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Irish Surname - Byrne

Usually recorded as Byrne, and sometimes as O'Byrne, this is a variant of the Irish 'Ó'Broin', meaning descendants of/from Branach or Bran, meaning "raven".

The Byrne or O'Byrne (Ó Broin) family originally came from Kildare claiming descent from Bran, the king of Leinster, who died in 1052. They held extensive territory there until the Anglo-Normans arrived in 1169/70, when they were driven south to the Wicklow mountains between Rathdrum and Shillelagh. The Byrne surname is still very common in Wicklow, as well as Dublin and Louth.

The O'Broin clan strongly resisted foreign aggression and continued to inaugurate native chiefs up to the end of the 16th Century. Their chiefs resided at Ballinacor in County Wicklow, and their territory was known as Crioch Branach. The O'Broins were renowned in the military history of Ireland, the most famous being Fiacha MacHugh O'Byrne (1544-1597) who is best remembered for his part in the escape of Hugh Roe O'Donnell from his prison in Dublin Castle in 1591.

The "Book of the O' Byrnes" ("Leabhar Branach") is a collection of Gaelic poetry detailing the exploits and personalities of the O'Byrnes in the sixteenth century.

In Griffiths Valuation c1850s, Wicklow had 1203 recorded households with the name and the next largest concentrations were in Dublin (893), Carlow (572) and Wexford (534), while the smallest amount were in Derry (9).

Famous People

In recent history one of the best known and distinguished members of the clan was Alderman Alfred Byrne (1882 - 1956), ten times Lord Mayor of Dublin.

Gay Byrne (born 5 August 1934), is a veteran Irish presenter of radio and television who hosted 'The Late Late Show' over a 37-year period spanning 1962 until 1999.

Gabriel Byrne (born May 12 1950), is an Irish actor, film director and producer, writer and narrator. His screen debut came in the Irish soap "The Riordans" and its spin-off show "Bracken". He has now starred in over 35 films, and his producing credits include the Academy Award-nomination "In the Name of the Father".

The Byrne coat of arms has the blazon of a red shield charged with a chevron between three silver dexter hands couped at the wrist, the Crest being a mermaid with comb and mirror proper.

The Byrne Motto: Certavi et Vici - "I have fought and conquered".

Alternate Surname Spellings

O'Byrne, O'Beirne, O'Berne, Berne, Beirne

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