Clergyman and writer influenced by years in the army
Rev Matthew Byrne: Born November 16th, 1927; Died: August 2nd, 2013
At Manchester University in 1969 he studied under Prof FF Bruce, for whom he had a lasting respect and graduated with a masters in theology. His dissertation was entitled “The Healing Miracles in the Fourth Gospel”.
Watching coverage of the pope’s visit to Ireland in 1979, Byrne and his wife became homesick and they returned the following year, Byrne taking the position of curate-in -charge of Kilmainham and Chapelizod and school chaplain to King’s Hospital school.
In the early 1980s Byrne was a contributor to RTÉ radio’s The Living Word, subsequently working also on Just a Thought and Faith Matters. In 2002, he did five broadcast talks on the Life of Christ According to Luke. He was a regular contributor to Sunday Miscellany and produced many Sunday Service broadcasts.
From 1989 to 1993, he was dean of St Brigid’s Cathedral in Kildare. He oversaw the latter part of its restoration and he and the then bishop, Walton Empey, ended up with their likenesses depicted as gargoyles on the roof. As padre to the Irish Army in the Curragh, he visited the troops in Lebanon and was always proud of his UN cap.
Matthew Byrne wrote several books, including the bestselling Dublin and her People (Eason 1987); a novel, Heaven Looked Upwards (Macmillan 1996 and Townhouse 1997), The Way it Was – The Narrative of the Birth of Jesus (Columba Press 2004), The Day He Died – The Passion According to Luke (Columba Press 2004) and My Father’s Business – St Luke’s Narrative of the Ministry of Jesus Part 1: in Galilee (Columba Press 2009). Part 2 of St Luke’s narrative was started but sadly never finished.
After retirement to Greystones in Co Wicklow, his beloved Weena died in 1999. As a widower in Greystones, he met the Rev Olivia Williams, then curate at St Patrick’s Church and now rector of Carlow. Shared interests – in faith, food, art and literature – drew them together, despite a considerable age gap: he was 73, she 46.
They were friends and soul-mates for 12 years before their marriage in July this year. In February, he contracted a chest infection and eventually moved to Beechwood Nursing Home in Leighlinbridge, Carlow, where he and Olivia announced their engagement and were married in a joyful ceremony, conducted by Bishop Empey.
He died with Olivia by his side and is lovingly remembered by her and by his son Michael, daughter Graine, sisters Jo and Agnes and extended family.
The day before his funeral, his campaign medals were found, safely tucked into the front pocket of his robe bag.