A mural in memory of Chris ‘Git’ Byrne

By David Preneville

Photos Courtesy of Lorcan Fox.

A mural was recently unveiled in Poolbeg in commemoration of local artist Chris ‘Git’ Byrne who sadly lost his life at the age of 31 in 2016.

The murals were done by London street artist The Artful Dodger. He told me how his painting of the mural came down to chance: “It was my first trip to Ireland, so, as well as, see my mates, I was keen to do two things – do a bit of painting, and have a proper pint of Guinness!”

After some conversations with locals in the pub as to who he is and what he does, it sparked the idea of him doing the painting of Chris. “I wanted to do something that was a bit meaningful, so hearing from one of my mates about Chris Byrne’s story − who he was, his love of music, and being an almost larger than life character who had a positive impact on so many people, sort of made that decision easy.”

The next stage was finding the right spot for the mural: “it was preferred if it was a little out of the way, but also in a place where it would be seen by people. It was suggested that I do it in Poolbeg, as there were a few other paintings there anyway. So, we primed the wall beforehand and then hoped Sunday would be good weather-wise, as Saturday was a complete washout. It was an absolutely beautiful day, so that was great.”

The event was also covered by film-maker Lorcan Fox, a local who went to school with Chris and is in process of making a documentary about Git that also explores the idea of death itself and how society engages with it.

The Artful Dodger admits he was initially uncertain about the prospect of being filmed by Lorcan, but quickly came round to the idea: “I must admit, not knowing who Lorcan was when he walked up to me and started chatting to me while I was painting, did make me a little defensive, but when he started talking about Chris and what he said confirmed what I’d already heard, I agreed to let him film me.”

Lorcan’s film gets personal testimonies from people of various different professions – priests, rabbis, doctors to get a feel for what society is doing successfully in relation to death and what they are doing wrong. Lorcan tells me that the general suggestion from subjects interviewed is that Ireland does death procedures well but that the dealing of grief in the aftermath could be handled better with more psychological supports in place. 

Lorcan currently has over twenty hours of footage shot, with more to shoot in the new year. Lorcan hopes to have the film edited some time in the Spring of 2019. Notable interviewees in the project include a grave digger from the green cemetery in Wexford, doctors from Holles Street, the Mater and Temple Street hospitals, Dr Mary Helen who speaks to the dead, best-selling author Patricia Scanlan and an interview with an Irish-American named Patrick O’Reilly, who was a psychiatrist on death row in San Quentin prison.

Git and Lorcan attended Marian College together. Their close friendship saw them play rugby together, as well as being members of the band Satyrix. The band had meetings with EMI at their high point but it wasn’t meant to be. Chris settled into working in sales, while Lorcan has since relocated to London to pursue film-making. 

What a moving and heartening way to commemorate someone’s memory these murals by The Artful Dodger are. Lorcan’s film is an equally heartfelt gesture and sounds like a fascinating and original project in its own right. We look forward greatly to seeing it when it is released next year. 

Photos Courtesy of Lorcan Fox.