In the early morning hours of April 10, 1923, in the Knockmealdown Mountains, County Tipperary, there died a great Irish patriot; a man who had fought with and lead some of the very men who now, tragically, would kill him. The man was General Liam Lynch, Chief of Staff, IRA. Born in the town of Barnagurraha, Co. Limerick in 1893, Lynch had commanded the Cork No. 2 Brigade of the IRA during the ferocious days of the Black and Tan War. He would eventually rise to command the 1st Southern Division, IRA, some nine brigades. When the treaty with England was signed in December of 1921, like many other IRA men, Lynch refused to abide by it's term. Thus began the bitter struggle between men who had been comrades in arms such a short time before: the Irish Civil War. Lynch 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.
On that April morning in 1923, as Lynch and a small number of his comrades sat down to a cup of tea, word came from a scout that a column of "Staters" was coming across the Knockmealdown Mts, cutting off their only retreat from another column of "Staters" they knew to be in the valley below. Carrying important papers that they wished to keep safe at all costs, Lynch and six comrades began a retreat up the mountain, hoping to avoid the trap. Soon they ran into the "Staters" on the mountainside, briefly exchanging fire with about fifty "Staters" armed with rifles. Lynch and his party were armed with only pistols and at a great disadvantage; their only hope for escape was over an open expanse of mountain where they would be exposed to what they knew would be a withering fire.
Having little choice, they moved up the mountain, bullets whistled and splattered all around them; the "Staters" fired as fast as they could work their bolts. Finally .... inevitably, a bullet struck home. After surviving so many fights for Irish freedom, luck had finally run out for Liam Lynch. "My God, I'm hit, lads," his companions heard him cry out as he slumped to the ground. As they gathered around him they saw that he was badly hit through the body, a very serous wound. Who knows which "Stater" fired that round, was it a man Lynch commanded during the Black and Tan war? We'll never know, but such a possibility shows the heartbreak of the Irish Civil War. Not just brother against brother, but so many former comrades in arms, killing each other on the same ground where they had stood and fought together only a short time earlier.
Lynch's comrades tried to carry him with them up the mountain but it was impossible. He finally ordered them to leave him. "Perhaps they'll bandage me when they come up," he said. Knowing that the papers they carried had to saved, and that they could never make it up the mountain carrying him, his comrades reluctantly obeyed his order and left him behind. When the "Staters" reached him later and asked who he was he replied, "I'm Liam Lynch, get me a priest and a doctor, I'm dying." Lynch lived to reach the hospital in Clonmel but he died there at 8 P.M. that night. Go ndeanai Dia trocaire ar a anam. (May God have mercy on his soul.)
(The monument to Liam Lynch, left)
On April 7, 1935, on the spot where Liam Lynch fell, they dedicated a monument to him. A sixty foot high round tower was erected on that spot, built with the volunteer labor of many of his old friends and comrades and replacing the simple wooden cross that had stood there for many years. A crowd estimated at fifteen thousand gathered that day to honor a man who had dedicated his live, and given his life, to the cause of Irish freedom. - JG
Liam Lynch's comradeTom Barry survived to write this famous book on his experiences in the War of Independence. Read his story in Guerilla Days in Ireland
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Learn more about Liam Lynch and all the other men who took on an Empire, and then each other, in Who's Who in the Irish War of Independence & Civil War
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