16 Tom Byrne

Tom Byrne has been called a ‘National treasure” and a Canadian Legend”. He is a professional actor, author, peacemaker, producer and director. He has contributed greatly to the arts in Vancouver and the Yukon and has instigated many cultural experiences for the Irish community. His most public contributions are listed below. §         Contribution to the Arts  

  • He was on the board of the BC drama association and one of those responsible in having the Vancouver Playhouse built. 
  • He was a founding member of the Arts Club Theatre. These contributions brought theatre to all people in Vancouver, not just the Irish. Many famous actors, directors and producers passed through these doors. 
  • He was a founding member of The Emerald Players (Now Stage Erin) which won numerous awards and Tom won Best Actor, Best Director many times and he received an award for best original play-write. 
  •  While living in Inuvik in 1977, Tom brought Irish Theatre to the Yukon an formed The Arctic Circle Theatre Group. They entered a play called ‘Riders to the Sea’ in the National Drama Festival which was held in Dawson City, Yukon. The production won every award in the festival and he won Best Director for his part. This was working with people who had no theatre experience to start with. He trained them to the excellent level of competence. 
  •  Tom is also a Life member of Equity, BC Performers and Actra.  

§         The Bard of the North  

  • Tom is a certified Yukon Pioneer. 
  • In 1975 while working for the government of The NorthWest Territories he decided to change the drab appearance of the town of Inuvik by having the buildings painted bold, vivid colors. This colorful act has become the town’s signature tourist attraction that continues to this day. 
  • In 1979 Tom was asked by the Klondyke Visitors Association if he would come to Dawson City to recite some of the works of Robert W. Service who was famous for his poems depicting the life and times in Dawson City during the Klondyke Gold Rush. For 30 years Tom has been going to Dawson and putting on his one-man show for the tourists. First from Robert Services original cabin for 28 years and then at the Westmark Hotel.  
  • At first he did a brief 20 minute presentation, but soon decided to take this to another level altogether. He researched the life and times of Service and wrote a show called ‘The Robert Service Show’ which is now world famous and has been seen by tens of thousands of people from all around the world. This he did with his usual passion and flair, keeping alive the works of the famous poet and bringing thousands of tourists to Dawson City to see his show. Robert Service’s daughter said that she is forever grateful to him for breathing new life into her fathers work and keeping it alive. He has been written up in many newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times, The Los Angelus Times, The Globe and Mail in Toronto and The Edmonton Journal and The National Geographic Magazine. Plus papers in Africa and Australia. 
  •  The show continued for 30 years with a brief hiatus for 3 years due to ill health. But at the age of 85, he is back in Dawson City continuing his legacy. 
  • In 2004 Parks Canada honored Tom for his “Service to Service”. At the ceremony he was credited as being a “Canadian Living Legend” for his work. 
  • He is well known throughout the Yukon as “the Bard of The North”. He has sold tens of thousand of tapes, CD’s and DVD’s over the years. They continue to sell well and are now all around the world acting as not only a source of enjoyment but as a historical sample of what Canada was like during the famous Klondyke Gold Rush. 
  • He has received thousands of letters and testimonials from people from all around the world who have enjoyed his work. 
  • He is so well respected in Dawson City that he was asked to run for mayor in 1985.
  • He was featured in the best selling table-top book “The Canadians” by Stuart Malcolm (who was once the editor of The New York times.) 
  • He has been featured on the 5th Estate, 60 minutes for his work with The Robert Service Show in Dawson and was the subject of a feature about his life on the show “On the Road Again.” He was a frequent guest actor on many Canadian television shows such as The Beachcombers which features the life of Canadians on the West coast and he has been a guest on many radio stations nationally.  

§         The First Vancouver St. Patrick’s Day Parade 

  • Along with Terry Turner, he created, organized and financed the First St. Patrick’s Day Parade which ran for 7 years in the early 70’s