Type of entity
Authorized form of name
Byrne, John A, 1878-1961, Jesuit priest
Parallel form(s) of name
Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules
Other form(s) of name
- Johnny Byrne
- Byrne, John Aloysius
- Dolly Byrne
Identifiers for corporate bodies
Dates of existence
07 June 1878-03 June 1961
Born: 07 June 1878, Rathangan, County Kildare
Entered: 07 September 1896, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 27 July 1913, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1916, Clongowes Wood College SJ
Died: 03 June 1961, Our Lady's Hospice, Dublin
Part of the Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin community at the time of death
Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ
by 1901 in Vals France (LUGD) studying
by 1902 at Kasteel Gemert, Netherlands (TOLO) studying
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 36th Year No 3 1961
Fr John Aloysius Byrne (1878-1961)
Fr. John A. Byrne died on Saturday, June 3rd, after a fairly long illness. He had been failing for some years past and had, much to his dislike, to be sent to hospital a few times, when the professional care and his great powers of recuperation soon restored him to comparative health. But these powers were now exhausted. He grew weak, he could take no food, his memory grew very confused: and he passed away almost imperceptibly within a few days of his eighty-third birthday.
He was born at Rathangan in Kildare and was educated at Clongowes from which he entered the novitiate at Tullabeg in 1896. Here also, after his vows, he did his juniorate and then went on to Vals in France to do his philosophy two years later. He had a special gift for foreign languages and came to speak French like a native. In fact, he was one of the very few foreigners who were allowed to read at first table. His stay at France coincided with one of the periodical outbursts of anti-clerical legislation, by which the Society was exiled. He used to describe how the mayor with a posse of gendarmes came to promulgate the sentence which was resented by the local population. All the property, including the great library, had to be packed up and transported to the house fraternally given at Gemert in Holland. The scholastics had to make their way mostly on foot, staying at religious houses en route.
He did his colleges at Clongowes where he taught French with remark able success. Years afterwards middle-aged men would accost him as mon père - they were his old pupils. He was ordained at Milltown Park in 1913 and did his Tertianship at Tullabeg the first year of the first World War, where he had as a fellow Tertian the future Archbishop Chichester, In 1915 he returned to Clongowes as master where, with the exception of three years spent at Galway, 1923-26, he remained until 1931 when he was transferred to Rathfarnham Castle. Clongowes remained always for him his truest home in the Society; but it could be said that the Castle ran it close.
He spent thirty years at Rathfarnham. He was minister and procurator in the rectorships of Fr. T. V. Nolan and Fr. P. G. Kennedy. In 1942 he retired from the office of Minister but remained on as procurator for many years. By degrees he became an institution in the Castle. Generations of Juniors and Tertians came and went with whom he had much to do in one way way or another, All came to appreciate his kindness and friendliness. He became a great favourite with the community and the children at Loreto Abbey, where he often said Mass and heard Confessions. For years he attended the excellent concerts which are a feature of that school, and his speech of thanks and appreciation at the end was always one of the highlights of the entertainment. He was also much esteemed and liked by the Sisters of Mercy at the children's preventorium hospital at Ballyroan. He helped regularly at the parish Masses and was well known and esteemed by many of the neighbours.
Fr. “Johnny”, as he was universally known by “Ours”, was emphatically a community man. His interests were those of the house. He was always at his best at recreation. He usually managed to have some piquant or new contribution to make which he had picked up in the paper or from the wireless. He verified fully the demands of Nadal - he was religiously agreeable and agreeably religious. He was a regular subject for perfectly good-natured leg-pulling. He had a stock of stories and adventures which he told dramatically and which never failed to get their laugh even towards the end when he had to be prompted. At the concerts on St. John Berchman's day he was a necessary feature and always brought down the house by his song which he accompanied himself. One of his best “pieces” was the ordinary tone in French, which he rendered with hilarious effect. He was always very kind and considerate to the staff of the house and the children at the gate lodges and many other children from the village loved him.
He was a religious of very perfect observance; he was most particular in his attendance at all community duties. It always excited a certain surprise if he was not at the community dinner or litanies. He practised in his personal life a rigorous observance of poverty. He had much to do with others because of his different offices; he was always most obliging and more than willing to give any help he could. He seemed always to be at the disposal of others. In speech he was the most charitable of men. By St. James's estimate he was the perfect man. He never said an uncharitable or unkind word; he never showed any impatience. When something was said or done that seemed to call for condemnation his comment would be c'etait moins bien. This absence of sharpness and censoriousness, this kindness of mind for everyone, was his most gracious quality. R.I.P.
◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973
Father John Byrne 1873-1961
Fr John Byrne was born at Rathangan County Kildare in 1878, was educated at Clongowes and entered the Society in 1896.
The early part of his priestly life he spent as a teacher in Clongowes, a superb master of the French language, known to generations of boys as “mon père”.
The rest of his life, thirty years in all, he spent in Rathfarnham Castle, where he became quite an institution. He was a fine pianist and incomparable mimic, talents which he used for the entertainment of his brethern, contributing in no small way to enlivened recreation and oil the machinery of community life.
He was a most kindly and lovable person, known and dear to all the people in the vicinity of the Castle, and to all he ministered to in his long life at Rathfarnham. After a fairly long illness, his end came quietly on June 3rd 1961. A truly gentle and religious soul.
◆ The Clongownian, 1961
Father John Byrne SJ
John Augustine Byrne was born in Rathangan in 1878. He was one of a large family, nine sons and three daughters. Of his brothers, five beside himself were Clongownians, Joe (1890-94), Peter (1892-97), Harry (1893-98), Aloysius (1896-01) and Patrick A (1903-07). They were not only a large, but also a highly gifted family, whose members achieved distinction in various careers in after life. They had, however, the sorrow of losing two of their number at an early age, Ally and Paul Stanislaus, both killed in action in 1917, the former at Arras, the latter at Passchendaele.
John Byrne went from Clongowes to the Jesuit novitiate, then at Tullabeg. He remained on there for some years of study, and in 1900 went to commence philosophy at Vals near le Puy in the south of France. It was a crucial period for the Church in France. In the following year the Jesuits found their position made impossible by the Waldeck-Rousseau law against “unauthorised congregations”, and had to leave the country. The Toulouse Jesuits, with whom John Byrne was studying, took refuge in Holland, at first at Helmond and in 1902 in Gemert.
The year 1903 found Mr John Byrne as Third Line Prefect in Clongowes, but in the following year he was appointed to the two tasks most closely associated with his name, the teaching of French and direction of the choir. In 1910 he went to Milltown Park for theology and was ordained in 1913, After tertianship in Tullabeg, he was back at Clongowes for a long period, from 1915 to 1931, broken by three years in St Ignatius College, Galway. In 1932, he was appointed Minister of Rathfarnham Castle, where he spent the rest of his life.
It is thus seen that Father Byrne was some twenty-three years at Clongowes, as a boy, as a scholastic and as a priest, but it may also be said that, though the last thirty years of his life were spent away from Clongowes, his heart was always there. He maintained the keenest interest in all that concerned Clongowes, had a remarkable knowledge of the careers of the boys whom he had known there, and it was noted that in the last few months of his life his conversation constantly recurred to the college where he had been so happy and had given so much happiness to others.
I think that is the outstanding memory preserved by all of us who knew Father John, that he was a happy man and one whose happiness communicated itself to others, because it was the evidence of a kindly, simple, utterly unspoiled nature, inspired by a deep and genuine spirituality. My first recollection of him is when I was a small boy at Clongowes and he was a scholastic. Even allowing for the romantic aura that time casts over far-off days, I think I can truly say that I never recall a more beloved master. He had a rich endowment of the gifts that appeal to the young. Though not a very methodical teacher, he had the great gift of making us enjoy what we were learning. He spoke French like a native and had a keen appreciation of the genius of the French language; so we picked up without effort the phrases with which he bombarded us, usually accompanied by vivid dramatisation. He had a number of funny little ways for holding our attention. One was to point violently at one boy and simultaneously address a question to a boy at the other side of the room. It was all a bit unorthodox, but it was certainly “French without tears”.
Outside of class, he had many gifts that endeared him to us. He was a most talented musician. He played, to my knowledge, the violin, cello, double bass, clarinet and euphonium, in addition to the piano and organ, and had a quite extraordinary gift for improvisation. He had a fine baritone voice, and I can remember well a trio, “Memorare, O piissima Virgo”, occasionally sung by himself, Father John G Byrne and Father Dom Kelly. Of Father Byrne as choirmaster, I have one grateful, non-musical memory. As a small boy, I was making my way up to the choir on Sunday evening, when he met me on the stairs and pressed something into my hand, with a whispered injunction not to let the study prefect catch me eating it. It was a large slice of cake wrapped in a paper napkin, a welcome gift in those more Spartan days when sixpence a week was thought liberal pocket-money. Apart from his choir work, he was invaluable to the Line prefects in getting up concerts, and was always a welcome performer himself. Though of so delicate, almost frail build, he was a good all-round athlete, being a reliable half-back on the community soccer team, and at cricket a good bat and first-class fielder.
Some ten years later, I was back at Clongowes as a scholastic and found my old master on the staff again. Now, of course, I knew him in a different way, and could appreciate qualities that a boy would not discern. One of these was his whimsical sense of humour. It often took the form of recording, always in a kindly spirit, little scenes in Clongowes life of the past, introducing such familiar figures as Father Daly, Miss Ellison, the Matron; John Cooper, the butler; Knight or Simpson, the cricket professionals; Sergeant-Major Palmer, the drill instructor; Kit Doyle, the carpenter (always addressed by Father Daly as “Mr. Christopher”); Mattie Dunne, the smith, whose artificial leg fascinated and rather terrified us, and a host of others who stood out as only those do whom one meets in youth. These reminiscences might have been tedious to others, but I know that to me, both at that time and in much later years, they were a source of undiluted pleasure, bringing back in most happy vein the scenes of my boyhood.
Other, deeper qualities I also learned to value in Father Byrne during the period when we worked together, his deep, simple piety, his solicitude for the spiritual welfare of the boys, and above all, his complete unselfishness. He was one of those who could always be called on for help in the organisation of school entertainments or other extra-curricular activities. (In this connection, one must recall his skill as a scribe. He had a remarkable gift for engrossing ornamental headings for time-tables, class results, concert programmes, etc., and his beautiful script was in evidence all over the college.) Although of a sensitive nature, he was never out of humour or depressed, never reseniful of slights, always ready to make the best of things and of persons.
I fear that this tribute to my old master and colleague is somewhat disjointed and inadequate, but it is my best endeavour to do honour to the memory of one who did much to add happiness to my life as a boy and as a young master, and with whom I shared grateful affection towards our Alma Mater, To Father John Byrne's sisters, Miss Tessie and Miss Josie Byrne, and to his brother, Major Patrick A Byrne, we offer our deepest sympathies.
F McG SJ
Functions, occupations and activities
Mandates/sources of authority
Identifier of related entity
Category of relationship
Type of relationship
Byrne, John A, 1878-1961, Jesuit priest
Dates of relationship
Description of relationship
Access points area
Subject access points
Place access points
- County Kildare » Rathangan
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Rathfarnham » Rathfarnham Castle
- France » Occitanie » Vals
- County Offaly (King's) » Ballycowan (Bar.) » Tullabeg » St Stanislaus College
- Netherlands » Gemert » Kasteel Gemert
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Harold's Cross » Our Lady’s Hospice
- County Kildare » Clane » Clongowes Wood College SJ
- France » Cambrai
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Sandford Road » Milltown Park
- County Galway » Galway City » Sea Road » Coláiste Iognáid SJ
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