A Celebration Of The Life Of My Mother – Kathryn O’Reilly (August 3rd 1927 – August 1st 2012)

“… indispensable in every way.”

Mum Youth

A special Mass for Mum will be held at St. Patrick’s Church, Monkstown, Co. Dublin at 6.00pm Saturday 1st August 2020 (two days before what would have been her 93rd birthday). The 1st August marks the eighth anniversary of her passing.

August 3rd 1927

A cursory look at the newspapers on this day reveals news all about what was going on up in the air:

In Germany two Junker pilots had flown a Junker W33 airplane for a new distance world record – taking 54 hours and 22 minutes.

Here at home on this the eleventh anniversary of Roger Casement’s execution at Dail Eireann (The Irish Parliament) was debating cracking down on the ‘insurgents’, who days earlier had assassinated Kevin O’Higgins, the Vice President.

For us seated here today the mere fact Dail Eireann was even sitting in August is probably the most revealing part of this story!

An unremarkable day so far?
Well, not quite.
Up at the Goffs Bloodstock Sales in Ballsbridge a horsey friend approached bloodstock auctioneer James Byrne Senior to congratulate him.
James, acknowledging the good wishes with his usual aplomb, thought the man was referring to his recent sale of a fine looking filly (a young female horse too young to be called a mare).

“No James, I am not talking about a horse. Your wife has just given birth to a baby daughter!!

50 miles away in Kilcullen, Mary ‘Min’ Byrne was resting upstairs in Byrne’s Hotel (later famously known as ‘The Hideout’ Pub) having just given birth to our treasured Mother –


What appears to have been a rather run of the mill day was indeed very special.

Happy 85th Birthday Mum!

Taking on the onerous task of summarising the life of our dearest mother (your Aunt, your friend, my very best friend) here and now will not do justice to the charming, gracious, humourous, beautiful and very loving woman that is Kathryn.

My two brothers (William and Conor) and I know that everyone of you here today holds a very special memory of our mother – with plenty of humour attached.

So, to share the joy that is our mother Kathryn, after the (cremation) service at Mount Jerome, we sincerely wish to invite all our mother’s friends (Our Friends), and relatives here today to come up to our house in Tivoli Close. We have arranged for Cafe de Journal on The Crescent here in Monkstown to provide catering and you will also have a chance to view our mother’s magical garden!!

Regarding our mother Kathryn words come to mind which I expect will strike a chord, evoke a memory.

    • Mum’s husband, our father, Liam. Their engagement was announced on 12th July 1952, and they married six months later, on 15th January 1953, in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin.
“The bride wore a gown of oyster slipper satin, with an old Limerick lace veil and a diamanté coronet..” According to the Irish Times: “The bride wore a gown of oyster slipper satin, with an old Limerick lace veil and a diamanté coronet..”
The 15th January 1953 marriage of Mum and Dad in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin.
The 15th January 1953 marriage of Mum and Dad in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin.
    • Mum’s brothers Jim and Tom Byrne; her sister Maureen; her “adopted” brother Barney Byrne, who living in Hong Kong survived as a prisoner of war in Hong Kong and Japan.
    • Mum’s schools – Loreto Abbey Dalkey (from the age of six years old, a school she ran away from twice. Following the outbreak of the second world war she recalled seeing German aircraft from her school, which overlooked Dublin Bay, while all the windows at night were covered with heavy blackout curtains. The close proximity of the school to potential bombing raids prompted her parents to transfer her to; Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) School Newtown Barry, Bunclody, Wexford About FCJ Convent & School Bunclody; a school she loved, and where she excelled in music and sports. As Captain of her school hockey team she was fondly referred to a “Legs Eleven”. She completed her schooling years at Loreto Abbey Rathfarnham, in Dublin.
Newtown Barry 1st XI Hockey Team, 1943. Legs Eleven, Back Row 3rd from left. Newtown Barry 1st XI Hockey Team, 1943. “Legs Eleven” stands back row 3rd from left.
    • Fashion– Spontaneously creative, having personally designed many of the striking dresses, blouses, and jackets that she wore with an almost effortless ease, there was always elegance and appeal in the way our mother presented herself. She had trained in “beauty and sales” in Harrods and worked as a fashion model in London (living in St. Mary’s Convent, Institute of the Blessed Virgin, Fitzjohns Avenue, Hempstead, and in Bath), and here in Dublin with Henry White. She also worked as a colour coordinator and fashion and design consultant for the nylon hosiery manufacturer Berkshire Knitting Mills in Newtownards, County Down, Reading Berkshire. Her proud horsey father, James, loved to quip to his daughter that she had “a fine pair of fetlocks” (horsey-speak for ankles)!
    • Fragrance – YSATIS de Givenchy.
    • Music – Mum studied music from childhood. Soon after leaving school, in 1946 two nineteen year old ladies were offered life changing opportunities to study singing in Rome. When Mum asked her brothers for the £200 she needed to fund her studies they took the wind out of her sail, fretting over the amorous intentions of Italian men and the dangers of a young woman travelling to a newly formed Republic of Italy still numbed and severely damaged by war. Presumably, as was commonplace for a well brought up Irish woman at that time, she was expected to stay at home and wait for the ideal future husband to come along.  A life-changing moment for Mum, given that the second lady sold her pony and went to become Ireland’s ‘Grande Dame’ of singing. My two brothers and I are absolutely delighted that Mum’s life-long friend Dr. Veronica Dunne (“Auntie Ronnie”) is here with us today (Mum and Ronnie were born within a day of each other, August 3rd 1927).
    • Entertaining – Mum had a deep and genuine interest in everyone she met – people from all walks of life. She was one hell of a party organiser: Ambassadors, Taoisigh, or just our neighbours. I know you’ll have a smile when you recollect Kathryn’s talent for quickly putting complete strangers at ease whether in Knockbrack, Avoca Lodge, Tudor House or Moorefield.
    • Painting – Mum loved her painting, especially her classes with Alma (Brayden), Margaret (Margetsen), and Bernie (Lyons). It didn’t matter what the end product looked like (despite sometimes getting up at 3:00am to add a dab here and a touch-up there) – she loved colours and new ideas.
    • WritingMum loved the English language, in her free time writing with a modest yet thoughtful expression which – whether a letter to her dearly-loved children, or an opinion piece for a fashion or societal magazine – always portrayed her deep sense of humanity and compassion. In an article written for the journal of Irish Women’s Political Association titled The Gamines (Los Gaminos) of Bogotá‘ she asked: “And what of us safely ensconced in the faraway ‘developed’ worlds of Europe and America? What responsibility do our affluent societies bear for the prevalence and maltreatment of Bogotá’s disposable street children?” (Source / read more: http://wp.me/s15Yzr-2593)
    • Literature
    • Interior decorating –  Mum’s eye for fashion, intuitive sense of style and her ability to create/recreate were subject to a constant stream of compliments, regarding the way she designed our family home and how good her taste was when it came decorating and updating old furniture, undertakings which she loved.
    • Company director – Her father-in-law Dr. MW O’Reilly observing Mum’s capacity for “listening” appointed her to the Board of Directors in two of the many companies he established in Ireland.
    • Cooking – The Coffee Cakes, the Guinness Cake, and, of course, the Brown Bread. Mum derived enormous pleasure from her delicious cooking. I plan to spend a lot of time studying her all-embracing cookery book collection, which stretches back to the days of her grandmother.
    • Gardening – As you can see from the photo at the back of the Mass pamphlet, our mother, born under the sun sign of Leo, loved gardening (the garden was where she felt closest to God). She could reel off the Latin names of the flowers and shrubs which emblazoned her magical garden – and her Eden was always alive in a myriad of colours and chorus of chirping birds.
    • Travel – Honeymoon in Paris, Nice and Italy; UK, especially London, and Berkshire where her boys went to school; Mauritius (de Froberville and du Maurier families); Ecuador, Columbia and Venezuela (British Ambassador John and Jenny Hickman, British Ambassador Jock and Molly Taylor) – [In Ecuador she was also a guest of elder statesman Galo Plaza Lasso (former President of Ecuador), and developed a deep interest in the many unknown tribes of the dense rain forests of  Oriente region of eastern Ecuador]; Florida and New York; The Hague, Bonn, and East Berlin (British AmbassadorJock and Molly Taylor); pate, cheese and wine Tour de France (Mum driving, Niall navigating); China, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore (Niall).
    • Rugby – A forthright armchair supporter and at times severe critic of the Ireland and Leinster rugby teams, especially when seated in front of a glowing fire on a cold winter’s afternoon armed with a mug of Barry’s tea.
    • Family Nest– Her welcoming “Moorefield” (Our home) – her ‘red room’, books and the warm cozy fireplace, her time-honored glowing Christmas, replete with tradition, her love of antiques, Muffin I and II (the family dogs), her car…
    • Devotion – Mum’s absolute devotion to God and Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.
    • FamilyOur Mother’s primary love, her reason for being, was her family.
    • Husband – A devoted wife to our dear father Liam who passed away on Tuesday May 8th 1973.

In one of our numerous conversations about her formative years, before she married Liam, Mum told me both a medical student as well as a doctor friend proposed to her within the period of a week, and in her innocence, not wishing to upset them, said “yes” to the both of them. She didn’t even know they had being courting her. Of course, when her mother Min found out there was holy war!

    • Following the death of our father Liam, 39 years ago, Mum devoted herself to the sole purpose of ensuring the well-being of her children. Throughout this period she endured many hardships and impediments, but kept persisting through fear, confusion and loneliness, always placing her children first. Life was hard, but Mum was harder!

Right to her last breath – HER BOYS WERE HER LIFE!

Kathryn was simply a wonderful mother, true friend, and close confidante, indispensable in every way. She loved her community of dear friends from all walks of life, and it is this trait that brings us all here today to celebrate the life of our mother on her birthday.

Finally, William, Conor and I wish to extend our genuine and heartfelt appreciation to all the staff of the Blackrock Clinic, as well as two fantastic family friends – Kevin O’Donnell and Maura Fennell – and Father Maurice O’Moore (Chief Celebrant at Mum’s funeral mass) for all your devoted and steadfast support during these very sad days.

Mum, heaven was made for you!

May you rest in peace!”

The gap left in a home from the loss of a mother just cannot be replaced.

Sources: A few words about our Mother as written and delivered by me at the Requiem Mass to Celebrate the Life of Kathryn O’Reilly, at St. Patrick’s Church, Monkstown Village, Saturday August 4th 2012, 10 am.

– Kathryn O’Reilly Curriculum Vitae as handwritten in the early 1980’s.

– Official announcement, removal and funeral arrangements: https://notices.irishtimes.com/18518475 , http://www.announcement.ie/18534229?s_source=digi_inde and http://www.rip.ie/death_notices_detail.asp?NoticeID=170127

– Pamphlet for Requiem Mass To Celebrate The Life Of Kathryn O’Reilly, St. Patrick’s Church Monkstown Village Saturday 4th August 2012 10am

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2020 2020


49 Replies to “A Celebration Of The Life Of My Mother – Kathryn O’Reilly (August 3rd 1927 – August 1st 2012)”

  1. “Thursday, August 02, 2012
    The passing of Kathryn O’Reilly (Byrne)
    It is with a great personal sadness that your editor records the death of his aunt Kathryn O’Reilly (nee Byrne), my late father’s younger sister.

    In her early 80s, she passed away last evening in the Blackrock Clinic after a short illness.

    Kath was the widow of the late Liam O’Reilly, and is survived by her elder sister Maureen and her sons William, Niall and Conor, daughter in law Dervil, and an extended family.

    For now, pending reflection on her life, all I can say is may she rest in the peace she so richly deserves.

    Kath, you loved much, and lived in life’s strongest tides. We will all miss you.”

    Source: http://kilcullenbridge.blogspot.ie/2012/08/the-passing-of-kathryn-oreilly-byrne.html

  2. “I was so sorry to hear the very sad news about Kath. My father had told me a week or so ago that she was not well… I wanted to send our deepest sympathies to you all at this time.

    Kath will be sorely missed by her friends and neighbours. She was a unique and very talented woman, always refreshingly direct and outspoken. She was a wonderful friend to my mother, and I know she missed her greatly over the past eighteen months, and she had a special relationship with my father. He always made outrageous comments that she would lap up. She was one of the only people who would chastise my mother for her blind adoration of her two poodles, siding with me on many an occasion as we discussed Barker’s true ‘biting’ character! She was wonderfully welcoming of Mamar when he joined our family, and often told me how lucky I was to have him and that I was to look after him. She was a wonderful support to us all during my mother’s long illness, and during some very difficult times, and I always knew she was there to tell me the ‘real’ story about what was going on, particularly when I was so far away.

    She was the person who first suggested I study Russian. I remember her sitting in our kitchen one day as I struggled with my CAO form and in her usually blunt way she said: “You’re good at languages. You should do Russian. It’s all opening up over there.” That choice of studies was certainly one of the defining ones of my life and I have never regretted the decision.

    She took a particular interest in my children, and I think saw them as almost her own grandchildren. Juliette, my eldest, was very taken with her, I know, and they always had long conversations every time I was home. The last time, just after the birth of Sylvia, she came over with books for the kids, books that we have read over and over again over the past few months.

    I loved hearing Kath’s tales about her youth and the pranks they got up to. It find it difficult to believe that when I come home in just a few weeks time she will no longer be there to call round for a cup of coffee, just back from walking the dog or after some gardening and ready for a good gossip. She had a wonderfully young spirit Kath and was always great company.

    I find it incredible to think I saw Kath gardening and mowing her grass when I was last home – in January or February – looking typically Kath, trim and smart and always so beautifully turned out in her well-cut trousers, perfect makeup and coiffed hair. They don’t make them like that any more.

    I know Kath was so proud of her boys, and she always told us at length of your latest ventures and successes. I know her vivaciousness and joie de vie lives on in you all.

    I am so sorry that I cannot be there for her funeral. My father will represent us all and we will be thinking of you.

    Our deepest sympathies”

  3. “..I’m very sorry to hear about your mother Kathryn. She was a great woman from what I know about her…”

  4. “…Please accept my condolences. I did meet your mother various times back in the 80s when William lived with me briefly and I remember her from prep school days. My experience from losing my own mother many years ago it is the deepest loss I have known. I remember her as bright, sparky and witty. She had a good long life and I am sure in many ways that was due to you three sons.”

  5. “..I can’t tell you how sad it is to hear of Kath’s passing – she was so full of life when she came recently to a memorial gathering and celebration of my mum ‘s life in Monkstown – only about 2 months ago. We had a great chat and I promised to come visit her– and I do regret that I didn’t manage to do this.

    Heartfelt condolences to you all and all thoughts and prayers are with you today – on her birthday. What a great ‘rounding up’ of a life. My father also died on his birthday back in 1975 – amazing how this happens…”

  6. “Niall,

    I’m very sorry to hear that news; she was a great person and I’m sure you’ll have many very happy memories of her.

    Please accept my apologies in advance for not attending the funeral as I’m away…”

  7. “Dear Niall,

    I am so sorry to hear about your Mum. I understand from Shane, who met her a few years ago, that she was still very much the elegant lady that I knew all those years ago. It must be comforting to know that she had a short illness.

    As a young guy, she was such a breath of fresh air compared to most other parents, as she never treated us as kids. She was always full of humour. I am only sorry that I didn’t make the effort to see her in the last few years, but that does not diminish my fond memories of her.

    She was one of a kind.”

  8. “..We are so very sorry to hear about your mother’s passing. It must have been a great comfort to her to have you there.

    We were very lucky to meet her last year. We spent a lovely few hours with her at your home, and we thought she was a wonderfully warm, charming and vibrant woman.

    Our deepest condolences to you and your family”

  9. “I am so saddened to see your news.

    Our deepest condolences to you and your family.

    Please let me know if there is anything I can do.”

  10. “I am so sorry.

    Your mother was one of the most elegant and beautiful ladies I have ever known. Such dignity.

    My sincere condolences.

    Best Regards


    PS Niall you may not have heard but my own wife Kista passed away on the 16th July.”

  11. “A wonderful lady

    Condolences from the Pxxx family – what a wonderful lady she was and this sad news has brought back many wonderful memories from my childhood.

    May she rest in peace and much love to you all.”

  12. “Very sad to learn of your mother’s death. May she rest in peace. I have very fond memories of her and send my sympathies to you and all your family on Behalf of Maire and Myself and family. We are in France at the moment and will, regrettably, not be able to make it to the funeral. I look forward to catching up with you soon in HK or Hangzhou.

    With sincere sympathy and best regards,”

  13. “On behalf of Grace and myself sincere condolences with your (and yours) loss.
    I had hoped to send you a picture shot in the Mandarin Hotel with Grace, your mom …. Was a fantastic picture. You can read your mom’s character from the image; strong, warm, compassionate.. . I vividly remember that tea-drink we had. She left a great impression on us (grace and myself).
    You can be proud having had such a mom, such a role model.
    We know it’s going to be hard for you accepting this loss.
    Wishing you strength coping with the pain.
    If there is anything we can do for you, please let us know.”

  14. “Kath was a great friend of my sister Diana Bruce. Whenever I stayed in Diana’s house I would meet and chat with your mother. When Diana was ill and later after her death, Kath would bring gorgeous freshly baked bread and Chutney which was very much appreciated.

    Kath was a most vivacious and genuine person, though I only met her occasionally, I will always remember her kindness. She will be much missed. My thoughts are with you all at this sad time.

  15. “..I am deeply deeply sorry to hear about your mother’s passing. She looked like a kind, graceful and intelligent lady. It’s wonderful that she was your best friend.

    My feelings are with you. Please take good care…”

  16. “From the time I was a Page at Aunty Kath’s wedding… she was always very kind to me and to many people around her… We will all miss her very much.”

  17. “..We are so very sorry to hear of the passing of your beloved Mother. She was such a beautiful woman and I know you will miss her dearly. Our heartfelt sympathies to you all. So sorry we could not attend the funeral…”

  18. “.. My profound condolence to you. I trust your mom has been residing in God’s homeland peacefully and joyfully, for she had made her best in her life, with a strong heart, being a firm pillar to her family members….”

  19. “..She loved you all so dearly and she was such fun to be with. She always made me laugh and always saw the positive….”

  20. “.. Am really very sad not to have been with you, and thought about you and her so much since we spoke. ….. Our talk was always about you all and the experiences we had together during our time in Ireland and also in Ecuador. I did see her once at your present house, and stayed the night there. She was always going to show me how to make her lovely soda bread, but we never got round to making it – probably talking too much!

    She so missed her Avoca Lodge, and when we talked on the phone, reminisced a lot about the happy times she’d spent there. She was so looking forward to you coming back and was counting the days.

    It was such a shock hearing the news….. She had been so much her usual self, animated and funny, and with a memory sharp as a knife about everything when I last spoke to her, and our talk was about when she was coming home, and waiting for the Consultant to decide what was needed to be done. I was unclear exactly what the problem was…… She said she’d come in for a much-needed rest…”

  21. “.. I know how much you loved your mom and how proud she was of you and all of your accomplishments and adventures. She was a great lady.

    My father died a few years ago and even though we knew it was coming, it was still a huge shock. I miss him every day and know that you will miss your mom. Hang in there- the first bit is the most difficult part. Bushmills should be taken liberally as required. My brothers were a big comfort and I know your brothers will be to you…”

  22. “…I remember Kath as always having a smile on her face, being good-humoured and full of fun. It was wonderful to meet her and have a good old chat again 5 years ago, at my mother’s funeral. In form true to her, she invited us to ‘pop’ in to her anytime, should we be passing by! Sadly, this never happened. I have very clear and fond memories of Kath, at the wonderful drinks parties that my parents would throw. When I was really small Kath used to have me in hysterics laughing when she talked to me in a really childish voice! We joked about this 5 years ago!…”

  23. From Colm N.
    “..Thinking of you at this Introspective period of life .. The passing of a parent. My Father died 3 years ago this December and it’s hard to describe the feelings that coursed through me during that period of my life.
    I wish you and your siblings well…”

  24. “We are so sorry to hear of your sad loss. It is very hard to lose someone you love. Mothers are very special people, and I am sure you have lots of happy memories of your mum and your childhood.”

  25. i am very sorry to hear your lost niall, but in some ways lets think its the start of new beggining.

  26. “As you know, I was very fond indeed of Kath, and am very very sad to hear that she has passed away – she was such a tremendously warm and vital person always, and a valiant one too.”

  27. “I am so grieved to hear of your mother’s death ……
    I have so many great memories of her (and of all of you). Avoca Lodge, which was such a special place for me when we lived in Ireland. I was a teenager then, but your mother always paid me the great compliment of treating me like an adult, and she made me feel special, and grown-up…. And she remained a friend because of that. My first adult friend. I remember the times when she came to Ecuador, and had a something of a flirtation with Lord Carrington (it was all quite innocent of course!); and also the time more recently when I came over to Dublin and just rang her up out of the blue and she took me for lunch at Bewleys……
    Above all I remember what hugely good fun Kath was – always the life and soul of the party! Generous with the drinks (loved her for that!). But such a tremendously kind person, too. When Ewart-Biggs was blown up she was the first one on the phone to my mother, and took us all in (us three children), I seem to remember. Was absolutely there – this absolute rock – during those terrible times.

    I know that things were very difficult for her in later years (and heaven knows they can’t exactly have been easy after your father died) – but she was a valiant lady and never let it show. A valiant, good, kind person. With a wicked sense of humour!

    I loved her and shall miss her greatly. I am so very very sorry for your loss…”

    1. Mum also arranged for a Golden Retriever puppy to be given to Ewart Biggs children up in Glencairn during that horrible time. I remember that instance vividly since the dog- breeder, a Ms. Pullman up in Rathfarnham, was the source of our own Golden Retriever, Lancer.

  28. “those evocative photos of your recently departed mother. I hadn’t met her for a long time, but she was always a charming person, gracious hostess and lively conversationalist. My sympathies .. to you and your brothers on this sad loss…”

  29. “…She was a really lovely lady. I really enjoyed meeting her. She had a rare energy and presence, a wonderful personality!…”

  30. “我感到非常的震惊和难过.

  31. “I met Kath at Punchestown (Horse Races) back in the Fifties and I thought she was so attractive and smart and good fun….. she came into my mind frequently. There was always laughter when we met…”

  32. Hi Niall,
    I’m very sorry to hear that news; she was a great mother and I’m sure you’ll have many very happy memories of her.

  33. “My overriding memory of her will always be her great spiritedness and strength. And her infectious sense of humor. I appreciate her path in life was difficult with the early passing of your father and I always marveled how her response to such great a challenge was to live life with greater gusto. Adversity only strengthened her resolve to raise and love you and your brothers. Hers was a life well lived.

    Some highlights for me were having a few drinks and chatting with you and your Mum in her kitchen or her back garden when we were in college. Seems like a long time ago now.

    I pray that God will comfort you after such a great loss. She was a wonderful mother…”

  34. “Your tribute to Kath is so lovely. Your pictures captured her perfectly. To us all Kath’s cup was always half full and that smile hid so many difficult times for her. She will not be forgotten”

  35. “…..As your mum was my age (she was a year older), I would get her cast-off clothes! We also got her bicycle when she got a bigger one! So we learned to ride on her bicycle!
    After I left school in 1946. I went to London to be assistant teacher and your mum came to London about a year later. I saw a lot of her and I remember there was talk of her taking up singing in a big way. Then suddenly, she became engaged to your dad!….

    I joined a religious order after two years as an assistant teacher ; subsequently when your mum was looking for a school for you and your brothers, she called me several times to ask about schools since I was in a teaching order. I remember speaking about the Oratory School and I believe that’s where you finally went….,,, I left the order in 1972 and I remember spending time with your mum and your auntie Mor when I was on my way to New York,..”

  36. Hi Niall,
    What a wonderful tribute to your mum. I came across you page with a google search of FCJ Bunclody and found you have a beautiful old photo of a hockey team from Bunclody/Newtownbarry. I started a Bunclody History Facebook page last year sharing photos and stories. I was wondering if you would mind me sharing this photo on my page? If it is ok, would you have any information on this photo or indeed any more photos?
    Thanking you.

So did you learn something? Have a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s