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Member Patrick Byrne Blind from age 2yrs Old and Celebrated Harper in the Parish of Magheracloone Ireland Master Mason 11th June 1845


Candidate’s Name Mr Patrick Byrne. Celebrated Harper and Blind from 2yrs old

DOB 1794 or 1794- 8th April 1863 Patrick Byrne was probably Born in the Parish of Magheracloone, in what by that time was part of the Shirley owned Estate of Farney in County Monaghan.


 Proposed By Brother Andrew Murray

 Seconded By Brother

 First or Entered 11th June 1845

 Second or Fellow 13th June 1845

 Third or Sublime Degree 13th June 1845

RWM of the Celtic Brother Andrew Murray 1845

 Blind from the age of two, He was an exponent of Ireland,  and one of its historical Gaelic Harpists  and the first Irish traditional musician to be photographed.  Various attempts were made to revive the playing of the Irish harp. An Irish Harp Society was established in the city and a harp school for the young blind boys was set up. Patrick Byrne was born around 1794 or 1794 in the parish of Magheracloone, Co. Monaghan  and was enrolled as a pupil in the Harp.

The Harper, Patrick Byrne occupies a fairly unique position among the last of the professional players of the Irish harp. As a pupil of Edward McBride, who was in turn a pupil of Arthur O’Neill, Patrick was heir to albeit a declining, but unbroken tradition, a pupil at the second Irish Harp Society school in 1821.

Patrick the Harper first comes into view in a report to the Irish Harp Society annual meeting of the 20th August 1821, when Edward McBride, the then tutor, reported that there were four resident pupils, one of whom was a ‘Patrick Byrne (blind), county Meath and aged 23 years’. The Byrne family home was in that part of Monaghan which is close to the point where it comes together with counties Louth, Cavan and Meath.

Patrick was given the Shakespeare medal by the Shakespeare Club, according to his will, in 1829 points firmly to the direction he took under the Shirley patronage.

He is also known to have performed at Leamington Spa and at Staunton Harold Hall, the home of another branch of the Shirley family (the Earls Ferrer) near Ashby–de–la Zouch in Derbyshire and another of their houses, Chartley Castle near Stafford. London Social circles and this would have brought Patrick to the notice of the peak of London Society and in 1841.

Patrick arrived in Scotland in 1845. Where he played before Queen Vitoria when he received a warrant as the Irish Harper to HRH Prince Albert.


Patrick would have come into contact with another representative of a Gaelic musical art form in the process of adapting to a changing world, the Queens highland piper, Angus MacKay.

The Edinburgh Advertiser of the 19th December 1837 carried a long account of his performances, and again on the 16th of January 1838. A shorter account reporting that he was about to take his leave of the city.

HARPER is to be for a short time in Edin–
burgh, during which he will ATTEND at PRIVATE
HOUSES. Address Mrs Thomson’s, 3 West Regis–
ter Street.

 1st of April Patrick appeared as The Last Minstrel in a tableau at the Waverly Ball and it was while dressed in his costume that the early calotype pictures of him were made by the photographic pioneers, Hill and Adamson.


Patrick Byrne died while on a visit to Dundalk in 1863, he was said to have caught a ‘cold’, which appears to have progressed to pneumonia, he was admitted to the local hospital but continued to decline. He was initially interred in the local graveyard within twenty four hours of his death, which seemed to have been the practice with deaths in the Dundalk hospital at that period.

Since this was contrary to the Harpers own wishes as recorded in his will, his family, through the offices of Evelyn Shirley Esq of Lough Fea, arranged for a proper oak coffin and he was exhumed and re–interred as hehad requested in the Protestant cemetery at Cloughvalley, by Carrickmacross, with an alter tomb inscribed;–

Here lieth the Body of Patrick Byrne, Harper to H.R.H. The Late Prince Consort Who Departed This Life At Dvndalk April 8. 1863 In The 69th Year Of His Age. May He Rest In Peace Amen’.[

 Patrick’s Harp was left to Evelyn Shirley with a wish that it should be preserved in the Great Hall at Lough Fea as an heirloom in the family of Shirley.

Patrick Byrne a Master Mason in the Celtic Lodge of Edinburgh and Leith, Number 291 on the register of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.His mason’s certificate which has survived among Patrick’s effects is to date the only known example of a bilingual Gaelic/ English Scottish Masonic document. This was followed four days later by his admission as an Honorary Master Mason in the Greenock St Johns Number 176 holding of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.

 This Information is part of a report at

 Up-Dated by Bro Bill Boland PM Historian. 22/10/2012.