Irish folk singer, festival organizer and tour guide Eugene Byrne passed away at his home in Dover, N.H. on March 24, after a long battle with cancer. He was 65.
As a folk singer, Byrne, who was born in Dublin, made the stages at Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, the Merv Griffin Show and venues around the world. He worked with several groups including the Garrison Brothers, the New Folk Trio and the Blarney Folk.
Byrne’s dream of starting a local Irish Festival came true in 2003. The Seacoast Irish Festival ran until 2005, when it was discontinued due to local politics, but was brought back in 2010. Byrne was responsible for arranging the festival’s musical acts. He is also remembered as a guide to Ireland. He owned and operated Byrne Entertainment and Tours, and made his tours special by narrating the history of the country through stories, jokes and songs.
Byrne is survived by his wife of 41 years, Maura, two sons, Gene and Kevin, and three grandchildren. He was laid to rest in Finglas, Co. Dublin.
1922 – 2011
I met Gil Clancy in 1984, while researching a book about the sport and business of boxing. Gil had already earned acclaim as a hall-of-fame trainer, manager, and matchmaker. At the time, he was providing expert commentary for CBS’s boxing telecasts and also had considerable input into which fights the network bought.Gil viewed me with a healthy dose of skepticism. I was chronicling the exploits of WBC super-lightweight champion Billy Costello and manager Mike Jones. Gil was suspicious of outsiders who appeared on the scene to write about his beloved sport.
“Jesus, Mike,” he demanded at one negotiating session. “Do you have to keep bringing this guy with you all the time?”
“Yes,” Mike told him.
After a while, Gil got used to having me around and a friendship was forged. As the years passed, he became one of my “go to” guys whenever I needed to educate myself on a particular facet of boxing. Eight years ago, I had the pleasure of writing about him for this magazine when he was honored as one of the “Top 100.”
Boxing is a shady business. The warning “protect yourself at all times” applies to action outside the ring as well as in it. Trainer Jimmy Glenn once famously said, “Everybody in boxing wants to screw somebody. They don’t feel comfortable, they think they’re doing something wrong, if they’re not screwing somebody.”
Gil was the antithesis of that. His word was his bond. He was a straight shooter and voice of reason in an often irrational , duplicitous sport. Over the years, he won countless awards for his contributions to the sweet science. He was part of that wonderful group of people who love boxing, understand boxing and ennoble the sport with their presence.
Gil died on March 31 after a long illness at age 88. Boxing and the Irish-American community will miss him.
– Tom Hauser
John J. Concannon
John J. Concannon passed away on March 3 in Austin, TX. He was 86.
Born in the Bronx, NY on July 1, 1924 to Irish immigrant parents, Concannon graduated from the City College and began his journalism career in 1948 in the mailroom of Collier’s Magazine, leaving six years later as the writer of the “What’s New” column. In 1954, he joined Newsweek, where he become the Associate Editor, retiring in 1989.
An active member of the Galway Men’s Association of NY, Concannon worked as the PR director of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade from 1966-1985. In 1984, he co-wrote The Irish American Who’s Who. He also wrote numerous stories for a multitude of Irish publications, including the Irish Echo. He is survived by his daughters, Allanah Feeney and Mary Helen Foley; his son-in-law Michael Foley; his brother James, of the Irish Christian Brothers; five grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. His wife Bridget passed away in 2006. – K.R.
Seán Cronin died on March 9 in Maryland after a long illness. He was 91.
Cronin was born in Dublin and raised in Co. Kerry. When he was four, his father, a veteran of the Irish War of Independence, died.
Cronin joined the Irish Army in December 1941 and, upon discharge, moved to the United States. After returning to Dublin in 1955, he joined the Evening Press as a subeditor and volunteered for the Irish Republican Army (IRA). He twice served as IRA Chief of Staff (1957-1958, 1959-1960).