As a result of the Norman invasion, the O'Byrnes were driven from their original homeland in Co. Kildare into south Co. Wicklow in the early thirteenth century. It was from Ballinacor in the valley of Glenmalure in that county that Fiach MacHugh O'Byrne waged his campaigns against the armies of Elizabeth l, with considerable success; his most noted victory was the defeat of Lord Grey in 1580. He was apprehended and executed in 1597 His son Phelim was the last Chief of the O'Byrnes. He was finally dispossessed of his land s in 1628. The doings of the family in the sixteenth century are celebrated in the well-known Leabhar Branach, or "Book of the O'Byrnes", a compilation of poetry in Irish put together in the late seventeenth century. Even today, the vast majority of the Irish who bear the name originate in Wicklow or the surrounding counties.
After the disasters of the seventeenth century some of these O'Byrnes migrated north to Ulster and changed their name to Burns, a Scottish surname common in east Ulster. In addition a separate Gaelic surname, Mac Broin from the same root, bran, has also been rendered Byrne, as well as the more usual McBrin.
Gay Byrne Ireland?s best-known and most influential broadcaster, "Gaybo" has promoted discussion of topics hitherto considered taboo and reflecting and shaping social change for more than 30 years. His programme The Late Late Show has been among the highest-rated on Irish television since it began in 1962; it is now the world?s longest-running television talk show.
Charles Byrne (1768-88) became known as the Irish Giant; he was almost eight and a half feet tall and became a freak show attraction.
Andrew Byrne (1802-62) was born in Navan, Co. Meath. He became a missionary to Native Americans and was ordained first Roman Catholic bishop of Little Rock.
Miles Byrne (1780-1862) was prominent in the 1798 rebellion and afterewards emigrated to France, where he had a distinguished career and was awarded the Legion d?Honneur. His Memoirs are renowned for their account of the rebellion.