Keith Byrne Stowaway who made headlines now back in north Dublin

 

TWO YOUNG Dublin boys made headlines around the world in 1985 when they hopped on a Dart and ended up in New York.

Keith Byrne (10) and Noel Murray (13) from Darndale had run away before but evading the authorities in three countries was a first for them.

Their adventure started when they went out to play before dinner time, Keith recalled in an RTÉ Radio 1 documentary to be broadcast tomorrow. “My mum said: ‘don’t go far, your dinner’s nearly ready,’ ” he recalled. “I said: ‘I won’t.’ ”

But they did. They took the Dart to Dún Laoghaire and snuck on to a ferry to Holyhead. Emboldened by their success, they avoided the ticket checkers and got on the train to London. Eventually they wound up at Heathrow airport.

They asked one passenger where his plane was going and on hearing that it was New York, they decided to take their chances. Telling anyone who asked that their parents were behind them, they passed the checkpoints and boarded the Air India plane.

“The plane was only half full so no one came near us,” he said. Their ease at slipping past the authorities was even more surprising given the fact that, two months earlier, an Air India jet had blown up off the southwest of Ireland, killing 329 people.

Byrne recalled being unable to eat a very hot Indian curry and watching the James Bond film A View to a Kill.

Their odyssey only came to an end when they left JFK airport and asked a policeman for the way “into town”. They were taken to a police station where they immediately became the centre of attention. Before they were sent home, they were put in a hotel suite with five security guards. “There was BLTs, chips, everything, fed us like lords. We loved it,” he said.

Their exploits made the front page of The Irish Timeson August 20th, 1985, and they featured in newspapers such as the New York Post.

Looking back now, he said the duo were “very streetwise” for their age and recalled that they had gone to Wales and Blackpool before. Byrne had been playing truant from school and was attending St Joseph’s Industrial School in Clonmel when they ran away.

He is now 35 and Murray is 37. Both still live in the north Dublin suburb but they don’t see each other much now. They took another jaunt to Blackpool after their epic trip but made sure to ring home on that occasion. They drifted apart in teenage years.

Byrne has a partner and two children now and worked in the building trade until the recession hit. Murray could not be reached for comment.

Byrne said he didn’t talk about the story much now “but if it’s brought up in conversation or whatever I’ll talk a little bit about it. It’s a happy experience.

“I don’t think there’d be any chance that you’d get away with it nowadays with everything that’s going on with the planes and the security that they have. They wouldn’t fall for that old trick of ‘my mam’s coming behind me’.”

He said he had never lost his sense of adventure. “I love travelling to different places and me and my partner go off on drives to Kilkenny and Carlow still and bring the kids off on walks around to experience the countryside.

“I still have that kind of adventurous side to me.”

Don’t Go Far . . . Your Dinner’s Nearly Ready, produced by Paul Russell and Ronan Kelly will be broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 at 2.02pm tomorrow.

ALISON HEALY