Cathal O’Byrne

Life
?1876-1957 [b. Charles Burn]; b. and raised at Balmoral Co. Down, of parents from Co. Wicklow; worked in grocery at Beersbridge Rd., Ballymacarret; early and lasting friendship with Joe Devlin, then manager of Kelly’s Stores, Bank St.; joined Gaelic League in Belfast, and assoc. with Francis Bigger of Ard Righ and his associates incl. Alice Millgan, Ethna Carbery, and Roger Casement; widely engaged as singer and storyteller; A Jug of Punch and Christmas Wayfarers (both 1900); issued with Cahir Healy The Lane of the Thrushes: Some Ulster Love Songs (Dublin 1905), the fruit of a collaboration; contrib. Padric Gregory’s Modern Anglo-Irish Verse (1914); issued The Grey Feet of the Wind (Talbot Press 1917), is a selection of his work; contrib. to Franc Williams, ed., Ireland’s Saturday Night as columnist-author of “Mrs. Twigglet’s Weekly Letter”; wrote plays, The Cherry Bough, The Returned Swank, as well as The Burthen [q.d.] which was performed in Belfast; stage-manager of Ulster theatre; acted in Gerald MacNamara’s Thompson in Tir na nÓg; involved with the IRA, possibly as member of military council; travelled to America, 1921 worked as freelance journalist and singer of Irish material and opened bookshop there; raised $100,000 through White Cross for victims of Belfast pogrom, resulting in the rebuilding of Amcromi St., Belfast, 1920s; returned to Ireland during the Depression having lost all his savings, intended to fund a bookshop in Dublin; settled with a sister at 43, Cavendish St., Belfast, 1929; conducted column devoted to Belfast and environs in Irish News (Belfast), later collected as As I Roved Out (1946), a frequently-quoted source of literary and historical information; issued Pilgrim in Italy (1930) reflecting his experience as a devout Catholic, incl. an interview with the Pope; issued The Gaelic Source of the Brontë Genius (1933) and From Far Green Hills (1935), a collection of stories of persons in the New Testament; issued The Ashes on the Hearth (1949), stories about historical figures; remained unmarried; writings display occas. homo-erotic tendency; noted as for dandified dressing, incl. a spacious red moustache, saffron tartan, finger-rings, and an occasional wig; passed three year’s in Nazareth House, Ormeau Rd., Belfast; suffered stroke a month before his death; d. 1 Aug; requiem at St. Paul’s, celebrated by Bishop of Down and Connor; bur. Milltown Cemetary; As I Roved out was one of the first books that Gerry Adams ever read. OCIL

Works
Poetry
, A Jug of Punch and Christmas Wayfarers (both 1900); with Cahir Healy, The Lane of the Thrushes: Some Ulster Love Songs (Dublin: Sealy 1905), 63pp. Fiction, The Grey Feet of the Wind (Dublin: Talbot Press 1917); From Far Green Hills (1935); The Ashes on the Hearth (1949). Miscellaneous, Pilgrim in Italy (1930); Sources for the Irish Genius of the Brontes (Sands 1933), 45pp. [var. The Gaelic Source of the Brontë Genius]; As I Roved Out in Belfast and District (Dublin: Three Candles 1946; rep. Blackstaff 1982, 1990) [infra].

Bibliographical details
As I Roved Out in Belfast and District, by Cathal O’Byrne, ill. from drawings by Raymond Piper (Dublin: At the Sign of the Three Candles 1946),and Do. [another edn.], foreword John Hewitt (Belfast: Blackstaff 1982, 1990), 450pp.; dedicated ‘by the author to the memory of his lifelong friend Francis Joseph Bigger of Ard Righ, historian, aarchaeologist and antiquarian, whose erudition, generously shared, made the writing of it possible’. CONTENTS: The Street of The Butchers [1]; Donegall Place [5]; A Stroll Around the Town [9]; Castle Place and Its Castle [11]; bank lane [15]; Old St Mary’s in Chapel Lane [18]; Chichester Street or South Parade [22]; In High Street Long Ago [26]; The Street of the Fountains [29]; Ann Street and Its Entrys [30]; Donegall Street [34]; The End of the Town [37]; Carrick Hill [41]; Smithfield [44]; In North Street [48]; In Rosemary Lane [51]; Frederick Street [55]; A Story of Barrack Street [57]; Mill Street and Old Manor Mill [59]; Tradition and the Falls Road [64]; How Belfast Streets Got Their Names [67]; Stage Coaches [70]; The Dublin Coach [74]; A Stage Coach Driver’s Whip [78]; When O’Connell Came to Belfast [81]; Thomas McCabe of Vicinage - an Irish Slave [85]; A Belfast Merchant [88]; A Bishop and His House and Times [91]; Thomas Russell and The Old Linen Hall [95]; The Belfast Minister Who Made the Muskets Rattle [99]; Jimmy Hope of Brown Square [103]; James McGucken Informer [106]; Sophia Neilson - Her Sampler [108]; The Northern Star [111]; Barney Maglone of The Old Morning News [115]; Italian Art in Old Belfast [119]; Dean Swift and Waring Street [122]; They Once Came to Belfast [126]; King William Came to Belfast [129]; A Famous Belfast Hostelry [134]; The Market House at Corn Market [138]; The Old Poorhouse, Clifton Street [141]; Some Graves in Clifton Street Cemetery [144]; Stranmillis and Its Pleasant Stream [148]; The Friar’s Bush [150]; At Molly Ward’s Locks [153]; Some Memories of Ormeau [1157]; Master McGrath [161]; Belfast’s Unruly Rivers and Waters [163]; The Black Water [167]; Belfast’s Old Long Bridge [170]; The Chapel by the Ford [174]; Belfast Goes to the Play [178]; May Street and Its Music Hall [182]; Sunday Concerts [184]; Old Street Singers [186]; Ireland’s First Moving Pictures [190]; Irish Harp Music in Old Belfast [193]; Gaelic Scribes in Old Belfast [196]; The Irish Language in Old Belfast [199]; Dargan’s Island [202]; The Old Museum [205]; The Glass Makers [208]; Clay Pipe Making [210]; Fines And Taxes [213]; Bang Beggars [217]; Hunger Riots [220]; The Slums of Belfast [222]; Belfast and the Slave Trade [226]; Body-snatching [229]; The Fairies [231]; Some Stories of Old Cave Hill [235]; Cave Hill and a Love Story [238]; The Colin Mountain Mass Horn [241]; A Highwayman on Colin Mountain [245]; The Shrine of St. Patrick’s Bell [248]; The Shrine of St. Patrick’s Hand [251]; Old Belfast Street Directories [255]; The Belfast Daily Times 1872 [258]; The Belfast Evening Citizen 1875 [263]; The Red Hand of the O’Neills [266]. Illustrations: Cathal O’Byrne [front. photo. port.]; Telfair’s Entry [facing p.32]; Old Rosemary Street Church [48]; Courtyard in Hercules Place (garfield street) [69]; The Old Toll House (with Orangemen retuming from ‘The Field’)[128]; Clifton House [144]; The Old Long Bridge [170]; Smithfield [208]; Carrick Hill Place [224].

Variant titles: The Retired Swank and The Returned Swallow are the same, viz, The Returned Swank: A One Act Comedy [Info. supplied by Richard Kirkland, Keele Univ.]

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Criticism
Richard Kirkland, Literature and Cuture in Northern Ireland since 1965: Moments of Danger (London: Longman 1996); Kirkland, Cathal O’Byrne and the Northern Revival in Ireland, 1890-1960 (Liverpool UP 2006), 224pp. Also Kirkland, [article/q. title], in Bullán: Journal of Irish Studies, IV, 2 (Winter 1999/Spring 2000), pp.67-82.

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References
John Cooke, ed., Dublin Book of Irish Verse 1728-1909 (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis 1909), supplies no bio-dates but selectes “Grainne” [‘Forth from the twilight of a wood she came ... And chaunted “Diarmuid” to the mossy stones’]; “Eire’s Awakening” [‘Saw you the wraith-light flicker and fail, / Men of the glens ... Eire’s mourning ... Eire’s sleeping ... Eire’s [a]waking’].

Hyland Catalogue (1995) lists From Far Green Hills, to which is added The legend of the Tree of Life (1st edn. Dublin 1935)

British Library holds From for green hills [with] The legend of the tree of life by the same author (Dublin: Browne and Nolan 1935), short stories; As I roved out: a book of the North, being a series of historical sketches of Ulster and old Belfast by Cathal O’Byrne [c1946] (Belfast Blackstaff 1982), on Belfast region, 1900-1946.

Belfast Public Library holds Gaelic Source of the Bronte Genius (1933); The Grey Feet of the Wind (1917); Pilgrim in Italy (n.d.); As I Roved Out (1946); Ashes on the Hearth (1948), Burthen and The Retired Swank (n.d.).

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Notes
Hewitt’s copy: In his foreword to As I Roved Out (rep. ed. 1982), John Hewitt mentions holding The Lane of Thrushes (Dublin: Sealy 1905) in his personal library and further cites poetry collections: The Grey Feet of the Wind, and Christmas Wayfarers; also dramas: The Burthen; The Returned [?]Swallow; and The Cherry Bough. The copy of the work in the Hewitt Collection of the University of Ulster contains pencil notes listing poems by O’Brien identified in another copy dated at 9.7.1910, as follows: 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 14, 16, 21, 22, 24, 26, 28, 31, 32, 35, 39, 41, 43, 46, 48, 51, 54, 55, 57, 71 [END].

Local authority: As I Roved Out (1942, & edns.) is frequently cited in the Belfast Linen Hall Library Catalogue as the source of information on Ulster and particularly liteary and historical associations with Belfast.

Sub-fusc: As I Roved Out (1942, & edns.) is regarded as sub-literary by Patricia Craig and consequently excluded from her anthology, Rattle of the North (Blackstaff 1992).

Our debts: A paper supplied by Richard Kirkland the source of much information in “Life”, supra.

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