By Charlie Keegan
SYBIL Byrne, Mayo House, Crettyard, Co Laois, who passed away peacefully in the loving care of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) staff at St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny on Tuesday 4 May, and in the company of her adoring husband Cecil and loving daughter Joyce, was a highly-respected member of the local Church of Ireland community.
Sybil Joyce Byrne was born on 30 March 1950 to her parents Madeline (née Nugent, from Virginia, Co Cavan) and William McNulty, where she was raised on the family farm in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow in her early years. She was raised alone by her mum Maddy from the age of two-and-a-half, when her father died suddenly. She went to school in Enniskerry NS and then in Dalkey, Co Dublin, when Madeline sold the farm and moved back to Dublin to find work again in Switzer’s department store, where Sybil also found employment on the switchboard.
She met Cecil Byrne in December 1972 at a parish dance in Portarlington, Co Laois. The couple became engaged in 1974 and married in August of the following year. Their only daughter Joyce was born in October 1976.
Over the next 45-plus years, Sybil and Cecil developed a life, a love, a friendship and a partnership of which anyone would be envious nowadays. Both Cecil and Sybil would have said there was never a cross word between them.
Together they took over the family dairy farm from Cecil’s parents Richard and Elizabeth Byrne at Mayo House, Crettyard. They developed the enterprise into a successful and thriving lifestyle and business, breeding and rearing top-quality Friesian heifers for sale and milking cows. Sybil was the administrative genius behind their farming success, taking care of everything from Blue Cards and registering calves to online claims with the Department of Agriculture. She was also very hands-on with farm work, rearing hundreds of calves and milking cows.
Sybil was renowned for her baking skills, from a wonderfully light egg-sponge to home-made marmalade and the way she could provide dinner or tea to any contractor or visitor who entered the yard at any time of the day or night. She loved farming life and living in the country.
Sybil was a very proud woman – proud of husband Cecil, a loving, loyal, hardworking and dedicated family man; proud of her daughter Joyce and eldest grandson Dylan for their sporting, academic and career achievements; proud of her son-in-law Roger and her two youngest grandchildren Harry and Lucy, with whom she spent many, many hours baking buns and treats.
She loved her family and friends dearly.
Sybil always had a kind word for everybody and loved meeting people and socialising. When Covid-19 hit, she replaced dropping into people’s houses to have a chat with phone calls … ringing neighbours, friends and family, near and far.
She always embraced change and moved with the times as best she could, taking computer lessons and learning to use smart technology, although the predictive texts were hard to master!
She loved to attend flower arranging demonstrations, cookery demonstrations (by Edward Hayden especially) or country music concerts – she was fond of Donegal songster Daniel O’Donnell. Sybil was not a gambling woman, but loved the odd scratch card and Lotto Quick Pick
Sybil was a quiet, gentle and kind character, a very unassuming lady, but very welcoming, who opened her arms and home to many, from looking after the UK nieces and nephews on their summer holidays to the ploughing match visitors and the farm apprenticeship and college work placement students over the years. She helped family members learn to drive in cut silage fields and searched for jobs in ***The Nationalist*** for family and neighbours.
Sybil was very house proud and always minded what she had. She loved getting her hair done on a Saturday in Bagenalstown. Sybil had many treasured memories from summer holidays around Ireland with Cecil in the summer, especially to Kerry. And she enjoyed reading stories to her granddaughter Lucy, baking birthday cakes for her grandson Harry and was thrilled when Dylan graduated with a business degree in 2020 from IT Carlow.
Sybil had a great faith, was a great church-goer and turned to prayer in times of sickness, trouble and need. She loved to have a laugh and always carried a warm, friendly smile on her face.
Sybil will be remembered as a wonderful wife, mother, granny, mother-in-law, cousin, sister-in-law, aunt, neighbour and friend. She is missed so dearly and deeply since her passing on 4 May and her passing has left a huge void in the lives of her family, extended family, neighbours and friends.
The funeral service for Sybil Byrne took place in Mayo Church, Crettyard on Thursday afternoon, 6 May, followed by burial in the adjoining graveyard. The service was conducted by Rev Robert Stotesbury and assisted by Rev Pat Coleman. Sybil’s daughter Joyce addressed the mourners and spoke very lovingly and caringly of her mother.
Sybil is mourned by her husband Cecil, daughter Joyce, grandchildren Dylan, Harry and Lucy, son-in-law Roger, her cousin Robert and the Nugent family, her brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, extended family, kind neighbours and her circle of friends.