Patrick Byrne (c. 1794-1863)

Portrait of Byrne

Patrick Byrne was originally from Kingscourt, Co. Cavan, in the north-east of Ireland. He was blind, and on 20th February 1820 he enrolled in the Irish harp school, run by the Irish Harp Society in Belfast, under the tuition of Edward MacBride.

The school had originally started with Arthur O’Neill as tutor, and MacBride had been one of the earlier students under O’Neill, so Byrne's tuition was firmly rooted in the old Gaelic harp tradidion.

After eighteen months tuition, in the summer of 1821, Byrne was discharged from the Society and its school; and as a kind of graduation gift, he was presented with a harp “as an acknowledgment of his diligence and good deportment as a scholar of the house”. He lived in London for some years, and later moved to Edinburgh.

Patrick Byrne made a good career for himself, touring England, Ireland and Scotland to perform concerts and also to play at private engagements. He performed before Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and recieved a Royal Warrant in 1841.

In later life Byrne returned to Ireland, and lived at Farney, not far from his birthplace, where his patrons were the Shirley family of Carrickmacross, county Monaghan. He died on the 8th April 1863 at Dundalk. He was survived by two sisters, as well as by his brother who had emigrated to Minnesota, USA.