Tá cuntas ar an mbailitheoir lámhscríbhinní seo ag Kenneth E. Nilsen in Celtica 22, 1991. Tá cur síos ar a shaothar ag Cornelius C. Buttimer in Catalogue of Irish manuscripts in the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1989. Ba é Myles Dillon a d’fhéach chuige go gceannódh an ollscoil na lámhscríbhinní ó Anna Byrne, iníon Mhichíl. I gContae Phort Láirge a rugadh é, i bparóiste Mhaothla, b’fhéidir, agus is dóigh gur chainteoir dúchais Gaeilge é; is é a deir Nilsen: ‘Tá fianaise againn go mba chainteoir maith Gaeilge a bhí ann.’ Chaith sé tamall i gColáiste Phádraig, Maigh Nuad. Chuaigh sé go dtí na Stáit Aontaithe thart ar 1878 agus bhí fostaithe mar ghníomhaire árachais. Tar éis tamaill eile a chaitheamh i gcoláiste bhí sé ina ollamh le Laidin agus Gréigis i Mount Loreto College, Nua-Eabhrac. Bhí rang Gaeilge á mhúineadh aige san oíche in Ollscoil Columbia ó 1914 amach, é ina uachtarán ar Chumann na Gaeilge sa chathair agus baint aige leis an Harlem Gaelic Society. Bhí píosa seanchais i gcló aige in Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge, Bealtaine 1895 agus bhí ‘Seanchus gearr ó Chontae Phortláirge’ aige in An Gaodhal ó Lúnasa 1899 go Márta 1900. Ba é a bhí ag tabhairt amach an Phaidrín Pháirtigh i nGaeilge nuair a tugadh corp Eoghain Uí Ghramhnaigh go hArdeaglais Phádraig i Nua-Eabhrac i 1903. I Leabhar an Athar Eoghan [1904] tuairiscíodh: ‘Afterwards the congregation joined in the Rosary which was said in Irish by M.A. O’Byrne. It is noteworthy, and in itself a tribute to the dead priest’s work, that for the first time in this great Cathedral in the Empire City, the men and women of his race raised up their voices in prayer in their own language as they waked him before the Altar of God.’

Bhí na lámhscríbhinní tugtha aige leis ó Éirinn, sin nó fuair sé ó dhuine de mhuintir Phort Láirge i Meiriceá iad. I litir in Irish-American 16 Bealtaine 1891 scríobh sé: ‘In reading over the printed copy of Trí Bior-Gaoithe an Bháis, recently published in Dublin and edited by Dr. Atkinson, I find, on comparing it with a manuscript copy of the same great work which I have in my possession, that there are some very important differences between the text of the Atkinson print and that of my MS copy which I may on a future occasion bring under the notice of Gaelic scholars through your columns. For the present, I give you the enclosed chapter of the work which has been entirely omitted from the Atkinson edition . . .’. Anuas go 1923 bhí sé ina chisteoir ar an Irish Industries Depot i Nua-Eabhrac. Ní hamháin go raibh earraí na hÉireann ar díol ann ach ‘[it] also functioned as a clearing house for Gaelic texts and books on Ireland’.

Nuair a cailleadh é i Meitheamh 1928 dúradh in Gaelic American: ‘The death of Michael A. O’Byrne . . . will be regretted by Irish Irelanders in New York and throughout the country. Long before the Gaelic League came into existence Michael A. O’Byrne was active in his endeavour to preserve the language from death and decay. A native Irish speaker, he never faltered in his efforts to revive the ancestral tongue.’

Diarmuid Breathnach

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