Tilda Swinton’s ex-partner John Byrne has claimed that he is the child of an incestuous relationship between his mother and grandfather.
Byrne, an artist and writer, told The Times that he found out that he is the son of his mother Alice and her father Patrick McShane in 2002 when he and Swinton were in their home in Scotland.
His cousin Aileen told him the news when she rang to tell him that her mother Helen had died.
“[Helen] told Aileen what my mother had told her, when she was much younger. Aileen asked Tilda, ‘Do you think I should tell Iain (a family name for Byrne)?’ Tilda said, ‘You’ve got to tell him.’ She called me in and handed me the phone,” he said.
Byrne said that “everything fell into place” when he was told.
“My mother was constantly voyaging out to Cardonald (where his grandparents lived). I once thought she wanted him to go down on his bended knee and beg forgiveness. No. She was in love with her own father, utterly and totally.”
“She just wanted to be in his company. She couldn’t even confess it. My own father [his mother’s husband, Patrick Byrne] didn’t know.”
Speaking of incest, Byrne made the bizarre claim: “That’s what they do in Ireland.”
“I think he gave me that wonderful mixture of genes with his own daughter, the eldest of the family. That’s what they do in Ireland. I presume it’s what they do in unlettered places and lettered places. It’s traditional, and nobody speaks about it.”
Byrne’s mother died in a hospital in the 1980s after a long struggle with mental illness, while his grandfather and father died of cancer.
Byrne and Swinton split in 2005 and have two children together.