Kildare Nationalist – Appreciation: Kathleen (Kathryn) O’Reilly, née Byrne

The death occurred recently of Kathleen (Kathryn) O’Reilly, younger daughter of the late James Joseph Byrne Snr of Kilcullen and Mary Byrne (Cody), at the age of 85.

Beloved wife of the late Liam O’Reilly (New Ireland/Irish National, died 1973) she is deeply missed and much loved by her sons William, Conor and Niall, daughter-in-law Dervil, her sister Maureen, extended family and a wide circle of friends. Kathryn’s brothers were the late Jim Byrne of The Hideout, and the late well-known businessman Tom Byrne.

She was educated at Loreto Abbey Dalkey; Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) School, Bunclody, Wexford; and Loreto School Rathfarnham, where she captained the school hockey team.

She was always interested in fashion and designed many of her own clothes. She trained and worked as a fashion model in London, and worked in Dublin with Henry White. An accomplished singer, her life-long friend Dr Veronica Dunne (‘Auntie Ronnie’ to Kath’s children) was also at her funeral.

Kath had a deep and genuine interest in everyone she met and was known to be ‘one hell of a party organiser’, entertaining — at her successive homes in Knockbrack, Avoca Lodge, Tudor House or Moorefield — groups who ranged from ambassadors and taoisigh to many dear friends and neighbours.

She loved painting and especially her classes with Alma Brayden, Margaret Margetsen, and Bernie Lyons. Her son Niall recalls that she would often get up in the middle of the night ‘to add a dab here and a touch-up there’.

Her father-in-law Dr M W O’Reilly, observing Kath’s capacity for ‘listening’ appointed her to the Board of Directors in two of the many companies he established in Ireland.

Her other interests included cooking, and her coffee cakes, Guinness cake and brown breads were always in demand at home. That was also where she indulged her passion for gardening and she could reel off the Latin names of the flowers and shrubs which emblazoned her ‘magical’ garden, an ‘Eden’ always alive in a myriad of colours and chorus of chirping birds.

She loved travel and had friends abroad in places ranging from Paris, Nice and Italy, the UK, Mauritius, Ecuador and Columbia, Florida and New York, The Hague, Bonn, and East Berlin, and Niall recalls an especially fun ‘pate, cheese and wine Tour de France’ with his Mum driving and himself navigating. She also visited China, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Kath was 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.

She maintained an absolute devotion to God and Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.

She died after a short illness, in the care of the staff of the Blackrock Clinic. Chief celebrant at the funeral mass was Fr Maurice O’Moore and this brief account of a life lived to the full is taken from the eulogy delivered by Niall at the Requiem Mass in St Patrick’s Church, Monkstown Village, on Saturday August 4th 2012.

Auntie Kath, rest in peace. BB

This Appreciation was originally published on the Kilcullen page of the Kildare Nationalist.

Appreciation: Kathleen (Kathryn) O’Reilly, née Byrne


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