Diarmuid Lynch  (1878 - 1950)

Jeremiah Christopher (Diarmuid) Lynch was born on January 10, 1878  in Granig, Tracton, Co Cork to Timothy and Hannah Lynch (nee Dunlea). When Lynch was six months old his mother died from bronchopneumonia. His father, still a young man, married Margaret Murphy from nearby Ovens with whom he had five other children.

The nationalist minded Lynch's were prosperous tenant farmers who, for many decades, leased substantial acreage of fertile land in the townland of Granig from the absentee landlords of the Tracton Abbey estate.

 Lynch received his primary education at the nearby  Knocknamanagh National School. Later in life he paid tribute to the school's headmaster, Michael McCarthy for the excellent education he received and for instilling in him an awareness and appreciation of his cultural heritage and Ireland's centuries long struggle for  freedom.

 When Lynch was thirteen years old his father died leaving his stepmother to care for him and his stepbrothers and stepsister. As the oldest child he felt duty bound to forego his schooling so that he could help his stepmother care of the younger children and also help with farming chores.

The few short years that Lynch had with his father were joyful, filled with adventure and tales of yore. His future life choices and commitments were greatly influenced by what he learned during these years, particularly the role he would play, some twenty plus later, in one of Ireland's most historic and turbulent periods  In a biographical essay penned in 1947 he made mention of these times by recalling his father reading aloud to him speeches made by prominent Irish politicians. He also mentioned been taken to monster Land League meetings addressed by Parnell, William O'Brien and Dr. Charles Tanner. 

Lynch first job paid was that a sorting clerk at the General Post Office in Cork.  During that time he worked at the post office he attended night classes at Skerry’s College studying for the British Civil Service entrance exam.  On passing the exam he  was offered a job as a sorting clerk in the Mount Pleasant postal depot in London. It was there that he became acquainted with Michael Collins, Sam Maguire and other Irishmen who went on to become members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).

His stay in London lasted only a matter of months.  His maternal uncle Cornelius Dunlea, who was living in the United States arranged for Lynch to join him there.  As his uncle was a partner in an agricultural machinery manufacturing company  finding work would not an issue. Not enamored with his lot in England Lynch set sail for New York arriving there in March of 1896. Upon arrival he was employed by his Uncle as a book keeper and shipping clerk at the Cotton Exchange Building in downtown Manhattan.

Once settled in New York he joined the  Philo-Celtic Society (1) . Due to his infectious enthusiasm and organizational skills he was elected secretary within months of joining.  Membership in the Society quadrupled within a short period.   His successful work on behalf of the Irish Language did not go unnoticed by the leadership of the Gaelic League(2) who appointed him president of the Gaelic League of the State of New York.

In the early 1900's the Philo-Celtic Society and the Gaelic League in America were more or less operating as one organization.

Lynch became a United States citizen in 1902.

During the initial eleven years he spent in New York Lynch came to know and work with many of the leading Irish-American political activists including Jeremiah Ó Donovan Rossa, Dr Thomas Addis Emmet, John Devoy, Thomas J. Clarke, Col. Ricard O'Sullivan Burke, John J. Breslin and Judge Daniel F. Cohalan. He convinced Judge Cohalan, a leading figure in Clan na Gael, that the revival of the Irish Language was an integral component of Ireland's struggle for freedom and that it should factor into the Clan's work 

Lynch was very much involved with all aspect of Irish Culture including promoting and acting in Irish language plays.  He also took a leadership role in protesting against "Stage Irish" plays and other such depictions that portrayed the Irish as laughable oafs. Often described as hibernophobia these offensive portrayals that originated in England towards the end of the 17th.were still in vogue in the U.S. at the turn of the 20th.

When the president of the Gaelic League in Ireland, Douglas Hyde, visited the United States in 1905, Lynch was his point man responsible for promoted the visit, arranging the itinerary and arranging a grand welcoming reception in Carnegie Hall.  During Hyde's visit the Philo-Celtic Society presented his play An Pósadh at the Lexington Opera House. Lynch played the part of Antoine Ó Raıfteırı, the poet.

Lynch returned to Ireland in July of 1907 and took up residence in Dublin.  Not long after his arrival he was out canvassing with Sean MacDiarmada for Charles Dolan an Irish Parliamentary Party MP who had resigned his seat in the House of Commons to (unsuccessfully) contest the same seat as a Sinn Fein candidate.

 In 1908 he was sworn into the IRB by Sean T. O'Kelly.  For the next two years he was active in both the IRB and the Gealic League. With a reputation as an effective organizer he was tasked to work with other IRB members that included Bulmer Hobson, Eamonn Ceannt, Cathal Brugha and Sean MacDiarmada to reorganize and reinvigorate the organization in preparation for a military confrontation with the British occupation forces.

It was not an easy task to find work in Dublin, however, by March of 1908 Lynch  was hired by a retail establishment.

In a move orchestrated by the IRB he relocated to Cork in 1910 where he became a member of the Cork Circle of the IRB. He also took on part-time employment as an insurance agent; a position that required him to travel extensively throughout  Munster.  His travel requirements  made it possible for him to secretly recruit new members and communicate with other IRB Circles and when challenged by, ever present, British Intelligence agents had plausible excuse.

In 1911 he was selected as Divisional Head for Munster on the Supreme Council of the IRB. That same year he secured further employment with a farm equipment and seed merchant in Cork where he met another IRB operative, Tomas MacCurtain.

By 1915 Lynch had come under scrutiny by British Intelligence.  He was ordered him to register as a 'friendly alien' because of his American citizenship and report to the Royal Ulster Constabulary when entering and leaving a "Proclaimed Area".

In January of 1914 Lynch and Tom Ashe journeyed to America to raise funds for the Gaelic League. Due to the onset of WWI the tour was not successful, however, he returned in October with $2,000.

From January of 1916 Lynch's movements were severely hampered after he was reclassified by British Intelligence as an 'enemy alien' with travel restricted to within five miles of his Dublin residence. Nonetheless, he participated in a number of meeting concerning the planned Rising. At a meeting in January the Supreme Council accepted a recommendation that the Uprising would take place at the 'earliest possible date'.  Although the actual date of the Rising was already decided  by the Military Committee it was not made known to the other Council members for security reasons until shortly before it happened.

When Eoin MacNeill, Chief-of-Staff of the Irish Volunteers, countermanded the order for the Rising,  a hastily arranged meeting that included Lynch, Padraic Pearse, Thomas McDonagh, Joseph Mary Plunkett, Seán Mac Diarmada decided to go ahead with the Rising.

During the week of the Rising Lynch was aide-de-comp to James Connolly and Staff Captain in the General Post Office (GPO). During the last hours leading up to the surrender with the GPO on fire,  Harry Boland and Lynch were in command of a contingent of volunteers charged with making unused ammunition and bombs safe from accidental explosion pending the evacuation.  Although others claim abound as to who was the person to leave the GPO  its generally accepted as fact that Boland followed by Lynch were the last to leave.

Lynch was court marshaled on May 18, 1916 and sentenced to be shot the following morning. After the sentence of death was passed the U.S. government requested the British to defer the execution until they could investigate the case. Intervention of the U.S. Consul evoked a particularly cruel mock execution scene by the British authorities who told Lynch only at the last minute that his death sentence had been commuted to 10 years imprisonment.

 In referring to the mock execution, historian Owen Dudley Edwards (based on U. S Dept. of State documents) described the horrific scene the U. S. Consul Adams witnessed when he visited Kilmainham Jail.

"Adams was escorted to a waiting room which overlooked the courtyard. Under his horrified eyes Lynch was placed against a high stone wall -- the soldiers forming a hallow square about him.  At that point he (Adams) was removed from the waiting room. and escorted from the prison".

Lynch, together with other Irish republican prisoners, were sent to Dartmoor prison in Devon where they treated as common criminals. After much agitation and adverse publicity they were granted prisoner-or-war status and, in December 1916, transferred to Lewes prison in East Sussex.  Together with other republican prisoners he was released in June 1917.

Immediately following his release, Lynch became active again, and along with Michael Collins and Thomas Ashe, participated in the reorganization the IRB. At the 1917 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, Lynch was appointed Director of  Food for the Provisional government of an independent Irish State.

In response to the commandeering of a large quantity of grain by the British army in January of 1918, Lynch, acting as Director of  Food, retaliated by seizing and slaughtering a drove of pigs enroute to the docks for shipment to England. The meat the meat was sold to local consumers and the owners reimbursed. In retaliation Lynch was arrested by the British and sentenced to two years imprisonment.

While imprisoned in Dundalk Lynch was served with a deportation order to be returned to the United States. In anticipation of such an order he had requested parole to marry his fiancée, Kathleen Quinn so that she could accompany him to the United States. He was refused.  Not to be deterred  a plan was devised wherein Kathleen, her half sister and a Capuchin priest, Father Travers visited the prison purportedly to see three prisoners; namely Lynch, Frank Henderson and Michael Brennan.  The ruse worked and Lynch and Kathleen were married on April 24, at the same hour that the Easter Rising started.

On learning of his marriage he was immediately deported. After obtaining a marriage certificate his wife Kathleen joined him in New York in June of 1918.

Shortly after arriving back in the United States Lynch was appointed Secretary of the Friends of Irish Freedom (FOIF). Under his guidance the organization became an effective nationwide lobbying organization that culminated  in the U. S congress passing the following resolution on March 4, 1919.

 "That it is the earnest hope of the United states of America that the peace conference, now sitting in Paris, in passing upon the rights of various peoples, will favorably consider the claims of Ireland to the right of self-determination.

Although the resolution did not endorse the Irish Republic that Lynch and others sought, nonetheless, it served as a call for Ireland to present its case at the Versailles Peace Conference.. However, Ireland was denied the opportunity to present its case because of President Wilson's deal  with the British to exclude Ireland in return Britain's backing for his pet project 'The League of Nation'.

In the November 1918 general election, Lynch, Liam Mellows and Dr. Patrick McCartan were  elected in absence to the first Dail Eireann.. 

In 1919 friction within the FOIF was beginning to make its way in the public arena. The main issue driving this was -- who should control the political agenda and fund raising in the U. S.  Should it be representatives of the newly formed Dail Eireann in Ireland or should it be the U. S based leadership who up to that time led the effort.  Although a Dail Eireann deputy Lynch believed the U.S. based leadership because it was more knowledgeable and better attuned to the U.S. scene, therefore should continue to lead.  The arrival of de Valera in 1919 exacerbated the situation. As a result of the escalating conflict, Lynch resigned from Dail Eireann in August of 1920.

The consequences of the very public disagreements were felt throughout the 1920s. Although the FOIF were exonerated in the court cases that followed the damage was done.  In 1929 associates of de Valera again tried to claim the unused funds raised by FOIF  in 1919 and 1920 to start the Irish Press newspaper. They were unsuccessful as the records maintained by Lynch were complete and indisputable.

The Lynches returned to Ireland in 1932, the same year that de Valera's new party (Fianna Fail) took over in Leinster House. As would be expected Lynch was not offered any role in the Fianna Fail government.  Instead he contributed to the work of the Bureau of Military History in collecting witness statements from those who had taken part in the War of Independence and in reviewing historical publications

 After a 12 year campaign he was awarded a military service pension in 1946 for his service to the Irish government during the years in America when he came into conflict with de Valera.

On his death in 1950, no commemorative plaque or public monument was raised to his honor despite his position in the IRB, his participation in the Rising and his exhaustive work for the Irish  Republic in America. The quarrel with de Valera was the reason why he was denied a well deserved service pension until 1946 and why his contributions to Ireland's struggle for freedom have, up until now, been redacted from Irish history.

President Sean T. O Ceallaigh attended his funeral at Minane Bridge in November 1950.


Contributed by;  Tomás Ó Coısdealha


Notes:

1).  The Philo-Celtic Society, which was founded in Brooklyn, NY  in 1873 by Mícheál Ó Lócháin is still active. Its aim was and still is to promote the Irish language as a living language and to re-establish it as the spoken language of Ireland with English as a second language.

2). The Gaelic League was founded in Ireland by Douglas Hyde, Fr. Uegene O'Growney and others in 1893 with the aim of restoring the Irish Language throughout the country. The Gealic League was modeled after the Philo-Celtic Society.

 


 cemetery AND grave location

NAME:  Tracton Abbey graveyard,                          PHONE NO.  

ADDRESS:   Tracton, Co. Cork , Ireland.


GRAVE AND HEADSTONE INSCRIPTION

 

 


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