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In memory of Jim Byrne


Jim Byrne med

Jim Byrne
1938 - 2015

Funeral Mass celebrated in St. John's Gilford on Thursday 30th April 2015

Celebrant: Very Reverend Gerry Powell P.P.

I welcome you to this funeral Mass for Jim.

We all come here to remember Jim, to give thanks, even in our grief, for his life, to offer each other, and especially all those who will most miss him, the consolation of our love and our presence with you today; and to offer also the promise of eternal life.

Our consolation will be the happy memories we have of Jim; our sadness is that he has gone from us.

Our sure Christian hope is that the Lord our God will welcome him home and that one day we will be united together in heaven. In the depth of our loss and hope we now pray and offer this Eucharist for Jim.

We come to God, knowing we need his mercy and forgiveness, and so in preparing to celebrate the Mass we call to mind our sins.


Dear friends, we are united with you today in sorrow at the death of Jim Byrne. The reality of death, with all its pain and sense of loss, confronts us at this moment. But as we are united in sorrow, we are also united by something else... our Faith. Confronted with the reality of death, we must allow ourselves to be confronted with the reality of our Faith. Our Faith opens our minds to the whole picture about life, death, and what happens after death. Only in the light of our Faith can we begin to understand what has happened to Jim and how we are to keep going from here.


Jim was born in 1938, the youngest child of Jim and Catherine Byrne. There were 8 children in the family who lived in Brown’s Row, Gilford before moving to Hill Street.

He attended the primary school here on Castle Hill before, like the majority of young people then, gaining employment in Gilford Mill.

He met his wife Joan in Newcastle. (Joan was too young to get into the dances and she used to sit on the wall outside listening to him singing!) They married in St. John's Gilford on 19th September 1960, the week before Down won the All Ireland final! After marrying they moved to Newtownards Road in Belfast where he lived until 2000.  They had two children, Carol and Roy.

Jim started singing with the famous Pioneer Showband in 1955 at the age of 17and remained with them until 1960.

After leaving the Showband, Jim worked in the Franklin Laundry on the Springfield Road for a couple of years before moving to various other jobs. When his father-in-law became ill Jim and Joan took over his wholesale fruit business.

Some years later, he worked in the Royal Victoria Hospital before joining the Ambulance Service where he remained for 15 years. That was at the height of the ‘troubles’ and, like all paramedics, had to deal with some dreadful situations from horrific accidents to cot deaths. Due to heart problems, he retired in 1988

Jim always loved singing – from the wee hall in Hallsmill to filling in for the famous Joseph Locke in the Grove Theatre. Joseph offered to bring Jim to England but he thought better of it. Ruby Murray and Joe Lynch were among the many that crossed Jim’s path in those days and he could count Candy Devine and Frank Carson among his friends.

After his retirement, he was seen daily at Banbridge Academy, where he was the lollipop man. He loved that job – meeting lots of people every day and he always had a wee lollipop for the smaller children.

Westerns were a favourite of Jim’s and when his nieces would telephone him at night, they thought there was a crowd in the house – he had the TV volume turned up so loud!

When his beloved Joan died in 2013, Jim’s world was turned upside down and his famous smile was missing as he stood in tears at her grave before Mass.

Jim became unwell at the beginning of this year and towards the end of his life, as a patient in the City Hospital, he was an inspiration to other patients in the cancer ward, urging them not to give up hope. He was a model patient, never complaining and always optimistic although he knew he would never sing again.

Jim sang in churches of every denomination. When he returned to Gilford in 2000, he joined the parish choir and at one time, sang at three Masses every weekend. He was always in great demand for funerals, with his ‘theme hymn’, I watch the sunrise’ and in an interview he gave for our parish website in 2012, he spoke about his love for singing.

In his own words:

“I love the hymn ‘To do Your Will’ – you can put great feeling into it….

I also love ‘How great thou art’ and, of course, ’I watch the sunrise’
I love the last two verses of ‘sunrise’, especially ‘I watch the moonlight, guarding the light.....’ – I love that.   

But sure that’s what we’re here for – if you’ve got a voice, you share it.”

We have gathered here not so much to talk about Jim but to pray for him. We believe that our prayer here can help Jim where he is now. We know that prayer is powerful and we believe that we can help the departed by praying for them. The best gift you can now give to Jim is to pray for him. There is no better gift you can now give Jim. There is nothing that you could now do that would be more helpful and beneficial to him than praying for him. When we lay a wreath in someone’s honour the flowers will wither but the prayers we offer for someone will never wither.

On behalf of the parish community I extend our sympathy to his family and loved ones who will miss him deeply.

(Jim’s interview can be found on www.tullylish.com – Fortnightly Focus)





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