Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Alfie Byrne

Alfie Byrne, Lord Mayor of Dublin, 1930-9, 1954-5
photo scan: Little Museum of Dublin

I'll really have to give the Corpo a rest after this one.

Yesterday it was Dublin Lord Mayor, Laurence O'Neill. Today it is Dublin Lord Mayor, Alfie Byrne.

O'Neill is all but forgotten these days, despite his huge contribution to the city and the nation. Alfie is unforgettable, the shaking hand of Dublin, the face of the city at the 1932 Eucharistic Congress, and lots more besides. The dapper looks and the waxed moustache also helped in giving him a very distinctive look.

John Holohan

First an introduction from the Ballsbridge, Donnybrook & Sandymount Historical Society who teamed up with Pembroke Library to bring us the talk on Alfie by David McEllin.

David McEllin

David has written about Alfie in a chapter entitled "Legendary Lord Mayor Alfie Byrne" in Leaders of the City: Dublin’s First Citizen, 1500–1950, ed. by Ruth McManus & Lisa-Marie Griffith, (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2013).

I think he has in mind to do a biography at some stage. He made the point that while there are bits written about Alfie, there is no full biography and there is still a lot of work to do before this can be produced. For someone as well known as Alfie this may appear surprising, but so far nobody has taken up the challenge.

In addition to his terms as Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alfie had been an MP (1915-18), TD (1922-28, 1932-56) and Senator (1928-32). His Wikipedia entry gives a good initial broad sweep of his public life. Oddly, it only records three children, though we learned today from his son that there were eight in the family.

Alfie "welcomes" papal legate to 1932 Eucharistic Congress

I have commented myself on Alfie's involvement with the 1932 Eucharistic Congress and in particular his visit to the Pope the following year when he pledged the loyalty of all of the citizens of Dublin to his Holiness. I know the Pope is supposed to claim jurisdiction over all baptised persons, and I'm sure this upsets the Protestants among us, but pledging the loyalty of Dublin's Jewish Community to His Holiness went a bit far in my opinion.

Alfie also appeared in numerous cartoons and, among others, David showed this one by Gordon Brewster relating to the 1933 general election where Alfie appears as the independent coconut.

My own interest in Alfie comes from my grand uncle Patrick J Medlar who served with him on the Corporation. They were also both involved in the Royal Liver Assurance Company, where I'm told Alfie was a trustee, and I know Patrick was an agent. Patrick's brother Larry here tells a story about himself and Alfie at a Royal Liver meeting in England.

Postcard from Alfie to Patrick Medlar
after Alfie lost the mayoralty to Kathleen Clarke.
Both Alfie and Medlar are in the picture, either side of Dev

Another connection with Alfie for me was my grand uncle John Burgess who campaigned for him and I have a suspicion that Alfie could have been involved in getting John the job in the Corporation some years after he returned wounded from WWI.

Letter from Alfie's son Alfred P to John Burgess,
also conveying Alfie's regards

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