Byrne, Patrick J, 1908-1968, Jesuit priest

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Byrne, Patrick J, 1908-1968, Jesuit priest

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Other form(s) of name

  • Patch Byrne
  • Paddy Byrne

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Dates of existence

26 January 1908-13 March 1968

History

Born: 26 January 1908, Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin
Entered: 02 September 1925, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 27 August 1938, Ignatiuskolleg, Valkenburg aan de Geul, Holland
Final Vows: 02 February 1943
Died: 13 March 1968, Jervis Street Hospital, Dublin

Part of the St Francis Xavier's, Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin community at the time of death

Younger brother of Tommy Byrne - RIP 1978

by 1936 at Valkenburg, Limburg, Netherlands (GER I) studying

◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 43rd Year No 3 1968

Gardiner Street
The even tenor of our ways was rudely disrupted by the 'tragic death of Fr. Paddy Byrne in a road accident on the night of 12th March. A note on the circumstances of the occurrence, based on the horarium made out by Fr. B. O'Neill, a witness and almost a fellow-victim, is appended to the obituary account.
The remains were removed from Jervis Street Hospital on Thursday evening at 5.15. It was a moving and unique tribute to him from his old friends the Civic Guards of whose sodality he had been director. All the traffic lights in O'Connell Street were turned off (at the peak hour), the Guards on duty stood to attention as the cortege passed and saluted, all along the route to Gardiner Street. As someone remarked, it was a pity Fr. Paddy was not alive to see it.
The funeral took place on Friday morning after Office and Mass at eleven o'clock, to Glasnevin Cemetery. His brother Fr. Tom sang the Mass, with Fr. Superior as deacon and Fr. O'Neill as sub-deacon. Very Rev. Fr. Provincial presided. The Bishop of Nara, an old friend of the family, attended. The church was packed to overflowing. There was a very good representation of his old friends from Clongowes, from the Army, the Guards and, of course, all his clientele from his well-known box in the corridor. His death leaves a big gap in our midst in Gardiner Street for he was a great community man. A more detailed appreciation on him will be found in the Obituary notices.

Obituary :

Fr Patrick Byrne SJ (1908-1968)

Fr. Patrick Byrne was born in Dun Laoghaire (then Kingstown) on 26th January 1908. He was educated at O'Connell School, North Richmond Street, Dublin, and always maintained an affectionate loyalty to the Irish Christian Brothers. Paddy, along with his elder brother, Tommy, was an altar-server at Gardiner Street : thus his acquaintance with old vintage of Jesuit preachers eloquent orators who captivated the Dubliners of earlier generations went back very far and he could list their names for the edification of his own contemporaries. When Tommy had just completed his noviceship, Paddy entered the Society at Tullabeg.
After three years of juniorate in Rathfarnham and two years of philosophy at Tullabeg, he went to Mungret as a teacher for three years. He taught mathematics mainly, but also took some classes for Geography, Latin and other subjects. In 1935 he began Theology at the German house of studies, Ignatiuskolleg, Valkenburg, Holland, where he was ordained. He was one of the first group of tertians at Rathfarnham, the outbreak of war had occasioned the policy of having tertianship in Ireland instead of at St. Beuno's, Wales.
In 1940 Fr. Byrne returned to the colleges and served as an unremitting teacher of Mathematics at Mungret for two years and at Clongowes for twenty. In 1962 he was transferred to Gardiner Street, where he remained until he was accidentally killed at the end of the Novena of Grace this year.

• The following paragraphs give a memoir-sketch from the pen of a colleague.
Was it Chesterton who remarked that we, rational animals, make a fetish of consistency, whereas of all the animals we are inconsis tently the most inconsistent? That was true of Fr. Paddy Byrne known affectionately as “Patch” among his closer friends in the Society. He was a strong personality, a character, but a personality revealing on closer examination traits running counter to each other in a very human inconsistency.
Outwardly he was a rugged individualist, cynical, tough, hard boiled. Inwardly, deep down, he was of softer fibre, one might even say, over emotional. He had an intense love of the Society, especially Gardiner Street, and all that appertained to it, where in his early days he was an altar server. He had his heroes from those days, Fr. Bury, Fr. Tom Murphy, Fr. Kirwan. No one could now come up to their standards nor equal their achievements. Clongowes also had a niche in his heart; Clongowes where he spent upwards of twenty years teaching and looking after the grounds. Yet he could be fiercely critical of individual Jesuits, if in his opinion, they had let down the Society. Careerists and exhibitionists were anathema to him. His criterion of a good Jesuit was one who did a good day's work and work for him meant primarily work in the classroom. At the same time, he, himself, in the opinion of many was no great advertisement for the same Society, mainly owing to his manner of speech and carelessness about his personal appearance. This latter external fault sprang from his excessive love of poverty which often degenerated into love of economy. He could not stand anything that smacked of waste or extravagance among Ours : “Pouring the people's money down the drain” was his way of describing this. He took pride in the fact that the ordinary coat he wore in the house was over twenty year's old, a cast-off of Br. Corcoran's rescued at Clongowes. At the same time no priest could look more impressive than himself with his height and commanding presence when dressed and smartened up for an occasion, and his speech was always impeccable in his public utterances.
Though outwardly rugged in manner and facetiously cynical in his conversation - that exterior was his defence mechanism. It concealed a heart, tender (I do not exaggerate) to the point of pain. For his mother, whose photograph always held a place of honour in his room, he had a love and reverence that amounted almost to adoration. Her opinions and sayings he often quoted as oracular. For Mary, the Mother of God, he had such a tender devotion that he found it difficult to recite her litany in public without being moved and his voice breaking. This same emotional susceptibility appeared in his confessional work and in the parlour when on “domi”. The sad cases, the tragic stories all took their toll of him. He identified himself with his client, was never niggard of his time or sympathy. He had a special grá for defenceless widows and lonely spinsters, living on meagre pensions and apt victims of red tape and tricksters. During the few years he spent in Gardiner Street he endeared himself to the old women of the neighbourhood. Some saw in him a great resemblance to Spencer Tracy, the actor, others were reminded of the good Pope John. An old bicycle was his means of propulsion up to hospitals and off to remote side streets on errands of mercy and friendly interest. “I was rebuilding my house, Father”, one of his friends reminisced, “he'd often drop by and examine progress and make sure the contractors weren't cheating me”. Talking of his bicycle, an institution in Gardiner Street, his favourite pastime, apart from golf, was to go down to the docks on his warhorse and sit on the wharfs reading his office and chatting to the dockers. He had the human touch in excelsis : nil humanum illi alienum.
He used to say that his long years of teaching in Clongowes had unfitted him for church work. The fact of the matter is, the comparatively few years he spent in Gardiner Street brought out the basic pastoral traits in him. He was diffident of himself in his public appearances, yet his sermons and addresses to the various sodalities he directed in his time, were always meaty and genuinely appreciated by his audiences. His big appearance and naturally slow delivery lent weight and authority to his utterances. This was only to be expected, for he was of very high intellectual ability.
His years in the juniorate and University College, Dublin, were devoted to science and mathematics, during which period he had charge of the now-defunct seismograph. His regency was spent in Mungret. He was more at home in theology than in philosophy, both moral and dogma, in which disciplines he was at once clear, accurate and reliable. At the same time he took pride in his knowledge of farming. I suspect his secret ambition as a Jesuit was to be put in charge of a farm. His criticism of procurators of our farms was scathing, with perhaps one exception. He was adept with his hands with mechanical devices and electrical gadgets : his elaborate electrical invention for lighting cigarettes was a great source of amusement to his friends. His room was full of clocks he was mending for his clientele in the church. He was a fund of esoteric information on all subjects ranging from good recipes for the kitchen to cures for varicose veins.
His intellectual powers, however, were marred by two faults. Firstly he was never able to convey his ideas clearly to an audience. This was sometimes manifest in his teaching, in his relations with superiors, in social intercourse. He was inarticulate, spoke in unfinished sentences and gestures, with resultant impatience when the listener failed to understand. So he gave the impression of being supremely intolerant of fools. Paradoxically enough, he was master of the telling phrase, the quip, some of which will go down in history. Secondly, his intellect was impeded by deep prejudices. His years in Valkenburg imbued him with a horror of Nazism which coloured a great deal of his political thought. He blamed all the world's troubles on clumsy American diplomacy. It was futile to argue with him on matters Irish. As for innovations in the liturgy, he had no time for them. He had witnessed the beginning of this movement in Germany long before Vatican II and was not impressed. Indeed he never tired of hearing the story repeated of the old woman who asked her confessor, “Father, is it a mortal sin not to join in the shoutin' at Mass?” To many generations of Clongownians he was known as “The Genius”. Perhaps with the schoolboys unerring instinct to pinpoint a basic trait, they were right. He was a genius but cursed by an inability to express himself clearly, because from his early days he never disciplined that genius by writing. Whenever he did so (and it was torture) as in his sermons and addresses, he was precise and telling. He was a man of strong opinions with a weltanschauung, as he used to call it, which often enough gave rise to weltschmerz.
Yes, he was a character and his tragic passing creates a gap in Gardiner Street not easily filled. He will be missed too, by many young Jesuit priests of the Province to whom he was guide, friend and counsellor during their college days, Ours don't usually cry over the death of Ours but there were many who were not ashamed to drop a tear over “Patch”. Of the contradictory traits which went to make him what he was, his qualities of heart, sympathy and understanding, were basic and permeating. A man who succeeded in his time in winning the affection of his fellow Jesuits, in worming himself into the hearts of the people of Gardiner Street, was certainly of solid worth in that which is, after all is said and done, the essential, love of one's fellow men and he went before his master full of good works and fortified with the rites of the Church he loved and served so well. He loved a joke and I'm sure he'll give a wry smile as I suggest this epitaph-a parody of a phrase famous in rugby circles : “He went over the line, festooned with souls”. May he rest in peace.

12th March 1968 : Fr. Patrick Byrne, being on “domi” duty, was constantly called to the parlour during the afternoon and evening, He helped Fr. O'Neill in sorting out the Mass stipends and Br. Davis in counting the Novena of Grace offerings. He assisted in giving Holy Communion at the evening Mass. He presided over his St. Vincent de Paul Confreence meeting. Coming from a final parlour interview and confession at 11 p.m., he had a late supper in the refectory and went out with Fr. O'Neill for a breath of fresh air at the end of a tiring day. As they were crossing an apparently deserted street at the corner of Mountjoy Square, a van suddenly swept towards them at high speed. Fr. O'Neill saw the van, uttered a warning and jumped forward to the kerb, thinking that they were evading the danger together, but - “I heard a tremendous thud or impact and saw Fr. Paddy tossed into the air, turning over and landing on the pavement with a horrifying bump. I ran to him, called him by name, got some reaction and immediately absolved”. He had been struck on the head and must be on the verge of death. Fr. MacAmhlaoibh brought the oils from nearby Gardiner Street and gave the last anointing on the way by ambulance to Jervis Street Hospital. The medical and nursing staff made a supreme effort to save Fr, Byrne's life, until soon after midnight he was pronounced dead.

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830- (1830-)

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Byrne, Patrick J, 1908-1968, Jesuit priest

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