27th September 2022
“I am so comfortable I almost feel I am not a hundred years old” explained Mrs Doreen Byrne in recent weeks as she spoke at a special celebration to mark her 100th birthday at Dungarvan Community Hospital, adding that it was a “wonderful facility with great people” where everyone had been “so nice and so kind.”
Family, friends, residents and staff all gathered to celebrate Doreen’s birthday, enjoying an afternoon of music and entertainment with local GP, Dr David Mahoney was also present to help mark the occasion.
Director of Nursing at Dungarvan Community Hospital Paula French thanked Doreen for her kind words:
“We take great pride in looking after people here at Dungarvan Community Hospital and get great support from the public in doing so. Doreen is a great advertisement for being 100! There are staff here for this occasion who have come in especially on their day off to see Doreen. It has been a pleasure looking after Doreen and we were delighted to be able to facilitate this occasion.”
Doreen’s good friend Rosemary Burns was present, as were daughter in law Karen Keane, granddaughters Ciara and Mia and Doreen’s niece Barbara Haslam.
Doreen’s son Barry Keane reminded everyone of the remarkable life led by his mother: “Doreen Byrne was born in Inchicore, Dublin on September 3rd 1922. Her mother Mary was a teacher at Stanhope Street primary school and her father Thomas was a map maker in the Ordnance Survey Office in the Phoenix Park. Doreen was the youngest of five siblings (Maura, Frank, Rita and Tommy - who died when Doreen was five).
Love of music
“Born into a singing household with weekly sing-alongs of the popular songs of the time (her father Thomas was a Feis Ceoil gold medal winning singer), Doreen had a love of music. From an early age, Doreen was a voracious reader, reading late into the night (often by candlelight). She was a regular at the Royal and Abbey Theatres in Dublin and loved opera and plays. During and after the Second World War, Doreen was a member of the Irish Film Institute file archive in Dublin, where she had access to and observed the atrocities carried out by Nazi Germany due to the number of classified films she saw. Doreen also recalls the Dublin bombings of the time.
“Having gone to secretarial school at a young age, one of Doreen’s first notable jobs as a personal secretary to Felix Cronin (Quarter Master General in the National Army and then General Manager for the newly established Irish Fuel Board). Doreen recalls many informal chats with Felix Cronin’s wife Kitty Kiernan (previously the fiancée of Michael Collins).
“Following those years, Doreen spent 10 years working in the US Embassy in Dublin. Working in the Visa section, she recounted many stories of emigrants travelling to the USA, their difficulties and sad stories of separation and families being refused a visa based solely on health reasons (as TB was rampant at the time). Doreen attended many Balls held in the US ambassador’s residence in Phoenix Park and also has some interesting stories from people she met there.
“In 1958, Doreen married publishing executive Desmond Keane in Dublin. They subsequently moved to London, where she worked as a senior secretary for several Chief Executives in various corporations. Desmond had been born in China, where his father Michael (a native of Carrigaholt, Co. Clare) had been a naval surveyor. While living in London, Doreen and Desmond enjoyed their love of theatre, opera and bridge, hosting many dinner parties in their home with new friends they had made. They both were very fond of cooking and entertaining. Desmond was an active member of the Irish Club. They would often take in foreign exchange students, enjoying the experience of meeting new people and experiencing new cultures.
“In 1963, Doreen and Desmond were thrilled with the arrival of their one and only son, Barry. He has always been Doreen's pride and joy. After spending 16 years in London, seeking a new change and adventure, they looked into buying a pub in Ireland. They settled in Dungarvan in 1974, buying “The Moon Duster” on O’ Connell St (the pub was called after a racehorse) and ran it for five years. They were active in the community, with Doreen rekindling her love of Bridge – playing weekly in a variety of clubs and teaching others whenever she had the opportunity.
“In 1978, Doreen’s dear husband Desmond passed away suddenly. Now on her own with a 15-year-old son to finish raising, Doreen went back to work – taking a job as an executive secretary at Waterford Co-Op, from which she retired in 1992. She continued with her Bridge, travelling on many Bridge holidays with friends and often with her sister, Maura. Doreen has always had a tremendous sense of adventure and loved to travel. Well into her nineties, Doreen travelled to a multitude of places in the world for holidays and also to visit her son, his wife and two granddaughters while he worked overseas (spending time in Malaysia, the USA, Canada and Dubai). “Later in life, she took up painting and spent much of her free time perfecting her skills. She often entered her work in local art shows and gifted several paintings to family and friends. Doreen also enjoys gardening and has a great appreciation for home decorating, trying her hand at tiling and various other interior finishes. She remained fiercely independent and strong, despite being on her own for so many years. Doreen is never short of advice or wisdom to share with those she cared for on how to get the most out of life. She always seems to know how to keep herself and her mind busy with reading, crosswords, cooking, gardening, walks on the beach, playing bridge, painting, going to Mass and visiting friends and family. A true inspiration to all that meet her!”
Dr Mahoney complimented Doreen and read from the letter from President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins which accompanied the Presidential Bounty sent to Doreen upon her reaching 100 years.