Michael Byrne was born in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1761. He went to sea as an able seaman at the age of 19. He had served on five naval ships by 1787, when he was signed as an able seaman by Captain Bligh on the Bounty, primarily to play the fiddle. Bligh wrote I had great difficulty before I left England to get a man to play the violin and I preferred at last to take one two-thirds blind than come without one and described him as being 5 feet 6 inches high. Fair complexion and is almost blind. Plays the fiddle. Has the mark of an issue in the back of his neck.
During the mutiny on 28 April 1789, Byrne was a loyalist, but he remained on the ship with the mutineers, apparently because his near-blindness added to his confusion. He was put ashore on Tahiti by Fletcher Christian. He gave himself up voluntarily when the Pandora arrived in 1791, and subsequently survived the wreck of the Pandora. He was acquitted of mutiny at court-martial in 1792.
He later served with Bligh's nephew, Francis Bond, on the Prompte, but it is not known what subsequently became of him.