Lucy Agnes Smyth was born in 1882 and lived in Amiens Street, Dublin. She was a fluent Irish speaker and joined Cumann na mBan at its inception in 1914. By 1921, having been a section leader, she had ascended to the position of 1st Lieutenant in the Ard Craobh, Central Branch.
During Easter week Lucy mobilised as a member of the GPO garrison. In this role she was highly active. She hid arms, mobilised Cumann na mBan, delivered dispatches, and tended the wounded – including James Connolly – at the GPO and The Hibernian Bank. She was also part of a group of eleven Cumann na mBan nurses who escorted the wounded – under fire in the battlefield – to Jervis Street Hospital at the time of the evacuation of the burning GPO.
In 1916 Lucy was romantically linked with Volunteer and IRB member Con Colbert, who called her ‘the nicest girl in Dublin’. Colbert, who had fought at Marrowbone Lane, sent her a final message via a priest on the night before he was executed, shortly after the Rising was suppressed.
In 1919 Lucy married Capt Tom Byrne (known as ‘The Boer’) who had arrived in the GPO after marching from Maynooth with fifteen men overnight. Lucy had brought him a basin of water and a pair of clean socks. He gave her his watch and some money for safe-keeping. She assisted his escape in disguise to the North after the surrender. Neither were imprisoned in 1916.
At the time of the Rising, Tom Byrne had a love rival in Capt Con Colbert, one of the 15 men executed afterwards. In her witness statement to the Bureau of Military History, Con Colbert’s sister Elizabeth recalled that he was in love with Lucy and would probably have married her if he had lived.
In the years following the Rising, Lucy was an integral member of the Irish National Aid Association and Volunteer Dependents’ Fund. She was also awarded the 1916 Easter Rising medal, the Service (1917-1921) medal, the 1916 survivors medal and the Truce (1921) Commemoration Medal in recognition of her services to her country. She was awarded a military pension in 1938.
In 1920, Lucy and Tom tragically lost their first-born child, Maureen, at seven weeks old as, she later stated, ‘a result of a raid by Black and Tans’. She had four surviving children, Eileen, Sheila, Lila and Myles.
Lucy was known as a very private and dignified person. In later years she did not speak of the role she played in 1916, nor did she leave a Bureau of Military History witness statement to record her significant contribution. Lucy was present at the GPO for the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Rising.
Lucy died at the age of 90, on 14 November 1972 and is buried in Glasnevin cemetery, along with her husband and son, Tom Byrne died 7 September 1962 aged 85 years old. Myles Byrne died in 1968 at the age of 41.
Read more | Byrne ‘The Boer’ & The Nicest Girl in Dublin