By Ian Stevenson, TAP Council Member
Maria was to be our speaker in September. I learnt recently she died of a heart attack in May.
Maria Byrne was born in colonial Kenya in 1944 of mixed parentage. She spent the first years of her life with a foster family and then lived in a Catholic children's home. Yet she said "I have been very lucky in my life". She came to England in 1961 to escape the discrimination which still existed even after Independence. She married here, became a teacher and became Head of Education at Sende and Wormwood Scrubs prisons. After her husband died and she retired , she returned to a Young Offenders prison as an Independent Monitor, which means the lads could ask to talk to someone outside the system. She even went in last Xmas day.
When a 'Big Wig' came to inspect 2 years ago she told me "I wasn't invited to the meeting but I found myself there and I said to (the Big Wig) "just locking up these kids for 23 hours a day is no good" and more. I asked what he replied. 'Well, he looked at the table and just mumbled, "it's very difficult, Mrs Byrne". She was a strong lady.
I met her at a Theosophical society conference (which discussed aspects of spirituality) She started a Master's degree on spirituality as 'I don't know enough and want to know more'! She didn't need the degree, just wanted to do the course. She leaves two sons (both Oxford graduates) and five grandchildren, to whom she was devoted, and a hole in the hearts of her friends. Most of our contact was by email or phone but I counted her as a close friend. What I loved about her was her passion for her work , and life in general, and the compassion she had for people, some of whom many people would cross the street to avoid.
Maria was an inspiration but also a friend and I am grateful to have known her. I won't wish her RIP as according to Theosophical teachings we are conscious after death and I'll think she will be as active in the afterlife!
We will shortly be announcing a replacement speaker for September 18th.