Type of entity
Authorized form of name
Byrne, Charles J, 1886-1967, Jesuit priest
Parallel form(s) of name
Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules
Other form(s) of name
- Charlie Byrne
Identifiers for corporate bodies
Dates of existence
28 February 1886-22 February 1967
Born: 28 February 1886, Dublin City, County Dublin
Entered: 06 September 1902, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 16 May 1918, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1922, Sacred Heart College SJ, Limerick
Died: 22 February 1967, Mater Hospital, Dublin
Part of the Belvedere College SJ, Dublin community at the time of death
Educated at Belvedere College SJ
by 1907 at Stonyhurst England (ANG) studying
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 42nd Year No 2 1967
Fr Charles Byrne SJ (1886-1967)
Fr. Charles Byrne was born in Dublin on 28th February 1886. He received his primary education at Synge Street and his secondary education in Belvedere, where he went in 1897. James Joyce was one of his companions but Fr. Charles did not find him a congenial soul. He entered the noviceship at Tullabeg in 1902 and remained there as a junior to study for his B.A. “Work was real, work was earnest”, in those days and he felt grateful to have survived the ordeal unscathed and with a B.A. to boot.
The three years of philosophy were spent at Stonyhurst and on his return to Ireland he was sent for a year to the Crescent where he taught the First Arts class and then for four years, as a teacher, to Clongowes where he had His Grace, Archbishop McQuaid as a pupil. In 1915 he began his theology in Milltown Park and was ordained in May 1918, the early date being due to the conscription scare of that year. At the end of theology he was sent to the Crescent for a year before tertianship and returned there in 1921. For ten years he was operarius, teacher and Minister at the Crescent. Then in 1931 he was transferred to Belvedere where he taught for 29 years without a break. When he retired from teaching he was appointed Superior of Loyola House and then last summer (1966) he returned to Belvedere where he died on 23rd February after the briefest of illnesses.
Of his 65 years in the Society, Fr. Byrne spent 46 in the colleges, doing that work which the General Congregation has again asserted to be one of our most important ministries. He was the kind of totally dedicated teacher that every college wants - for all his activities were centred around the work of the house whether it was teaching or theatricals or games. He had far more of the graces than the average Jesuit and he made use of them in a way that impressed the boys. Thus, he had a fine voice which was heard to advantage at a High Mass; he was a most graceful skater on ice, an elusive half at soccer and so good a hockey player that he was capped for Munster, which must be a Jesuit record.
As a teacher of Latin he used many industriae, mnemonics, rhymes, anecdotes and competitions, so that he rarely had need to order punishment. Then the lazy boy was shamed into working by noticing how hard his master worked for him and he could not help noticing it. Every mark for a theme was duly noted down and every mark in an examination was duly entered so that there was available a complete record of the work of each pupil during his progress through the school. For most of his time at Belvedere Fr. Byrne taught the first divisions in the top years. There was a very close bond between him and his class, so close indeed that when he was replaced by a younger Jesuit they resented losing him and the Prefect of Studies had his work cut out trying to smooth things over.
When Minister at the Crescent Fr. Byrne entered wholeheartedly into the activities of the Cecilian Society and tales of those days are still current in Limerick where he was remembered with affection, as his Christmas post from Limerick testified. On his transfer to Belvedere he put his skill at the disposal of Fr. M. Glynn who had just launched out on his long programme of Gilbert and Sullivan Operas. During opera week Fr. Byrne was a familiar sight in the green room in a khaki dust coat and with neat boxes of grease paint laid out like a surgeon's instruments.
On Fr. Glynn's breakdown Fr. Byrne at a moment's notice stepped into his shoes and with admirable skill and still more admirable patience produced year after year the college opera from 1939 to 1960. He appreciated good singing, good speaking and graceful movement. Year after year to make some forty boys good singers, good speakers and graceful movers called for heroic devotion. Fortunately, like Fr. Glynn, he possessed the secret of attaching the cast to himself so that all were anxious to do their best.
As has been said already any school was glad to have him and the same may be said about any community. The reason was obvious; he was unassuming, considerate and prompt to offer assistance. He was the Prefect of Studies answer to prayer for he considered the work assigned to him on the status had first claims on his time and energy. Only when he had conscientiously done his work did he consider himself free to do work of his own choice.
From our mode of life most of us are inclined to develop marked bachelor characteristics, carelessness of dress, untidy habits and general disregard for what we despise as “the frills”. Others of us react strongly against such ways and Fr. Charles was one of these. He is said to have asked a friend whose dishevelled breviary he viewed with disapproval : “Do you wash your hands after using that book?”
Without being foppish he was always carefully dressed. He took great care of his clothes and made them last a long time. A visit to his room was quite an experience; it was so unlike the typical lair of a Jesuit. Nothing was out of place. Everything was brushed and polished and the humblest furniture decorated.
When he returned to Belvedere last September he endeavoured to follow the order of time as far as possible. And he remained like this to the end. Indeed he was at recreation the evening before he died. Then on the day of his death he celebrated Mass and in the afternoon before dinner walked up and down the corridor saying his beads. Shortly afterwards he was found in his room suffering obviously from a stroke. He was anointed by Fr. B. Murray. A doctor was summoned (Dr. E. Guiney, one of his former pupils) and he advised transfer to hospital. He was brought by ambulance to the Mater, but before he could get treatment he passed quietly away.
He was considerate to the end, dying in the manner that would inconvenience the community as little as possible. May his quiet and gentle soul rest in peace.
◆ The Belvederian, Dublin, 1967
Father Charles J Byrne SJ (Pupil 1897-1902; Teacher 1931-1960)
Fr Charles Byrne died most unexpectedly : on the evening of 22nd February 1967. He had returned to Belvedere the previous summer having spent six years as Superior of Loyola House, Eglinton Road, Dublin. On the day of his death he said Mass, in the afternoon recited his Breviary and before dinner walked up and down the corridor saying his Rosary. Shortly afterwards he was found in his room apparently dozing in his chair but really in a semi-coma. He was conscious of what was going on around him but was unable to communicate with those present though he made efforts to do so. The Last Sacraments were administered to him and then it was decided to transfer him to hospital. He was brought to the Mater Hospital but before he could get treatment he passed quietly away. This gentle and unobtrusive going was in complete keeping with his whole life, considerate for others at all times and dying in the manner that would cause as little inconvenience as possible.
After five years as a pupil in Belvedere Fr Byrne entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Tullabeg in 1902 and after his profession remained there as a junior to study for his BA degree. The three years of philosophy were spent at Stonyhurst College, England, and his teaching as a scholastic extended over six years, one at the Crescent and five at Clongowes where he taught science. In 1915 he began his theology at Milltown Park and was ordained there in May 1918. After tertianship he returned to the Crescent College, Limerick, where he combined the duties of Minister and teacher and was also in charge of the public church. During this period he entered wholeheartedly into the spirit of the Cecilian Society and even to this day he is remembered with affection in Limerick.
In 1931 he was transferred to Belvedere where he resumed a long unbroken association with his Alma Mater for almost thirty years. He taught mostly Latin to the Senior Honours classes in which he had remarkable success. He had a close bond with all his pupils and never had to resort to sanctions as an incentive to work. He had a fund of mnemonics, rhymes, anecdotes which made life for the boy that little more interesting and somewhat easier when it came to imbibing knowledge. He was a very dedicated and industrious teacher, noting down most meticulously every mark for a theme and every mark for an examination, so that there was available a complete record of the work of each pupil during his progress through the college.
Fr Byrne had a lively interest in sport and maintained this interest right to the end. He supported all the college matches and was keenly interested in the welfare of the old boys rugby and cricket clubs. He was no mean athlete himself giving a good account on the soccer field, golf course and tennis court. He had the unusual distinction of being capped for Munster in hockey.
The work for which he is best remembered was the annual staging of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. For twenty-two years he produced almost single-handed a very polished and finished work. He attended to every aspect of the opera - production, music, dialogue, stage grouping and make-up. No detail escaped his eye whether it was a note of music, a small point of pronunciation, gesture, deportment - all was brought to a fine art making each play more impressive than the previous one. It cannot be said too often that it is to his credit that he secured his achievement from a cast which were in the most literal sense school boys. Year after year to make forty boys into good singers, good speakers and graceful movers called for heroic devotion. Fortunately he seemed to have the gift of attaching the cast to himself so much so that the boys vied with each other in attempting to put his directives into practice.
In the 1948 “Belvederian” we read: “Fr. Byrne labours for some four months and each year he must, if he is human, wonder if this straw will yield brick. Each year as the fruit of his work appears he must have a qualm. Each year we leave saying with awe - he has done it again. There are bold statisticians who tell us this present production is the best ever”. And indeed so it was with all operas - each one seemed to be better than the previous one. The community, the boys, the parents, and the old boys often reminisce on those wonderful and enjoyable nights with his memorable productions. It was his fervent wish that the college operas would be resumed in the not too far distant future. For many years he was the mentor and support of the Old Belvedere Musical and Dramatic Society, guiding it through its hazards in its early years.
In his dealings with others he exercised a gentle but very marked influence. He was unassuming, considerate and ever prompt to offer assistance. He was courteous to the extreme and even the slightest favour rendered would never go unrewarded. He had a wonderful equanimity of temperament and whether approached first thing in the morning or last thing at night he always gave the impression of being ever ready and pleased to deal with the particular situation in hand. With his many loyal helpers during opera week, and there were many, and with others with whom he came into contact during the course of every day life, he left the impression that it was a privilege to be associated with him or having to do business with him.
Ungentlemanliness was foreign to his character and the boys realised this, respected him for it and did their best at all times to behave as gentlemen in his presence. More than once he has been described as one of nature's gentlemen - a truer estimation would be a gentleman of God.
He was happy to return to Belvedere last summer. He entered into the spirit of the college activities, picking up the broken threads after a lapse of six years. He died as was his wish, almost in harness, slipping away in his own quiet and unobtrusive way.
May his kind and gentle soul rest in peace.
Functions, occupations and activities
Mandates/sources of authority
Identifier of related entity
Category of relationship
Type of relationship
Byrne, Charles J, 1886-1967, Jesuit priest
Dates of relationship
Description of relationship
Access points area
Subject access points
Place access points
- County Dublin » Dublin City
- County Offaly (King's) » Ballycowan (Bar.) » Tullabeg » St Stanislaus College
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Great Denmark Street » Belvedere College SJ
- England » Lancashire » Clitheroe » Stonyhurst College
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Eccles Street » Mater Misericordiae Hospital
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Synge Street » Christian Brothers Secondary School (Synge Street)
- County Limerick » Limerick City » The Crescent » Sacred Heart College SJ (Crescent) 1859-1974
- County Kildare » Clane » Clongowes Wood College SJ
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Sandford Road » Milltown Park
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Eglinton Road » Loyola House (Eglinton Road)
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