Select Byrne Miscellany

Here are some Byrne stories and accounts over the years:

The O'Byrne Clan

By the beginning of the 14th century there were two distinct branches of the O'Byrne clan.  The branch ruled land to the east from Delgany to the outskirts of Arklow.  A semi-autonomous branch held the mountainous country east of Imaal, between Glendalough and Shillelagh and was known as Ghabhal Raghnaill. Its territory centered round the chief's principal residence at Ballincor.     

In the 16th century the O'Byrnes of the plains submitted to English rule.  However, the mountain O'Byrnes under Hugh McShane O'Byrne refused and aggressively pursued a policy of resistance to the Anglicization of Ireland.  Hugh was succeeded by his son Feagh McHugh O'Byrne as leader of the Gabhal Raghnaill sept in 1579.

Follow Me Up To Carlow

In 1580 at the pass of Glenmalure in county Wicklow, Feagh MacHugh O'Byrne overcame the forces of the English crown under Lord Grey de Wilton.  His later death elevated him into a nationalist hero and his exploits were celebrated in poetry and in song.  The most famous song was Follow Me Up To Carlow by P.J. McCall which appeared in the late 19th century. 

The lines below give its first verse and chorus.  

"Lift MacCahir ogue your face
Brooding o'er the old disgrace
That black FitzWilliam stormed your place
Drove you to the Fern!
Grey said victory was sure
Soon the firebrand he'd secure;
Until he met at Glenmalure
Feagh MacHugh O'Byrne.

Curse and swear Lord Kildare!
Feagh will do what Feagh will dare
Now FitzWilliam, have a care
Fallen is your star low
Up with halbert out with sword!
On we'll go for by the Lord!
Feagh MacHugh has given the word,
Follow me up to Carlow!"

Billy Byrne's Lament

Billy Byrne was an influential and well-regarded gentleman among his peers in Wicklow in 1798.  But he was convicted and hanged on the evidence of informers after the rebellion of that year was quashed.  The ballad Billy Byrne's Lament appeared soon afterwards.  The tune was played by itinerant musicians in Dublin and was well known and extremely popular in the southeastern counties.  A longer version of the ballad gave the names of the infomers who testified against Byrne.

Daniel Byrne and His New Money

Daniel Byrne from Ballintlea in south Wexford saw his opportunity when Cromwell invaded Ireland in the 1640's.  He was a clothier who supplied clothing to Cromwell's forces.  He was said to have employed an enormous workforce in Dublin and to have supplied 40,000 uniforms on credit.  He did eventually get paid and the profits on this business made him a rich man.

The money allowed him to acquire the O'Kelly estate at Timogue in county Laios and to purchase an English baronetcy.  The seller was a young squire named Whitney who represented old money.  Byrne apparently left Whitney the castle on the estate as a residence. 

The story goes that Whitney invited Byrne to dine with him there and contrived that Byrne got neither knife nor fork.  When Whitney told him to help himself, Byrne replied that he had plenty of meat but nothing to cut it with.  Whitney answered: "Why don't you draw out your scissors and clip it, sir?"  For this affront, Byrne ordered him to quit the castle the next morning.        

Byrne Traditions in South Wexford

The Muchtown Byrons seemingly have a tradition that "there were four brothers from Wicklow; one went to Doowooney and one went to Grallagh, a third married into the family of Shepherd at Ballinaleigh near Ballamitty, and the fourth went into Nash."

This is reminiscent of a Newtown Byrnes tradition that "the brothers came down from Wicklow; one married into Bonagrew near Brittas Bay, one married into Doowooney near Adamstown; and in the next generation there was a son who went to Grasscur and another into Ballylibernagh."

Both traditions stress Doowooney in county Wexford and include the notion of "marrying into" a place.  The two stories cover generations radiating out into south Wexford and both mention a Wicklow origin.

Byrne and Name Variants in England in 1851

The table below shows the Byrnes (and variant spellings) from county Wicklow that were recorded in the English census for 1851.

Head of Household
No. in family
Matthew Byrne
Monks Coppenhall
Michael Burns
John Byrnes

John Byrne

Sarah Byrns

David Burn
Hanry Byrne

The census also included six Byrne soldiers, two female servants, and one prisoner.

Moses Byrne, Wyoming Pioneer

Early in 1860, Moses Byrne took a contract from the Overland Stage Company in Denver to build stage coach stations on the old emigrant trail through western Wyoming and Moses and his wife Catherine then moved to Wyoming.

These stations were built every fifteen miles beginning at Point of Rocks, Wyoming and going westward into Utah.  He built the cabins mostly of logs which he got from the forests many miles away.  He would go to the timber and cut and fit the logs on the spot so that there would be no waste material to haul.  He used mostly ox teams to haul with.

He did considerable trading of horses, ox and supplies with the emigrants while he was at the toll bridge which he had erected on the Muddy Creek.  He would often trade one strong fat animal for two that were leg weary and played out.  He would also go to the natural meadows through the country and cut hay with scythes and hand raking it and piling it he would leave it there until winter and then haul it to Fort Bridger where he would sell it to the US Government for use there at the Fort.

Just before the Union Pacific Railroad came through Moses moved three miles father up the Muddy where he built the store, started a town, and named it Byrne.  The name was changed, however, at the request of Union Pacific because of confusion with the town of Bryan farther east on the railroad.  The new name of Piedmont was named in honor of the country in Italy where Catherine Byrne had come from.

Piedmont was essentially in Shoshone territory; but there were rarely instances of serious Indian trouble.  One did occur while Moses Byrne was still running the Muddy Creek stage station.  A small hunting party of Sioux had ridden by and kidnapped Byrne's two-year-old son Eddie while he was playing in the yard.  The Indians moved swiftly and by the time the child was missed, all chances of rescue were gone.  Heartbroken, Byrne gave up all hope of ever seeing their son again.  One summer day two years later, Chief Washakie rode into the station and handed the stunned Moses his now four-year-old boy.  The chief would not tell where he had gotten the child.  Eddie Byrne grew up to become a mayor of an Idaho town where he was buried.

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