Republican Biography Series:
Liam Lynch was born in Anglesborough, County Limerick to a family with a patriotic history. His great-grandfather was a member of the United Irishman and fought in 1798
against the Brits. With this influence, Liam grew up with nationalist feelings in his heart. He attended the National School and took an apprenticeship in a hardware business in Fermoy.
He first rose to prominence as the man behind the reorganising of the IRA Volunteers in Cork. After his work was done, he led Cork's No. 2 Brigade against the pillaging Black & Tans
who were terrorising the countryside. The most famous attack of his leadership was probably the sacking and capturing of the Araglin Police Barracks as well as separate successful ambushes throughout the country.
In June of 1920, Liam Lynch led a group of men to the River Blackwater where a General and two British Colonels were amusing themselves by fishing. The IRA soldiers seized the officers and in the scuffle, one colonel was wounded. Rather than have a dead British officer on his hands, Lynch allowed the wounded and the healthy colonel as an attendant to leave. This capture was a great propaganda coup for the Volunteers, but it didn't last long; the general escaped five weeks later. Once this capture was seen in perspective with the rest of his short but illustrious career, Lynch's reputation was so great that he was named Divisional Commandant of the IRA South in early 1921.
When the Treaty of Partition
was signed in December of 1921, Lynch immediately denounced its legitimacy and refused to recognise its authority. He was named Chief of Staff of the IRA in early 1922 after the formation of the illegal Free State. In July, he led a sizable contingent of men into Limerick city and seized the Adare Barracks along with a considerable chunk of the city itself. A truce was drafted, but the Free State government denounced its legitimacy and sent reinforcements to continuing fighting the IRA. Lynch eventually was forced to withdraw back into the country as he was outnumbered 3 to 1.
In March of 1923, Liam Lynch as COS of the IRA decided that it was time to consider the possible options. He was willing to consider most anything short of surrender. Unrelenting, he never wavered in his will to fight on against the Free State forces, even as it became clear to most that they could not win. But, he did not want to see more of the young men of Ireland, the roots of the nation, slaughtered needlessly.
On the 10th of April, 1923 Liam was leading a small contingent of IRA men thru the Knockmealdown Mts in Co. Tipperary when it became apparent that a pair of Free state columns were approaching in different directions, in order to cut off any retreat. Not wishing to have any important communicae captured by the enemy, Liam began to wrack his brain for any possible way out of his current situation.
Inevitably, the Free State troops closed in on the IRA men's position, pressing them from both sides. Upon sight, they wildly opened fire on Lynch's group. Lynch attempted escape by disappearing into the forest nearby, but as he and his men climbed to reach this wooded area, he was mortally wounded. His IRA comrades tried to carry him up the mountain but it was impossible amidst the gunfire. He finally ordered them to leave him. "Perhaps they'll bandage me when they come up," he said with a sarcastic smile. Knowing that the communicae they carried had to be kept from the Free Staters, his comrades reluctantly obeyed their commandant and left him behind. He was taken prisoner shortly after and died later that night.
This brought the tragedy of the Civil War home for many men on both sides. That bullet, the one that ended Lynch's life, could have very well be fired from the rifle of a man who fought right along side of him only 2 years before. On the 7th of April 1935, on the same spot where he fell, a monument was dedicated in his memory. A 60 foot high tower was erected there, built with volunteer labour consisting of many of Liam's old friends and comrades The tower replaced the simple wooden cross that was there for many years. A crowd estimated at eighteen thousand people gathered to honor a man who had dedicated his life to the cause of total Irish sovereignty.