Castledermot and Nass. As the family already appear to be connected to Ballymanus, we see a lot of sympathy towards the republican and revolutionary views of this branch of the family. There is clerarly a lot of networking taking place in the area between the Byrnes, Kirwans, Dunns and Lawless families.

Perhaps it is best summed up by Myles Byrne himself when he says, “I mention the above circumstances to show the opportunity I had of knowing and ascertaining all that could be hoped or expected of a general rising in the counties of Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare.”


      The familial connection to Myles Byrne continues with the story of James Byrne, eldest son of James Byrne who was married to Anne Dunn of Naas, as mentioned above. Anne was the daughter (or sister) of John Dunn who was a baker in Naas and a local leader of the United Irishmen. Together they had ten children, nine of whom we know were baptised in Davidstown, Castledermot, between 1789 and 1808. Their eldest son James, born sometime between 1785 and 1788 was not baptised in Davidstown like his other siblings. Instead it is thought that he was born in Kilpipe before the family’s move to Davidstown. He was later apprenticed in early adulthood to a bakery owned by his maternal relatives, the Dunn family in Naas.

An account of extracts from the Book of the Kildare Magistrates Proceedings under the heading ‘minutes of examinations and information in 1803’ show a John Dunn, Baker from Naas was arrested on his way to Dublin with a number of rebels on their way to play their part in an attack on Dublin Castle. The same report shows that James Byrne, a Baker from Naas was ‘arrested with a pike on the 23rd of July and taken to Dublin’ where he was hung at Townsend Street on the 17th of September 1803. Three days later Robert Emmet was executed outside St. Catherine’s Church on Thomas Street for his leading role in a failed attack on Dublin Castle by remnants of the United Irishmen which came to be known as the ‘Emmet Rebellion’ or the ‘1803 Rebellion’.

            The baptism records show that John Dunn was a sponsor of James and Anne’s seventh child Maria in 1799. James, named after his paternal grandfather, as per the custom in this family, was probably apprenticed to John as the eldest son of the family. It was at this time that he is likely to have become influenced by the politics of the United Irishmen and his rebellious Byrne relatives. Myles Byrne had been charged with finding men to take part in the 1803 rebellion by Robert Emmet, who in turn, had been promised a substantial invasion force to Ireland in August 1803 by none other that Napoleon Bonaparte himself.

            The Society of the United Irishmen was almost completely round up after the Rebellion of 1798. With prominent leaders dead, arrested or on the run, the organisation was paralysed. What remained of any nationalistic hopes in Ireland rested with the possibility of support from the French.

            This hope was briefly shattered in 1802 when hostilities between the French and the British came to an end with the Treaty of Amiens under which the British recognised the French Republic. However, this peace was short lived and in May 1803 the war flared up again, (

            A small and rather insignificant circle around the Protestant Emmet brothers, Thomas and Robert, stemmed the tide of rebellion in Ireland. Robert had fled to France in March 1798 thus escaping arrest. He remained in Paris to propagate the principles of the United Irishmen and became the centre of the revolutionary exiles. In 1802, with the ink of the Treaty of Amiens still liquid, he had secured French support for a rising in Ireland from Napoleon.

            When the war between the British and the French began again in May 1803, Robert, accompanied by a few associates, returned to Ireland to mobilise what ever was left of the Society of the United Irishmen. Settling in Rathfarnham, south of Dublin, he hired Anne Devlin, scion of a renowned nationalist family, to be his housekeeper, and rallied support from, amongst others, Myles Byrne of the Ballymanus Byrne’s, (

            A plinth outside St. Catherine’s church commemorates the bravery of Robert Emmet. A plaque on the left hand side exterior wall of the church was unveiled in September 1980 by Michael Mullen, General Secretary of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union on behalf of the Dublin History Workshop. It commemorates James Byrne and other tradesmen who were executed in the 1803 Rebellion. 


            The Dawson-Byrne line begins with James Byrne and Rose Dawson who married on the 8th of October 1865.  They had a total of six daughters and three sons.  Their story begins in Kilcock and ends in Dublin where James was a retired Railway Inspector of the Midland Great Railway.  It is not known where they are buried, however, James appears on the 1911 census as a widower visiting his daughter Bridget in Athlone.

James, the son of Edward Byrne and Elizabeth Lyons was born in 1834.    He was a hard working and self-made man.  According to his marriage certificate, James couldn’t read or write. However, he was to rise through the ranks of the Midland Great Railway during his life. His eventful career brought the family to number 9 Railway Terrace, Mullingar, which still stands today, sometime between 1872 and 1874.  He worked there for a time as a Railway Inspector and some of James and Rose’s children where born in Mullingar during this period.

The family later moved to number 33 Constitution Hill in Dublin.  The census of 1901 shows that James, Rose and their children were able to read and write at this stage.  They had an adopted daughter Mary Cully aged twelve and an eighteen year old male servant, Patrick Cully living in the house at the time, (Records show that the Cullys had lived beside the Byrnes in Caragh). The 1911 census records show that Rose had died sometime between 1901 and 1911.

            James and Rose had nine children: 1) Bridget, born 1866, 2) Julia born 1867, Alicia born 1868 and Jane born 1870, twins Edward and Mary born 1872, twins Laurence and Ann born 1877 and finally 9) James born 1878.


            James Byrne and Rose Dawson lived in Cappagh between 1865 and 1873. Because of his job as a railway inspector, he moved to number 9 Railway Terrace, which is still standing, in Mullingar and then on to 33 Constitution Hill in Dublin between 1890 and 1900.

            In Cappagh, one of his neighbours was Hugh Boylan, father of Teresa Brayton, the famous Irish poet. Hugh’s sister Mary Boylan was Godmother to Bridget Byrne, James and Rose’s first child, born in 1868.

            Hugh Boylan’s father was a leader of the United Irishmen and led an attack on Prosperous in the 1798 rebellion. James Byrne and his family lived on the Old Bog Road until 1873.

            Teresa Brayton is buried in Cloncurry cemetery. Her funeral was attended by Eamonn de Valera as Taoiseach in 1943. At a later date, as President of Ireland, he unveiled a celtic cross over her grave.

            Teresa emigrated to Boston in 1895 where she lived for almost thirty years. She married a French-Canadian called Richard Brayton, but little is known of her married life and it appears she became widowed quite early.

            She became prominent in the Irish-American nationalist movement, the engine behind the militant nationalist movement in Ireland in the early 1900s. Her prominence in Irish American circles in New York suggests that she would have met the likes of Padraig Pearce and Countess Markeivicz as well as de Valera. Indeed, after the Easter Rising she received a letter from Countess Markievicz which contained a chip of wood said to have come from the flagstaff over the GPO in 1916.

            As was fashionable with writers such as W.B. Yeats at the time, Brayton was also interested in the occult (Theosophy). But she will always be remembered for writing the words of that staple of the Irish ballad repertoire of the early twentieth century, the “Old Bog Road”.

            In life, Teresa Brayton’s family had lived alongside the Byrne’s on the Old Bog Road. In death she lies alongside them at Cloncurry cemetery. (Source:


            James Dawson Byrne was the youngest child of James Byrne and Rose Dawson. According to the US census records, he moved to the United States in 1913. The World War I records place him in South Dakota in 1917.

            By the late 1920’s he was living in New York City. He had become a Jesuit Priest and was earning a comfortable living editing English and Drama text books. Indeed, he is famous for having written “The Story of Ireland’s National Theatre:  The Abbey Theatre Dublin” which was published in 1929 under his nom de plume, Dawson Byrne.

            In 1937, John Gielgud agreed to play Hamlet in a tour of America which took him to Washington,  where he played before the President’s wife, Mrs. Eleanor Roosavelt. Gielgud had been receiving almost a hundred letters a week on his American Tour. According to Sheridan Morley’s authorised biography of Gielgud, “one in Washington must have been especially welcome. It came from an old Catholic priest, Father Dawson Byrne.” The letter read as follows:

            “Before becoming a priest, I was an actor for more than forty years, playing over three hundred productions all over America. In that time I played with many great actors and saw the best of them – Henry Irving, Tree, E.H. Southern and John Barrymore. But never had I seen a real Hamlet until I saw yours this week. You were made for the part. You are ideal, and your acting excels all others. You are still very young, and I have in my mind the thought that Ellen Terry must have trained you from your infancy to play Hamlet. Otherwise I cannot see how you could give such a reading of the part. But I advise you to take great care of your health you put so much energy and emotion into the role that it must leave you totally exhausted. Thank you for the best performance of my long life.”

            Father James’ gushing letter to the young Gielgud was so filled with exaggeration that it hints to a personal relationship between the two. James arrived in the US at the age of 35 so couldn’t possibly have toured America as he claimed. He was ordained at the age of 52 and was only 59 at the time of writing the letter. One can only conclude that the letter was written very much tongue in cheek and   is anyone’s guess as to whether it was Father James or indeed, Gielgud himself, who applied the exaggerations for maximum dramatic effect.

            James became a US citizen in 1930 and as he was living in New York at the time, it is likely that he was part of the Teresa Brayton set. Indeed, his Nationalist leanings were hinted at in a report from one of his visits to Ireland where he is credited with having witnessed the bleeding statues of Templemore in September 1920, where hundreds of miracle cures were being effected, “Father Byrne is the first traveller to reach America and vouch for the truth of the phenomena at Templemore”, (The New Age Magazine, 1920).

            The statues had started bleeding after an ambush at Templemore by the IRA resulting in the Killing of RIC District inspector Wilson. Rather than being genuine, the IRA viewed the apparitions as part of a ploy to prevent the military from sacking the town and making the Catholics “ pay for it”.

            Although thousands of pilgrims had travelled to the site during the three weeks of the apparitions, even the Roman Catholic Church had expressed “extreme reserve” about the cures and miracles attributed to them. Michael Collins himself had given instructions for James Walsh, the initial visionary of the bleeding statues, to be interviewed. The Templemore miracles finally ended when the IRA ambushed and killed two RIC members at Kiloskeahan near Burnane on the 29th of September 1920. (Garda Gazette, Winter 2008).

            In 1936 Father James was teaching at the Catholic University in Washington DC and then moved on to the University of San Francisco, which is a Jesuit School. He died in Los Angeles, California in 1940 leaving his house and $250,000 to his Japanese house boy.

            101 CHURCH STREET, DUBLIN

            This branch of the family descends from James and Rose’s first son Edward who married Elizabeth Connor sometime between 1901 and 1903.  We know this as on the 1901 census Edward is still living with his parents James and Rose but he has a wife and two children, Mary 8 and Edward 4 in 1911 when he lives at 101 Church Street.  In 1901 Elizabeth was living with her father Michael Connor and brothers John and Thomas at 101 Church Street.  John was a Butcher and the family appear to have been well off.  Edward became a successful coal factor and died a relatively wealthy man in 1945.

Edward Byrne’s will was unproven and contested in the courts at the time by his eldest son Edward (Neddy). The property at 101 Church Street was sold under  a compulsory purchase order in the early 1960’s.

Descendents of the family still live in what is left of Edward Byrne’s home on Catherine’s Lane in three cottages that would have been situated behind the shop on 101 Church Street.  John Byrne does not appear on the census of 1911 as he was not born until 1912.  His sister Rose was also born shortly after the census was taken and it is her descendents who remain living in the cottages on Catherine’s Lane. Neddy was unmarried and lived with Rose and her husband James Kidd until his death in 1977.

            John Byrne married Anne Howard of Hacketstown in July 1935 at the church on Iona Road in Dublin.  They had eight children, May, Sean, Edward, Theresa, Michael, Patrick and James and Anne who died young.  John died in 1968 at the age of fifty-six.  His wife Anne died on the 13th of March 1984 at the age of sixty-eight.  John was buried in the Byrne family plot in Kilcock but his wife Anne is buried with her family in Hacketstown, Co. Carlow. One is reminded of the situation regarding Hannah’s burial at Cloncurry.

            NEW  EVIDENCE

            Edward Byrne and his twin sister, Mary were born in Cappagh in August 1872. The family moved to Number 9 Railway Terrace in Mullingar in 1873 because of this fathers promotion in the Railway, although they still retained close connections with Kilcock.

            Edward’s sister Julia married Thomas O’Brien and settled in Kilcock. His other sister, Jane married Michael Killeen and his parents John and Mary were their neighbours in Cappagh.

            Mary Killeen was godmother to Jane and Michael’s daughter Alicia, who was born in 1868. Michael Killeen fought in World War1, he was killed in Ypres in 1916.

            Edward Byrne moved to Constitution Hill in Dublin sometime between 1890 and 1900. The 1901 census shows he was a widower. The research indicates that he married his first Catherine Leahy in Mullingar. He married Elizabeth Connor in Dublin sometime between 1901 and 1903.


            After Edward Byrne died in 1945, his sons Neddy (Edward) and John continued to work in the family business with their own coal rounds. They worked out of the stables at no.5 St. Catherine’s Lane. Today the only remaining properties on the site are the cottages at numbers 3, 4 and 5 St. Catherine’s Lane.

            John and his wife Anne lived at number 3 until the middle of 1944. Their son Edward, who was born at number 3, was only six months old when the family moved to the new housing development in Cabra West. It is thought that John and Anne moved their family from St. Catherine’s Lane, off Church Street, as TB was rampant at the time. Two of their children, James and Anne had tragically died in infancy  and in an attempt to protect their three surviving children, they moved to the relative safety of the new housing estate just beyond Phibsboro in Dublin.

            Their eldest son, Sean, recalled the time when his father brought him to see their new home,

“I remember him bringing me up to Killala Road in 1944 to see our new house number 13. There was a wire fence half way up the road as they were still building the houses. I remember them loading our furniture from number 3 and I remember sitting on top of the furniture as my dad drove the horse and cart up to begin our new life in Cabra West.”

            At the time Cabra was being settled by families from the inner city. In 1941, North Strand was bombed by the Germans and many of the people that were forced out of their homes were re-housed on Swilly Road in Cabra West.

            Unlike most people who work hard all their lives, John went the opposite way, from riches to rags, one could say. One of the mistakes his father had made was not to educate his sons and as a result they were not equipped for the hardships of Ireland in the forties and fifties.

            The books from John’s business were recently discovered in the attic of the family home on Killala Road in Cabra. Sean, his eldest son, believes that his fortunes waned because of his generous spirit towards his badly off neighbours.

            “My dad and mam were fairly comfortable as my dad has a good business. I remember we had coal in our back yard and scales selling to our neighbours. Unfortunately, my dad gave coal on credit and he lost his business as he was unable to get paid what he was owed and instead of being able to by coal from Nicholls, he ended up working for them.”

            In fact, it was a combination of his generosity and sheer bad luck that ruined John’s business. Again, Sean recalled an incident when his father’s horse, a grey skittish creature, was parked on Mary Street in Dublin. Something had caused the horse to bolt, perhaps a car back firing. The horse broke free and ran down the street, the wagon lunging from side to side crashing into five or six parked cars as it went. It isn’t known how much John had to pay for the damage caused but amongst the books found in the attic were two large unexplained payments.

            After loosing the business, John went to work at Nicholls coal yard in September every year and Wall’s Ice Cream factory in London every April. He used to joke that he worked to keep people warm in Winter and cool in Summer. In London he worked for twelve hours a day from 7am to 7pm  and on Saturday and Sunday he worked from 7am till 5pm. He had to work the long hours in order to send money home to his family and to keep himself in digs, money and cigarettes, not forgetting the odd pint or two.

            One day in 1959 he was walking towards the canteen in Wall’s when he collapsed. He was transferred from Park Royal Hospital in London to the Mater Hospital in Dublin. His wife, Anne and two eldest sons, Sean and Edward, travelled to London to take John home. He died nine years later on the 12th of January 1968.

            Again, Sean recalled the story.

 “He was at work in Nicholls on the Friday he died. Apparently, he told the foreman that he wasn’t feeling well. He had had a few pints the night before and the foreman, thinking he was suffering from a hangover, told him to go over to the toilet. Half way across the yard, he collapsed. Some of the men present lifted him onto the back of a lorry and sent for an ambulance. But it was too late, he had most probably died before he even hit the ground. The same foreman, Tommy Breslin, was run over by the coal loading tractor and killed a few years later.”


            At the age of nine, John Byrne witnessed the arrest of Kevin Barry whose execution outraged public opinion in Ireland and throughout the world, because of his youth. Barry was the first Republican to be executed by the British since the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916. He was sentenced to death for his part in an IRA operation which resulted in the deaths of three British soldiers.

            Apparently, John had been sent to get milk from Clark’s shop, which was on the opposite corner from Brunswick Street. Kevin Barry and several of his comrades ambushed a British troop truck. During the incident Barry had been shot in the leg. He rolled under the truck in an attempt to hide from the British soldiers while his comrades ran through an arch leading into Monks bakery and escaped.

            The British troops, thinking all of the rebels had fled, climbed back into their truck. Unfortunately, an old woman walking down Church Street saw Kevin Barry under the truck. Thinking the truck was about to run over him she warned the driver and Kevin Barry was arrested. He was executed at Kilmainham three weeks later on the 1st of November 1920. The young John and Mrs Clark had witnessed the whole episode from behind the shop half door.


Hugh of Ballinakill

                1) Anthony of Rathangan

                2) Edmund of Ganaun (d. 1737)

Edmund of Ganaun – married Mary daughter of Hugh O’Byrne of Ballymanus

                1) Murtagh 

                2) John of Cloncurry

                3) Charles of Sleaty

                4) Phelim of Tankardstown

                5) Pearce of Ballyspellan

                6) Ann

John Byrne (wife unknown) had known issue

                1) Gerald of Cloncurry (d. 1770) married Eleanor and had issue

                                                1) Thomas (d. 1793 aged 46)

                                                2) Mary

                2) James Byrne Farmer at Johnstown Naas Kildare (d. 1784) married Hannah born c. 1742 died 1791 aged 49 (buried at Cloncurry Cemetery).

                3) Edmund Married Bridget Fegan and had issue

                                                1) James (1773)

                                                2) John (1777)

                4) Bridget 

James and Hannah had known issue

1) John Byrne. 

2) James Byrne. Married Anne Dunn, Naas.

3) Patrick Byrne

4) Thomas Byrne (1779-1847) Married Jane of Possextown

5) Hester Byrne

6) Mary Byrne

7) Catherine Byrne

                                                John Byrne (wife unknown) had known issue

                                1) James

                                2) Michael

                                3) Patrick

                                4) Sylvester

  James Byrne and his wife Anne Dunn had known issue:

1) James (b.c. 1785-8)

2) Thomas (b.1789)

3) Patrick (b. 1791)

4) Michael (b. 1792)

5) John (b.1797)

6) Edward Byrne (b. 1801).  Edward married Elizabeth Lyons

7) Catherine (b. 1794)

8) Maria (b.1799) – died young.

9) Maria (b. 1806)

10) Sarah (b.1808)

Edward Byrne (b. 1801) married Elizabeth Lyons, 1831 and had known issue:

1) James Byrne (b. 1834).  James married Rose Dawson 1865

2) Julia Byrne (b. 1829) married John Losty C. 1852 (Julia returned to Co. Kildare from the USA after the death of her eldest daughter. She lived in Keredern House which was later owned by Chalres Artuad Byrne’s niece Betty Byrne).

James Byrne married Rose Dawson 8 October 1865 and had issue:

1) Edward Byrne. (b.1872 d. 1945)  Edward married Elizabeth Connor.

2) Laurence Byrne (b. 1877).

3) James Byrne. (b. 1878)

4) Bridget Byrne. (b. 1866)

5) Julie Byrne. (b. 1867)

6) Alicia Byrne.(b. 1868)

7) Jane Byrne. (b. 1870)

8) Mary Byrne (b. 1872)

9) Ann Byrne (b. 1877)

Edward married Elizabeth Connor and had issue:

1) Edward Byrne (b. 1907) dunm

2) Rose Byrne (b. 1911)

3) John Byrne (b. 1912).

John Byrne married Anne Howard of Hacketstown in 1935 and had issue:

1) Sean Byrne (b. 1939) married Doloras Hughs 1971

2) James – died young

3) Edward Byrne (b. 1943). married Philomena Dixon 1964

4) Michael Byrne. (b. 1949)  married Gretti Woodburn 1974.

5) Patrick Byrne. (b. 1955) unmarried

6) May Byrne. (b. 1936)

7) Theresa Byrne. (b. 1946)

8) Anne – died young

Edward married Philomena (Phyllis) Dixon 12 September 1964 and had issue:

1) Derek Byrne (b. 1965).

2) Edward Byrne (b. 1969) married Antonette Austin 2006 and had issue:

                                1) Lauren Byrne (b. 1991) – Gave birth to daughter Sophia (2011)

                                2) Ciara Byrne (b. 1993)

3) Andrew Byrne (b. 1981)

4) Colin Byrne (b. 1984)

5) Carol Byrne (b. 1966)

6) Tracy Byrne (b. 1970)



             It is thought that the Byrne’s of Cloncurry have two lines of connection to the Byrne’s of Ballymanus. The first goes back to Mary, daughter of Edmund of Gannaun, who married Hugh O’Byrne of Ballymanus in the mid 1600’s.   The second is through the maternal line which is traced back through Rose Dawson whose grandmother Eleanor was the sister of Garrett IV of Ballymanus. He in turn is the great, great grandson of Hugh O’Byrne and Mary. 

            Once again, Mainham cemetery plays a part in placing the pieces of this jigsaw together. Under a tree by the road end of the cemetery, there is an Anderson grave erected by Mrs. Mary Anderson of Ballytracy Co.Kildare in memory of her beloved husband Alexander Anderson who died April 3rd 1867 aged 49 years. Also her son James who died young.

            Alexander was the brother of Juliath Anderson, mother of Rose Dawson, who married James Byrne in October 1865.

             Byrne of Ballymanus 

                   Hugh Byrne (d. 1707) His daughter Mary married Edmond of Ganaun


                           Garrett I


                           Garrett II

    ______________ |_________

   |                           |                    |

Garrett III           John        Colclough


|                      |              |                 |              |               |                                                 |

Garrett IV   John   Colclough   Edward   William   Eleanor = William Anderson   Frances



                                                                        Juliath Anderson = Lawrence Dawson



                     James (b.1834) = (1865) Rose Dawson (b. 1836)



                          Edward (1872 -1945)


              |                                 |            |

          John (1912-1968)   Edward   Rose


         |             |             |               |           |            |

     Sean   Edward   Michael   Patrick   May   Theresa

     ________ |__________________________

    |               |                |             |            |           |

Derek    Edward    Andrew   Colin   Carol   Tracy



      The Dawson family originated from York in England and William Dawson came to Ireland during the reign of Charles II to work as tax collector in Co. Antrim.  William’s son Ephraim later moved the family to Portarlington in Co. Laois.  His son William-Henry became an MP for Portarlington and was made Baron Dawson of Dawson’s Court in 1770 and then later Viscount Carlow of Carlow in 1776.

            William’s son John succeeded him and was created Earl of Portarlington in 1785, a title that still exists today. 


     The progenitor of this branch of the family is Patrick Dawson born circa 1750s.  He married a woman called Margrette Felaughty on the 12th of February 1776.  Their first son John was born on the 17th of December 1776, their second, William, was born on the 25th of June 1785. There were three daughters born between them.

William Dawson in turn had two sons, William (b. 1809) and Lawrence.  This Lawrence married Judith Anderson and their daughter Rose, born in 1836, married  James Byrne in October 1865.

Records show that William Dawson (b.1809) was a tenant on the Donore estate before it was sold to him at auction (lot no. 9) in 1872.  The sale, listed as the lands of Oldtown Donore, containing 791 acres, 341 of which are bog and were in the name “De Burg”.  The sale is subject to a number of conditions pertaining to right of ways, fishing, shooting, timber cutting etc.  It then states:

“to hold for the lives of Michael Dawson, then about four years old, first second and third sons of lessee, or for 61 years from 25 March then last, which ever should last longest.  All said lives are still living.”

            William had three sons, Michael, William, and Lawrence and two daughters Kate and Ann-Jane.  The only son to have children was William whose son Paddy inherited the estate.  Paddy had five daughters and on his death the house and estate were sold to an American couple.  The American widow still lives in the house today. 

            In July 2010, Derek and Edward Byrne, the great, great grandsons of Rose Dawson, met with local historian John Molloy who, it transpired, is married to Oonagh Dawson, Paddy’s daughter.  John invited Derek and Edward to his house to meet their distant cousin Oonagh and to show them documentation relating to Donore House and Estate.  Oonagh was able to share in the family history and recalled that Donore House had, in fact, originally been built for the Dawson family.

            The connection between William-Henry Dawson, Viscount Carlow and Patrick Dawson of Dawson’s Bog has not yet been proven. But mutual links to the Coats and Bomford families would suggest such a connection. The traditional use of the names William and John in both families cannot be discounted as mere coincidence either. One interesting theory is the possibility that Patrick Dawson was the illegitimate son of William Henry Dawson, Baron Dawson and first Viscount Carlow. 

                Dawson of Dawson’s Bog Pedigree

                          Patrick Dawson b. circa 1750 = Margrette Felaughty in 1776


                                 |                                            |                                      |

                          John  b. 1776                         William  b. 1785           three daughters


                               |                                                                        |

                     William b. 1809 = Ann Bernie                          Lawrence = Judith Anderson

               ________|____________________________________________                ______________

               |                                   |                              |                 |                  |                 |                           |

        Michael b. 1841        William  b. 1843     Lawrence      Kate          Ann-Jane     Rose  b. 1836  Michael b. 1838


                                       Patrick (paddy) (1896-1963)


                                           Mary  b.1941   Oonagh  b.1942  Anne  b.1943  Margaret  b.1946  Angela  b.1949


          Michael Dawson – Famous Race Horse Trainer

            Michael Dawson, the son of Michael and nephew of Rose Dawson who married James Byrne in 1865, was one of the dominant training figures of the early 1900s. Operating from his Rathbride Manor stables in the Curragh he claimed ten championships, six Irish Classic winners, including four Derbys in 1902, 1904, 1906 and 1909, and two Oaks, 1902 and 1911. As a jockey he rode three Derby winners, Kentish Fire 1890, Roy Neil 1892 and Bowline 1893. The family tradition continued when his son Michael trained Sindon to win the Irish Derby in 1958. (

            THE  HOWARDS

             John Byrne (1912-1968) married Anne Howard of Hackettstown in August 1935. Anne’s father Michael is buried at Kilavanney cemetery in Tinahealy along with his brother Patrick and mother Elizabeth.

            Research into this branch of the family is at an early stage but there is a record of a Michael Howard, a merchant in 1765, who is thought to be the progenitor of this family. Records show that the Wicklow branch of the Howard family arrived in Ireland from England in the mid 17th Century. They settled at Shelton Abbey just outside Arklow and a branch of the family lived there for nearly three hundred years.

            Ironically, possession of the castle and manor of Clonmore passed from the Ormond family to the Howard family around 1697.    In 1776, Ralph Howard, was created Baron of Clonmore and first Viscount Wicklow in 1785. The Earldom of Wicklow was created for his widow in 1793.

            A letter dated the 9th of June 1835, which is held in the British National Library, records a correspondence from Georgina Howard, Countess of Carlisle to the 5th Earl Fitzwilliam regarding the lease of a farm in Tinahealy. Could this indicate a connection between the Howard family at Tinahealy and the aristocratic Howard family of England, the Dukes of Norfolk, whose ancestor Anne Boleyn was married to King Henry VIII?

            Certainly, we know that the branch of the Howards who married into the Byrne family where of protestant descent as records show that Anne Howard’s uncles John, Joseph and Thomas were all members of the Royal Irish Constabulary in the 1880’s. It is thought that Anne’s father Michael converted to Catholicism when he married his wife Elizabeth.

            There are two intriguing figures connected to this branch of the family which it is hoped that future research will through more light on. The first is a Captain Howard of Ballyrahen in Tinahealy in 1881. He is more than likely connected to the Howard brothers in the RIC. The second is a much more rebellious character who is shrouded in mystery. Records from Wicklow Gaol show a John Howard executed around 1840, most probably for treacherous activities. Perhaps his grandsons felt the need to join the RIC in order to win back some semblance of family pride. No doubt the family were ostracised by their more senior relatives because of the scandal. It is hoped that the research into this line will unravel the mystery and a story of bravery akin to that of James Byrne of 1803 fame.

            Howard family pedigree

            Michael Howard (Merchant in 1765)


            Benjamin Howard (b. circa 1770) Married Mary.


            John Howard (b. 1802 – executed 1840) Married Bridget

                  |                                                                                              |             |

            Lawrence (b.circa 1838) Married Elizabeth Brien                  Thomas   Mary

                  |                     |                       |                               |

            John (1862)     Joseph (1864)  Thomas (1870)     Michael (1879)


                                                             Anne (1918-1984) Married John Byrne in 1835


                                                                                                Edward Byrne (1943)


                                                                                                Derek Byrne (1965)

            THE  DIXONS

            On the 12th of September 1964, Edward Byrne married Philomena Dixon in Dublin. Little did they know that two hundred years before, their families were close neighbours in Cappagh Co. Kildare. Indeed, they shared common connections with the Boylan family of Old Bog Road fame.

The family pedigree for this branch of the current Byrne family has only recently been discovered and dates back to Edward Dixon (1516-1559) of Ballyneskeagh House in Co. Meath.

            Part of their claim to fame is that one of Edward’s descendants, Andrew Dixon (1609-1656) married Margery Makewy, daughter of Francis Makewy who had been sent to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth I. The Makewy’s are one of three families who had legitimate claim to the throne of England after the death of Elizabeth. The Crown, however, went to James VI of Scotland who became James I of England. The Makewy’s faded into history.

            Dixon family pedigree

 Edward Dixon (1516-1559) married Mary (b. 1518) lived at Ballyneskeagh House.


Nicholas Dixon (b. abt. 1539)


Edward Dixon (b. abt. 1562)


William Dixon (b. 1583 d. bef 1637)


Andrew Dixon (b. 1609 d. aft. 1656) Born at Troman House, Enfield, Co. Meath.

                                                             Married Margery Makewy daughter of Francis.


Gilbert Dixon (b. 1637)


William Dixon (b. 1675)


Gilbert Dixon (1709-1769) Married Bridget Carberry (1706-1746)


Patrick Dixon (b. 1745)

            Gilbert and Bridget lived at Killyon but their son Patrick (1745) moved from Killyon to Ballyonan, Co. Kildare. His son Michael (abt. 1780) married Alice Forun. Their son Patrick (1804) married a woman called Jane Duggen (1815-1887).

            Patrick (1804) is the older brother of Christopher (b. 1810) whose son Patrick was born around 1851 and so the pedigree continues as follows:

Michael (b. abt. 1780)


Christopher Dixon (b. 1810)


Patrick (b. 1851)


John Dixon (b.1881)


John Dixon (1916-1986)


Philomena Dixon (b. 1947)


Derek Dixon-Byrne (b. 1965)

            Philomena was born on the 14th of July 1947 in Dublin. She married Edward Byrne at the tender age of seventeen on the 12th of September 1964.

For the moment, the situation regarding the loss of the Dixon land and houses is a mystery. It is hoped that further research will throw some light on the subject in the not too distant future.

            John Dixon (1916-1986) married Veronica Dowd (1921-1996) in 1946 and they had four children, Philomena (1947), Veronica (1949) Donal (1951) and Deirdre (1959). Veronica was born on the 18th of October but lived for only two days. She was buried at Glasnevin Cemetery on the 20th of October 1949. Donal became a successful businessman and lives at Castleknock Lodge in Dublin. Deirdre has lived with her family in South Africa since 1983.


            The Byrne family today are large and close-knit unit.  The research of the family history in recent years has served to bring brothers, cousins and uncles even closer together in a shared interest.  The vast majority of the research and writing up of the history has been carried out by Derek Byrne and Edward Byrne Jnr. who became a grandfather himself when his daughter Lauren gave birth to Sofia in January 2011.  Edward also has the distinction of having represented Ireland when he played football for the under 17s national team under the management of Brian Kerr in 1984.  He runs a transport company delivering to shops and businesses throughout Kildare where he regularly meets people eager to share in the rich and often rebel history of the Byrne family.

            Derek Byrne was educated at St. Patrick’s College, DCU, Oxford University, and Trinity College Dublin.  Writing is not Derek’s only similarity with his colourful kinsman Fr. James Dawson-Byrne; he was also an actor in his twenties and studied at The College of Music and The Royal Irish Academy. Most notably Derek won The Evening Herald award for “Best Newcomer” in 1986, for his portrayal of Alan Strang in Equus.  He was a member of the Dublin Youth Theatre and later turned down an offer from The National Youth Theatre in order to perform in Equus.  Moving to London in the Summer of 1988 he worked for Phillips Fine Art Auctioneers and then later for James Adam and Sons in Dublin.  Derek returned to full time study in 1995 and a year later won a scholarship to Oxford University to study the Victorian Novel. While there he also studied Plato’s Republic at Merton College.  After graduating he read for a Masters degree in Ethnicity and Racism at Trinity College Dublin.

            Derek became a lecturer in Addiction Studies for NUI Maynooth based at a Community Drugs project in Dublin in 2004.  He also studied for his second masters an M.Sc in Drug and Alcohol Policy, graduating in 2008. He is a noted campaigner for human rights and HIV/AIDS education and is currently working on a Ph.D with the department of Community and Adult Education at NUI Maynooth.

In June 2011 Derek registered Clan Byrne of Leinster with Clans of Ireland, of which is also a board member.  He is now Ceann Fine of Clan Byrne of Leinster and President of Finte O Broin – The International Association of Byrne Clans. Finte O Broin has also secured support from Maurice Fitzgerald, ninth Duke of Leinster who has become its Patron and the organisation is working in collaboration on various projects with The International Napoleonic Society, The Emmet & Devlin Committee, The Standing Council of Irish Chiefs and Chieftains and the Office of the Chief Herald in Ireland.


            The story of the Byrnes of Cloncurry and Kilcock has been a remarkable voyage of discovery that proves what can be done in terms of research and the recovery of an almost lost family history.  The present generations of the family had inherited traditions of the loss of land, business, and the impact of family tragedy.  Their traditions connected them to a group of high-status memorials in Cloncurry churchyard.  However, with DNA testing firmly establishing their relationship to and with other members of Clan Byrne of Leinster, backed up by enthusiastic documentary research and fieldwork, a family history of substance has emerged from the shadows. 

            This is a story that begins in the Byrnes’ Country during the Tudor period, with the O’Byrnes of the Downes, then engaged in high politics that brought them into contact with Henry VIII’s administration, the power play between the butlers and Fitzgeralds, and the consequences of Henry’s failed relationship with Anne Boleyn.  Henry took land in north Co. Carlow from the disgraced and rebellious Fitzgeralds and gave it to the Butlers.  He took the same land and granted it to the Boleyn family, kin to the Butlers.  However, in a change of heart typical of Henry – following his major fallout with the Boleyns he regranted the land back to the Butlers.  The Butlers needed to hold it against the resentful and still powerful Fitzgeralds, hence their steadfast allies, the O’Byrnes of the Downes came to occupy Portrushin, and later Clonmore.      The descendants of this family entered the Georgian period relatively unscathed as wealthy landowners in the counties of Carlow and Kildare.  Nonetheless, politics was to catch them out, and with the revolutionary spirit sweeping France and Colonial British America, being espoused by the Byrnes of Ballymanus, who were politically active in co. Kildare, the Cloncurry Byrnes found themselves caught up in a revolutionary alliance that included other influential Kildare families such as the Lawlesses and the Aylmers.  It ultimately resulted in the execution of James Byrne in the aftermath of Robert Emmet’s 1803 rebellion. 

            The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw the family fortunes continue to decline amid the harsh economic conditions suffered by Ireland.  Loss of property and business going to the wall, albeit in the spirit of charity, nevertheless the family produced a remarkable character in the person of the Rev. James Dawson Byrne, actor at the Abbey theatre, and later priest and author.  Family fortunes have revived now, reversing the long decline, but the research efforts of Derek and his brother, Edward Byrne, have given the family a new understanding of themselves and their history.  A story, which due to their efforts, will never fall into obscurity again.

(Derek Byrne:2011)

The introduction and epilogue for this piece was written by Danile Byrne Rothwell in conjuction with Derek Byrne. The full version can be read in Volume 3 of The Byrnes and The O’Byrnes, Chapter 18.








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