|Born||20 March 1780
Ballylusk, Co. Wexford,
|Died||24 January 1862
Rue Montaigne, Paris, France.
|Montmartre Cemetery, Paris.|
|Known for||Irish Rebel (1798)|
1798 Rebellion & Aftermath
Byrne participated in preparations for the 1798 Rebellion, fought at Oulart, Enniscorthy, the Battle of Clough (or Battle of Tubberneering), the Battle of Arklow, the Battle of Vinegar Hill, Castlecomer and Ballygullen at the age of 18. After the Wexford Rebellion was over, he joined Michael Dwyer and Joseph Holt in the Wicklow Hills, continuing to fight on. Next he settled in Dublin. While there he was involved in the Emmet Rebellion (1803).
"I can never forget the impression this meeting made on me at the time - to see two heroic patriots, equally devoted to poor Ireland, discussing the best means of obtaining her freedom."
France, the Irish Brigade, and Memoirs
Shortly after this he escaped to France. In France he eventually became Brigadier General and leader of Napoleon’s Irish Brigade, and was awarded the Legion of Honour. He fought in Spain and Greece. In his later years he wrote his memoirs, Memoirs of Miles Byrne, which are an account of his participation in the Irish rebellion and his time in the Irish Brigade. These were first published in three volumes in 1863 (under the direction of his widow, Fanny), but there have been many subsequent reprints.
Stephen Gwynn who edited and published a new edition of Byrne’s Memoirs in 1907, stated in his Introduction to Volume 1:
“I owe my acquaintance with these Memoirs to Mr John Dillon, who spoke of them as the best of all books dealing with Ireland; and a reading of the volumes left me inclined to agree with him.”
For those areas and battles that it covers, Byrne's is the best source for the 1798 Rebellion.
Byrne was married (1835) in Paris to a Scots Presbyterian, Fanny Horner, (1789 - 1876) (originally from George Square, Edinburgh, Scotland) but they had no children. Fanny's father was John Horner, a "merchant of Edinburgh", and her mother was Joanna Baillie. They were married on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1835 in the British Embassy Chapel in Paris. She had three brothers and two sisters. One of her brothers was Francis Horner (1778 - 1817), a Whig MP; another, Leonard Horner (1785 - 1864), was a noted geologist.
A photograph of Byrne faces page 185 in Nicholas Furlong's "Fr John Murphy of Boolavogue: 1753-1798" (Dublin, 1991). According to the author, it was taken in Paris in 1859 and is reputed to be the first photograph taken of an Irishman. The photograph is now in Aras an Uachtaráin, the residence of the President of Ireland, in Dublin.
John Mitchel visited Byrne when he was 80 years old and described him as "One of those rare beings who never grow old".
Miles Byrne died at his house in the rue Montaigne (now rue Jean Mermoz, 8th arrondissement, near Champs-Élysées), Paris on Friday 24 January 1862, and was buried in Montmartre Cemetery. His grave there is marked by a Celtic Cross - but this headstone appears to be a 1950s replacement for an earlier one. The inscription to his original headstone appears in his Memoirs; in part, it read:
SINCEREMENT ATTACHE A L'lRLANDE
SON PAYS NATAL,
IL A FIDELEMENT SERVI LA FRANCE
SA PATRIE ADOPTIVE.
- Miles Byrne (1780-1862) - Memoirs of Miles Byrne (1863).
- Nicholas Furlong, "Fr. John Murphy of Boolavogue: 1753-1798" (Dublin, 1991).
- Stephen Gwynn (ed.), Memoirs of Miles Byrne - edited by his Widow, 2 vols. (Dublin & London, 1907).
- K. Wkelan (ed) & W. Nolan (assoc. ed.), "Wexford: History and Society" (Dublin: Geography Publications, 1987).
- Leonard Horner (ed.), "Memoirs and Correspondence of Francis Horner, M.P." (Boston, 1853).