April 14, 2006
The late Toddie Byrne
The remarkable growth of Kinvara during the last 40 years owed much to the vision of dedicated locals, but the outstanding person among them was former County Councillor, Chairman of Galway County Council and Senator Toddie Byrne.
Toddie Byrne made significant contributions to life throughout County Galway, all marked by his preference for diplomacy, adroit judgement and friendly manner, but all indispensable for those developing areas such as education, politics, hurling and community within the county.
Born in 1934, Thomas (Toddie) Byrne got a wide grounding in education, first at St Joseph's Primary School and Kinvara Boy's National School and, then, at St. Mary's College, Galway, before proceeding to St. Patricks' College, Drumcondra, Dublin, where he trained as a National School Teacher.
He began his teaching career as Principal Teacher at Crossmolina, Co. Mayo. In that era, he promoted the positive aspects of community life, at time playing as a member of the Co. Mayo hurling team. His interests focused increasingly on the community life of Kinvara and surrounding district and, in 1960, he took up the position as Principal at Kilomoran National School.
Kinvara's community projects in those years were the development of a fully equipped hurling pitch, the expansion of Muintir na Tire and the establishment of Kinvara Handcrafts Co-operatives.
Toddie manfully "put the shoulder to the wheel" in all three areas becoming crucial to their operation. The hurling pitch was to become a splendid sporting resource. Muintir na Tire developed into the Community Council, its primary achievements being the construction of the Community Centre. The Handcrafts Co-operative flourished until its expansion into the mail order business was wiped out by effects of the six weeks postal strike in the mid-1960s, which drove it out of business.
Toddie Byrne's ambition was to strengthen the foundations of hurling throughout County Galway. He and others set in motion Coiste Iomana na n-Og in 1965. Just as that system continues to thrive, so does Galway hurling in the 21st century.
Toddie transferred from Killomoran N.S. to Doorus N.S. in 1977 and there he was Principal Teacher 'till his retirement in 1994. It was during that period that Toddie set about expanding the scope of the Kinvara Credit Union office at Main street, testifying to Toddie's significant role in developing that enterprise.
Toddie Byrne was an elected member of Galway County Council from 1967 to 1999. He was elected as member of Seanad Eireann for the 22nd and 23rd Dail, 1981/1982.
While Toddie's remains lay in Repose at his home in kinvara last Sunday, thousands of mourners - from throughout the county and beyond - paid their respects.
Fine Gael Leader, Enda Kenny TD led the Guard of Honour. Councillor Hynes, Mayor of County Galway, together with Alderman Brian Walsh, Mayor of Galway, led the Guard of Honour. Councillor Hynes in a special tribute said he had lost a lifelong friend and Galway had lost a leader of community effort.
Councillor Jarlath McDonagh, Whip of Fine Gael Group Galway Count Council and PRO of the Councillors' Association of Ireland, in a tribute said: "It was a sad week for the Fine Gael Party, following the death of John Mannion of Clifden earlier in the week and then the death of another party stalwart, Toddie Byrne of Kinvara. These two men served together for many years on Galway County Council, both being former Chairmen of the Council.
"Toddie Byrne was a gentleman in every sense of the word. A man with no enemies but many friends, held in highest esteem in educational, sporting and political circles."
Councillor McDonagh continued: "He was a tremendous party man and stood for Fine Gael in both Dail and Senad elections. He was elected to Galway County Council each time he stood. He served as Senator for one term.
"Toddie was particularly well-known and respected in education circles. A National Teacher by profession, he was ideally equipped to play a key role on Galway Vocational Education Committee. He was Chairman of the VEC for many years and served on numerous VEC boards.
Councillor McDonagh described how Toddie Byrne had helped him: "Toddie was a great friend to me personally. He played key roles in both of my elections to Seanad Eireann, giving wonderful advice and guidance, and spending weeks with me on the difficult Seanad Eireann campaigns. He rightly took pride in my two election successes, because, without Toddie, these two successes would not have come my way.
"Kinvara and, indeed, County Galway have lost a great educationalist, politician and GAA man. The Fine Gael Party has lost one of its finest sons. I, personally, have lost a great friend and colleague. We offer our deepest sympathy to his wife, Grainne, sons, daughters and extended family on their great loss," Councillor McDonagh concluded.
Frank Burke, Chairman, Galway County Board GAA, in a graveside oration, said that Toddie's fame as leader, teacher and officer would endure, as would the good he achieved in the GAA, in Kinvara and throughout the county.
He said: "The passing of Toddie Byrne is a source of great sadness to all Galway GAA and most praticularly to his colleagues on Kinvara. His quiet way, his dedication to working hard for others and his wonderful sense of community endeared him to everyone who had the privilege to share in his endeavours.
"Toddie is regarded as a real stalwart when it came to serving Kinvara GAA Club and the county. Firstly he worked hard in the mid sixties to secure and develop the club's splendid playing pitch and facilities, a huge achievement at the time. I know he was proud of the part he played in the creation of a hurling arena for the future generations. At this time also, he was a driving force in the foundation of Coiste Iomana na nOg and, for the forty years since, he was served Galway juvenile hurling with distinction.
"He was always willing to give his time and energy organising competitions, preparing pitches and presenting trophies. The work might be unheralded but Toddie saw its significance in the long term and crowned a lifelong association with underage hurling serving as Chairman for a period in the eighties and another in the nineties.
"In addition he coached his pupils in Killamoran NS and Doorus NS to great successes. The Killomoran success gave us our first glimpse of the then emerging stalwart Sylvie Linnane. In Doorus he produced historic successes on the double in hurling and football in the seven-a-side in 1984 and '85. I mention these because the progress of his pupils in life and in sport was his pride and joy.
"As a teacher he was highly regarded by his pupils, parents and colleagues. He was a tireless worker in and out of school and he never relented in his support and encouragement for what mattered most to him - people. He wore a mantle of humility, a gentle soul; and generous spirit befitting the loving husband, caring father, gifted administrator and exceptional community leader that was Toddie.
"In the Kinvara club, Toddie will be remembered fondly for his very special lifelong commitment. As a hurler he commanded the No. 2 berth on the successful junior side of '59. Off the field he served the club in every capacity from Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and Club Lotto Organiser. For over fifty years he played a central role in organising the club's juvenile teams and he was very proud of Gerry McInerney's contribution to Galway in the eighties and more recently the great performance of Ger Mahon, Shane and Connor Kavanagh and Alan Leech on Galway's recent successful underage campaigns. I recall too the years of local service he gave to the old South Board and I am pleased that in some way the great progress achieved by those nine clubs evolved from the solid foundations laid by Toddie and his colleagues.
"At County Board level his mild mannered approach, his integrity and his sound sense of judgement, fairmindedness and good organisation was appreciated by all. As a Chairman he was very skilled, never prone to excitedness of panic, he was always calm and calming as he invariably brought all sides towards consensus. I have no doubt that were it not for his commitment to public life he would have been a leading County Board Officer for many years. However he did serve as County Board Treasurer for a number of years and in the eighties he served as Vice- Chairman.
"At the County Convention in December 2005 Toddie was unanimously honoured as President of Galway County Board and in doing so we were pleased to acknowledge a very special contribution generously given. Today too I would like to reflect on his lifelong friendship with people like the late PJ O'Loughlin. Mattias MacDonnacha and Norman Rochford.
"On reflecting on his GAA endeavours there is one project that was on hand up to the time of Toddie's death. He had spent endless hours researching, compiling and recording the club's history. Aware of his illness we were all hoping he would see it published. However, we know that under the Chairmanship of his son Joe, Toddie's dream will be realised with a publication worthy of the man, his club and his life."
Jim Higgins, MEP, who spoke at the graveside, paid tribute to Toddie's contribution to the Fine Gale Pary. "He was admired across the political spectrum. He was Trustee of Gort Community School and Governor, Athlone Institute of Technology. His period as member of the County Galway VEC was one of great expansion in the field of education," he said.
Very Rev. Frank Larkin P.P., Chief Celebrant at the Requiem Mass at St. Colman's Church, Kinvara in a homily said: "Toddie gave of his time generously to all. He was blessed with a loving wife and family. He was interested in promoting the good in young people throughout his life, and his first love was hurling. He enjoyed meeting different people, in a wonderful Christian spirit. This Mass is a celebration of the harvest of his life, its store of grain of real value."
Concelebrants at the Requiem Mass were Very Rev. Canon Michael Kelly, P.P., Gort and Rev. Ned Casey, MSA CC, assisted by Very Rev. Canon Sean Flaherty, Administrator, Cathedral, Galway; Very Rev. Brendan Kelly, P.P., Lisdoonvarna; Very Rev. Pat Kelly, P.P., Ballyvaughan; Very Rev. Richie Higgins, P.P., Ardrahan; Very Rev. Martin McNamara, P.P., Kiltulla; Very Rev. Willie Cummins, P.P., Mervue, Galway; Very Rev. Christy O'Connor, P.P., Craughwell and Rev. Frankie Lee, C.C., St Patrick's, Galway.
The Readings were read by Frank Byrne (son) and Phil Leneghan (son-in-law) and Ronan Byrne(son) soloist.
The organist and leader of Kinvara Church Choir was Mary O'Shaughnessy. The Prayers of the Faithful were read by Vincent Byrne (brother) and Maura Fahy (sister). The gifts namely, crossword of the Irish Independent, family photo, cover of the 'History of Kinvara GAA, and the jacket of 'Neilan's Guide to the 22nd Dail", were presented by Shane, Liam, Megan and Gary Byrne (grandchildren).
Speaking to the congregation, Joe Byrne (son) said; "The greatest tribute to Toddie is the incredible send-off he is getting. I could imagine his comment on these huge crowds of people in Kinvara - elected in the 1st count. A great man to organise a Guard of Honour, I'm sure he never participated in any one like he got. It was particularly moving to all the young people of Kinvara who came to say goodbye."
He paid tribute to Toddie as a wonderful family man, husband, father, brother, grandfather, brother-in-law, uncle and cousin. "He was interested in all our projects. He was our friend and had a serious bond with us all. But yet, he was only a part of a double act, the other being our mother, an amazing woman who has been a supporting rock to us in the past few days.
"I can imagine the scene when the cortege arrives at Mount Cross. His parents at the gate to hug him. Paddy Colie will wonder if Enda had turned up at the funeral. He will meet Paddy Kelly, his great friend. At his final resting place, he will get a pleasant surprise, Estie Sexton on one side, Marty Fallon on the other, and Breda Mara Brogan in front. Toddie will be in good hands," Joe Byrne concluded.
Toddie Byrne is survived by his wife Grainne; by his sons, Joe, Ronan, Niall, Anthony, Garret (Kinvara) and Francis (Duniry); by his daughters, Deirdre Flean (Parthenay, France) and Mary Leneghan (Canterets, France); by his brother, Vincent (Limerick); by his sister, Muara Fahy (Ardrahan); by his son-in-law, ten grandchildren and by other relatives.
Courtesy of the Connacht Tribune
14 April 2006
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