Lives Lost to Covid-19: Lillie Byrne – Celbridge woman who was a hero to her family

Kildare native, who died two days after her 92nd birthday, is recalled as a ‘great mother’

Elizabeth ‘Lillie’ Byrne, from Co Kildare, lived all her life in Celbridge.

Elizabeth ‘Lillie’ Byrne, from Co Kildare, lived all her life in Celbridge.

 

This article is one of a series about people who have died with coronavirus in Ireland and among the diaspora. You can read more of them here. If you would like a friend or family member included in the series, please email liveslost@irishtimes.com

Elizabeth (Lillie) Byrne

1928-2020

At Elizabeth (Lillie) Byrne’s funeral last November her neighbours at St Patrick’s Park in Celbridge, Co Kildare, staged a guard of honour. Also, “she had a great collection of beautiful scarfs, so all her daughters here in Ireland, on the day of the funeral, wore bright clothes and her scarfs. All her grandchildren released purple balloons in front of the house. Purple was her favourite colour,” recalls her youngest daughter, Joan.

Lillie had nine daughters and two sons: Sean, Brendan, Ber, Marian, Pauline, Josie, Evelyn, Catherine, Susan, Lillian, and Joan. On her death she had 30 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren (with two more due any day now) and one great-great-grandchild.

Her life revolved around the large family, while husband Patrick worked at the CPI concrete products firm in Lucan, Co Dublin. He died in 2011, at 88.

Lillie lived all her life in Celbridge. Born on October 28th, 1928, she and sister Myra were the only children of James and Mary Greene and lived at Corbally Road in Celbridge. Both girls attended St Brigid’s Holy Faith convent school in the town. At 14 Lillie went to work at Celbridge Mills, making ladies’ dresses and coats. Three years later she went to cook and clean for the Kirkpatricks, an established family nearby.

Meeting Patrick

About then too she met Patrick Byrne from Hazelhatch. They married and moved into one of the first houses at St Patrick’s Park. Soon babies began to arrive. Eldest daughter Ber remembers: “She would have to wash all our clothes in the bath as she had no washing machine back then. She would have to get up early every morning to light the stove, to cook breakfasts. She never stopped going from morning to night. I remember one time she was sitting on a chair with one of the babies (I can’t remember which one it was), she was so tired she nearly fell into the fire.”

Joan remembers Lillie as “a great mother to all of us. It was a very hard life for Mam but she loved every one of us.”

When the children were reared Lillie went to work again, cooking and cleaning for the nuns in Celbridge. She also took up hobbies and spent hours drawing and painting, and in her garden. She joined the Silver Thread Club at the former mill in Celbridge, now a community centre, where they had bingo, went on trips, and made Easter bonnets and Christmas decorations. “It was a godsend for Mam,” says Joan. Lillie also visited daughters Evelyn and Catherine in Australia four times. “She just loved it. Never in her wildest dreams did she ever think she would get out there.”

Then Lillie’s health began to fail and in December 2019 she became a resident at the Parke House Nursing Home in Kilcock, where she was content. She found last year’s lockdowns hard, as did the family. “Not being able to comfort her, hold her hand, be all together with her, especially being a large family, it was just so sad and leaves an awful effect. It all feels so surreal in these crazy times,” says Joan. “Mam was some woman and our hero. We love and miss her so much.”

Lillie died on October 30th, 2020, two days after her 92nd birthday.