The Eugene Byrne Fund at Milwaukee Irish Fest originated when Eugene's wife, Maura, and Eugene's friends, the Sons of the Tundra, asked Milwaukee Irish Fest to accept and administer a fund that had been set up in Eugene's name after he passed away in March of 2011. With a grant from Irish Fest of $1,500, the fund grew to over $10,000. Irish Fest agreed to host an annual lecture on an Irish music-related topic at the Irish Fest Summer School.
Dublin-born Eugene Byrne was many things - a folk singer, festival organizer, travel guide and wonderful friend to many at Milwaukee Irish Fest. His musical career spanned more than 40 years as a soloist and a member of several successful folk groups - the New Folk Trio, the Blarney Folk and the Garrison Brothers.
His first visits to Irish Fest were as an accompanist to his good friend Tommy Makem, but he returned to perform both as a solo artist and with his son, Kevin. Eugene was an institution at the popular Black Rose in Boston where he played regularly for more than 30 years. The stage there is now dedicated in his memory.
Eugene was a travel and tour guide to many Irish Fest friends. He led tours to the Tommy Makem Festival of Song in Armagh, Northern Ireland from 2001 to 2003. He also led the 25th Milwaukee Irish Fest Anniversary Tour in fall of 2005, sharing his stories, jokes and songs as the group traveled across Ireland. Eugene loved Irish Fest, and it is fitting that his memory be preserved and celebrated by Milwaukee Irish Fest for many years to come.