Stephen Byrne obituary: A ‘kind, generous and loyal’ man

Guinness worker was part of the design team who developed the ‘widget’ for cans of stout

Stephen Byrne, who died from Covid-19 aged 93, with his wife Maura.

Stephen Byrne, who died from Covid-19 aged 93, with his wife Maura.


This article is one of a series about people who have died with coronavirus in Ireland and among the diaspora. Read more at If you would like a friend or family member included in the series, please email

Stephen Byrne


Stephen Byrne (93) should have been celebrating 70 years of marriage with his wife Maura later this year. Instead, Maura had to watch the funeral of her husband, who died of Covid-19, online while suffering from the same disease at St Luke’s Hospital in south Dublin in April.

Born on December 26th, 1926, and originally from Arbour Hill, north Dublin, Stephen Byrne had five sisters and four brothers.

He qualified as a plumber at Bolton Street Technical School and worked at Guinness Brewery for almost 40 years. He was part of the design team that developed the “widget” in cans of Guinness which releases some of the carbon dioxide to create the head.

He became heavily involved with the National Engineering and Electrical Trade Union and his family said he always had an “innate sense of fairness”. He was also the captain of Guinness’s Lawn Bowling Team.

Byrne met his wife Maura at a cycling club in Dublin. They married on September 5th, 1950, and bought the family home on Dowland Road in Walkinstown three years later. The couple had six children: Máire, Stephen, Bernadette, Deirdre, Paul and Dermot along with 17 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.

“He was really kind, generous and loyal,” Bernadette says. “He had a great sense of humour. If I heard a joke, the first person I wanted to ring was my Dad. He was a great listener, just a general all-round gentleman.”

Following his retirement, Byrne returned to volunteering as a hostel warden with An Óige, as he had in his youth, and also received a gold pelican award for donating blood from Mary Robinson.

He climbed Carrauntoohill in Co Kerry on a number of occasions and also enjoyed oil painting, glass cutting and copper sculptures.

Byrne suffered from dementia in later years and was cared for by his wife until 2019 and subsequently entered the Croft nursing home in Inchicore. His family said he always held onto his love of singing.

“Even when he barely recognised us, if you started a song he would just go off and sing,” Bernadette says. “He knew the words to everything. When he’d forgotten his own name, he’d still know how to sing Dublin Can be Heaven. When he sang a song he would always finish and say ‘sin é’.”

Stephen Byrne was diagnosed with Covid-19 and was taken into St James’s Hospital, where he died on April 19th. A small funeral was held at St Agnes’ Church in Crumlin.

“Mam watched it online at St Luke’s with her carer,” says Bernadette. “His grandchildren and great grandchildren were sitting in cars in the car park of the church watching it online too.”

Covid-19: Lives Lost