Rynne, Stephen (1901–80), farmer, writer, and broadcaster, was born in Hampshire, second son of wealthy Irish parents, Dr Michael Rynne and Mary Rynne (née O'Mara). The family moved (1907) to Limerick, where Stephen attended Sacred Heart College, the Crescent, till he went to Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare, for two separate periods (1914–15 and briefly in 1919). His brother Michael was a pupil in 1912–17. Stephen studied agriculture at University College, Reading (Reading University since 1926) and in the mid 1920s farmed Cloonmore, a derelict property at Downings House, Prosperous, near Naas, Co. Kildare. He endeavoured, with some success and much local praise for his idealism, to transform the holding from its overgrown state into a model farm. Interested in self-sufficiency rather than in profit, he regarded his Virgilian way of life as a means of achieving a kind of harmony within nature. He never became a passive or reclusive exponent of what a later generation would describe as the ‘good life’, but read widely and expressed his philosophy and observations in the written and broadcast media. As such he was well known for his gentle and enthusiastic style, infectious in its sincerity and depth of general knowledge. Rynne drew at times on iconic personalities and events of recent Irish history, certain to have readers nodding in recognition.
He found a willing ally for his exaltation of rural values in the Irish Press newspaper, founded as the organ of the Fianna Fáil party in 1931. Similarly, the intimacy of radio formed an ideal vehicle for Rynne's style of presentation, old wisdom in a modern medium. He admitted to a clear preference for the written word, disliking the ephemeral nature of radio, and implying that it encouraged the laziness of the non-reader. He was an early member of Muintir na Tíre (‘people of the land’), a rural development association founded in 1931 by Canon John Hayes (qv), parish priest of Bansha, Co. Tipperary, of whom Rynne later wrote a substantial biography. He admired Hayes personally for the cooperative meitheal which was successfully created across agricultural communities, although by 1940 the new archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid (qv), had begun to see this as a threat to his diocesan authority and blocked its progress.
In 1934 Stephen Rynne married Kerry-born author and bibliophile Alice Curtayne (qv), a fellow exponent of the rural life who travelled widely and specialised in religious historical writing, notably on the lives of saints and scholars. Although Roman Catholics, the Rynnes showed a spiritual rather than doctrinaire interest in religion, uncommonly liberal in a time and environment of pious obedience. Stephen Rynne's publications included a number of core works which best represented his extensive literary output. Green fields (1938) was an autobiographical memoir of his farming career to date, from crop-growing and farm husbandry to fair-days and his personal struggles with the land. It was republished in the late 1940s. His travelogue All Ireland (New York, 1956) in the Countries of Europe series by Hastings House was a relaxed and intimate road journey punctuated with anecdotes and reference to notables (not least Canon Hayes) associated with the places visited, certain to appeal especially to Irish exiles in the American market. In his praise, for instance, of Mount Melleray, the Cistercian monastery near Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, and on many other matters, Rynne resembles English travel writer H. V. Morton in In search of Ireland (1930). As straight biography, allowing for obvious bias in favour of the hero, Father John Hayes, founder of Muintir na Tíre, the people of the land (1960) is solid eyewitness history of recent events, which reflects Rynne's journalistic ability to handle near-contemporary material in an historical context.
As a broadcaster, Stephen Rynne in his later years was a contributor to the long-running Radio Éireann series ‘Sunday miscellany’, a simple formula of scholarship and serendipity which far outlasted its original concept. He and his wife were much-respected members of the Kildare Archaeological Society and recognised for the depth of their feeling for the heritage of a county of which neither was a native. Ill-health affected him for some years and he died 12 December 1980, aged 79, at the Richmond Hospital in Dublin, following complications arising from a leg amputation. Alice, who was in a nursing home in Clane at that time, died eight months later, leaving two sons, Davoc and Andrew (a noted medical doctor), and two daughters, Bríd and Catherine, a sculptor and writer respectively.