Who Was the Reverend David Kidd Byrne

The Reverend David S. Kidd (Byrne) was born in a one room log cabin near Bewdley Ontario where there was nine children sleeping two to each bunk bed that nearly filled the small room. On a cold winter night several of the children made their bed on the floor close to the wood burning stove. Around midnight, their father George Kidd arrived home from the local tavern in his usual intoxicated condition complaining about too many mouths to feed leaving nothing for him and the crowded conditions of the room and ordered two of the boys, George and David into the night to collect more firewood. George returned to the cabin with wood but David decided he had had enough and headed down the road towards the tavern. The cold temperature and snow drifts soon numbed the boy of seven and he settled into a snow bank. His frozen body was spotted by an approaching driver of a sleigh and wrapped in a buffalo robe. The following morning David Kidd found himself in the home of Joseph Scriven who had spent most of the night tending to his frozen foot. Dr. Byrne often remarked that it was fortunate that amputation was not necessary, but for the rest of his life the foot would not support him without the aid of a stout cane. On learning that the boy was from the home of George Kidd, Joseph Scriven talked his father into letting him live in the Scriven home.

In later years, David Kidd attended the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. As part of his post graduate studies he found himself in an underworld saloon and was preaching from his pocket bible when a young women approached his table, ignoring his preaching and asked him to buy her a drink. Kidd said a short prayer and crossed the road to another saloon only to be followed by this same woman who asked him to read some more. By now Kidd noticed she was visibly upset and had started to weep. He learned her name was Lucy Byrne and she had run away from her very rich parent’s home in Brisbane, Australia and was now living as a prostitute and was a victim of T.B. with only a year or two to live and pleaded with him to get in touch with her father to tell him of her circumstances. David cabled William S. Byrne in Brisbane only to learn the Byrnes were travelling in Europe and could not be reached. Lucy returned to White Springs, Florida where she had previously lived and entered a sanatorium. A cable was finally received from her parents expressing joy that Lucy had been found and that money was being forwarded.

A later cable to David Kidd advised the Byrnes were sailing to America to be with their daughter and in gratitude, the cable ended with the wording “It is our intention to take the necessary steps to have you legally adopted as our son” (if he added to his name “Byrne”.) Sadly, word was later received that the Byrne family had been lost in a sea disaster near Montevideo. Lucy Lillian Byrne died in the sanitarium and eight years later, their son William, drowned in the Empress of Ireland disaster on May 29, 1914. David Kidd had already started proceedings from the wording on the cable: “It is our intention” for adoption papers and for the name change to David S. K. Byrne, this was accomplished starting the long legal proceedings that might bring to light the whereabouts of the huge Byrne estate valued at several million dollars, if only he could find proof of a last will and testament.

It was a Sunday morning in 1925, the village of Bewdley Ontario and the town merchants consisting of a souvenir shop, two lunch counters, a fishing boat rental service, garage, the Campbell House and the Purdy Hotel were somewhat confused since reading the engraved invitations, the street posters and advertising in the Port Hope and Peterborough press about the events that were about to happen. In the early morning, a wreath laying ceremony at a small roadside “Byrne” memorial, less than a mile south of town on Highway 28, the 32-piece band of the famous Captain John Slatter marched into the town. At the head of the parade was Dr. Byrne in his maroon-coloured Durant sedan car, accompanied by Mrs. D. S. K. (Janet) Byrne, who had been blind for a number of years and a nursemaid, Miss Agatha Couseneau, a long- time friend of the family and a permanent quest at the Byrne home. In the car also was Mr. Dalton Bradford K. C., representing the Government, who was to unveil the memorial in the Bewdley Cemetery, which had been erected in 1919, but awaiting certain litigation in the Byrne estate, it had not been officially dedicated.

Never before or since has there been a more gala occasion in Bewdley. Cars, trucks and horse-drawn vehicles lined all the roads and people were everywhere. There was a huge marqee erected on the lawn and through the entrance as the band marched by playing the hymn “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” could be seen the ladies auxiliary from Dr. Byrne’s mission church in Toronto. “The Christian Workers Tabernacle” preparing the long banquet tables for the invited guests. After a great open air service, Dr. Byrne related how the late Joseph Scriven many years before, and close to the spot of the gala, had rescued him as a young boy from a frozen death at the roadside, the fourteen high memorial to Joseph Scriven was unveiled. The eighteen hundred dollar polished marble column was a tribute to Joseph Scriven and a gravestone for the Byrne Family. A memento to his benefactor, the William S. Byrne family and a legal abstract. Spread out over four sides of the historic commemorative stone for the information of future generations were chiselled these words: (Today, this stone has been vandalized and destroyed.)

“Memorial to Joseph Scriven, B.A., born September 10, 1819, died August 10, 1886. Four miles north in Pengelly’s Cemetery, lies the philanthropists and author of the great masterpiece – written in Port Hope in 1857 – “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” erected in 1919 A.D.   Miss Agatha Couseneau born March, 1854, died November 19, 1825; Janet Byrne (Mrs. D. S. K. Byrne) born 1857, died 1932.   In memory of William S. Byrne who died at sea near Montevideo September 14, 1908 age 77 years, and his wife Lucy S. Francis, 65 years. Their son William, age 47 years, drowned – Empress Ireland disaster, May 29, 1914. Lucy Lillian Byrne died White Sulphur Springs, Florida, July 6, 1906, age 31. Erected English common law by royal license and private Act of Parliament from the throne of Henry 1st, 1106. D. S. K. Byrne born July 28, 1868.” The following day the headline in the Weekly and Daily Guide newspaper, Port Hope reported that “Thousands flocked to Bewdley, Rice Lake over the week-end, some to enjoy the cool breezes and others to see Kidd Byrne unveil a memorial to himself.”

Kidd or Kidd Byrne never inherited anything from the massive Byrne estate, he “died miserably” after avoiding a charge of fraud by pleading to mental incompetence. He was generally thought to be either a good man with too many great temptations placed in his way, or a thorough scoundrel from the start. Some even claim his leg injuries were as a result of falling drunk from a wagon or to a birth defect and even an unproven claim that he murdered his old friend Joseph Scriven (Foster Russell) in his book “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”

Regards, Ranger


  1. Oh my! What a story, Ranger.


    1. Ruth Anne, thanks for the great comment. David Kidd Byrne was an interesting character.


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