Belfast Telegraph

Sean Byrne's devastated family pay tribute to keen photographer and 'fun-loving granda'

Sean Byrne
Sean Byrne
Sean Byrne
Mr Byrne with his wife Bernie and children Padraig, Shane and Blinne
Victoria Leonard

By Victoria Leonard

The grieving family of a Camlough man who died in the Mournes at the weekend have spoken of their devastation over the loss of a loving husband, father and grandfather who had "an extraordinary way with people".

Father-of-three and grandfather-of-six Sean Byrne (63), a keen amateur photographer, had been walking with a friend to take pictures on Wee Binnian on Sunday when the tragedy occurred, his family said.

Speaking yesterday, his wife of 42 years Bernie said the loss was "very raw".

She added that the family understood the wind conditions had played a part in the fatality.

Reliving the day of the tragedy, she told the Belfast Telegraph: "He was getting better after an illness he had 10 years ago, he'd made a great recovery.

"He was fit and healthy, and the walking was more about photographing landscapes.

"He had a big interest locally. He loved the Mournes, all of the things about them.

"He was out with his friend, who also liked to photograph.

"They really had a passion for the history of the area.

"His friend does aerial landscapes, it's only a hobby and they just love it.

"He said he was only going out for a short time and would be back for lunch. He said: 'It's to be good in the Mournes today, so we'll get some nice photographs'.

"It was going on for 2.30pm and I said: 'That's a very late lunch he's talking about'.

"Then the police pulled up. They said there had been an accident and he had fallen, but they weren't sure how he fell.

"I was very shocked, and yet I knew when the policeman was there that that's what he's going to say.

"We understand it's something to do with the wind conditions.

"Then I thought: 'It's not happening, tomorrow I will wake up and it will be some sort of bad dream'.

"It's not easy - I will look into the face of any one of my children and my grandchildren and I will see him, and in his brother and sisters. The whole family is supporting each other."

She added that her husband "had an extraordinary way with people" and was "always known as a fun person".

"He just had a way with him that people took to," she said. "He loved hurling, Irish; he wasn't an Irish speaker himself but he made sure all his children were."

Mr Byrne lived beside his elderly parents Pat (93) and Rose (87), and several of his nine siblings. Before his retirement he worked delivering home fuels in the family business, Byrne Fuel.

Sean's sister Mairead Robb (54) said that the friend who had accompanied her brother to the Mournes on the day of the tragedy was "devastated".

And she told how her brother, who was treasurer, photographer and a trustee of his local hurling club Craobh Rua, did voluntary work installing security systems in the homes of local elderly people.

She said: "We are just devastated, but you have to get on with it. The weather was good that morning, but then it changed."

In a statement on behalf of the family, Mairead added: "Sean was a dedicated, loving husband to his wife Bernie, a fantastic father to Padraig, Blinne and Shane and his daughters-in-law Hilary and Lucy. His six grandchildren adored him.

"He was the fun-loving granda that we would all love to have.

"This love of fun and craic extended to all his nieces and nephews and their children.

"To his 93-year-old father and his 87-year-old mother he was the son next door that they could call on at any time, day or night.

"To us, his six sisters and two brothers, he was a best friend to every one of us.

"He was a great member of the community, respected and admired by everyone.

"We as a family are devastated and we are extremely grateful to the Mountain Rescue Service and his very close friend, who were with him at the time.

"And we want to thank the community for their support at this time."

Mr Byrne's body was expected to be returned to his Camlough home yesterday evening for a two-night wake.

His family say that his funeral will take place at 11am tomorrow at St Malachy's Church in Carrickcruppen.

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy and Craobh Rua Hurling Club extended their sympathies to Mr Byrne's family.

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