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created: Aug.2003
refreshed: 27-Oct-2011
BYRN Family Links
Maureen Nancy Stewart Byrn
(née Mason) MB BCh, 6.7.1914 – 12.3.2003.
Nancy Byrn lived an adventurous and, in her own way, a courageous life.

An only child, born and educated in Cork and Dublin, she studied Medicine and Bacteriology in Trinity College Dublin, where she met her future husband, Dermot, a Junior House Doctor in Sir Patrick Duns hospital. She completed paediatrics training in Manchester and then, at the age of 24, she was summoned out by her fiancé for marriage in India (Dermot had enlisted a year earlier in the Indian Medical Service.) Holding a Special Licence from the Bishop of Lahore, they were able to marry straight off the boat in Karachi, 7th Dec. 1938.

In November 1940 Nancy gave birth to Richard in Lahore (Punjab). When Dermot was transfered to Bangalore, S. India (followed by further war-service in Singapore), Nancy was called up by the RAMC to serve in their hospital at Bangalore. There also she gave birth to Rosamund (March 1943) and Diana (Oct. 1945).

She and the family returned to the UK in 1947 following India’s independence (Dermot then transferred from IMS to RAMC). Thereafter Nancy brought up the family in a succession of British military quarters and private houses variously in Maidstone, Shorncliffe (near Hythe, Kent), Sandyford (near Dublin, during Dermot’s anaesthetics specialist training), then Fayid (Canal Zone – a couple of years prior to "the Suez Crisis"; here she was press-ganged by the RAMC to provide medical care for the wives & families of locally employed Muslim staff); after that Wheatley (near Oxford for 6 happy years), Dhekelia (Cyprus – 3 years coinciding with the interval between independence and inter-communal warfare), Farnborough, then — with the family now mostly flown the nest — in Singapore and, finally, at Tidworth.

She and Dermot eventually retired back to Ireland (1972), living in the Rocky Valley, Kilmacanogue, Co. Wicklow, in a bungalow built by great-uncle Ben (the Revd M. B. A. Byrn, formerly Rector of Enniskerry and brother of Canon Frank Byrn). Dermot died in 1985. A year later Nancy came across to Leeds where, after six months, she became the first resident in the new block of flats at West Park Court, Arncliffe Road. Finally in 1999 she moved to the Victoria Home, Headingley. Remarkably, this stretch of 17½ years in Leeds was the longest period she ever lived in one place.

Although shy and never gregarious or really comfortable in a crowd, she lived an active social life through her husband, especially during their army days, playing social (not competitive) bridge. She also loved music and was a skilled pianist when young. She a soprano, he a bass, Nancy & Dermot, always joined the church choir wherever they happened to be living. And in retirement they also joined the Wicklow Choral Society.

‘Mistress of the domestic arts’ — she was a fine cook. Mother’s chocolate meringue loaf and her fudge were much sought-after at Church bazaars. She was also a very good darner and knitter – for a while she was a member of the St Chad’s knitting circle, making garments destined for babies in the Salvation Army Home at Mount Cross.

A keen amateur archaeologist, she took part for many years in the annual dig at Ballyman on the borders of Co. Dublin and Co. Wicklow; if an appropriate opportunity had presented itself, she would have been a keen volunteer digger at Kirkstall Abbey.

She displayed admirable stoicism, coping with the demands of army life. Realising the consequences of having married into an argumentative family, she soon adopted her mother-in-law’s ironical watchword – "Have it so!"

Her funeral was held in St Chad’s, Far Headingley, on 19th March. 2003. Her ashes are interred alongside her husband Dermot’s in the family grave in Kilternan churchyard, Co. Dublin.

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