30 Sept 2022

“ The Chief” Liam Lynch commemorated on a Tipperary hillside

“ The Chief” Liam Lynch commemorated on a Tipperary hillside

Some of the attendance at the Liam Lynch commemoration

“From faraway places we have come to this Tipperary hillside to pay tribute of remembrance to one
of Ireland’s unyielding soldiers and in the name of the living Republic to honour every man and
woman, who has striven and fought and died for Irish Independence through all the generations.”
The opening lines spoken on the 7th April 1935 by Brian O’ Higgins in his oration at the unveiling of
the Liam Lynch monument on the slopes of the Knockmealdown mountains. And so on Sunday 31st
July 2022 the well trod path up the side of the Knockmealdown mountain, which Republicans have
ascended to the sacred spot since 1935 was again being used.

Nowadays cars are the favourite mode of ascending the mountain although there was a few ‘pilgrims’ on foot. Tipp fm had run a nice part of speaker “ Tomas Mac Conmara’s interview on the hour every hour from 9am at the end of each newsreel all Sunday morning and fair play to them for the coverage, its why local radio holds a special place in peoples life’s. Social media sites were also covering the 99th commemoration of
“The Chief” with great snippets of the life story of Liam Lynch up on various sites.’

Eire Go Bragh’ flags guided the faithful from Goatenbridge village up the side of the mountain. From 1pm a steady trail of dust could be seen as cars made their way along the stony mountain path. When Liam Lynch and
the IRA Flying Columns were traversing this mountain it would have been barren and the ‘lads’
would have been grateful to be received in the many Safe Houses in the foot hills and along the
slopes of the Knockmealdowns , that provided much needed shelter, food ,and a place to lay their
weary heads if only for a few hours.

This area of Tipperary has a proud tradition of sheltering the’
Irish Rebel’ through the generations who because they loved their country and stood against a
tyrannical British empire, became the hunted in their own land. From Fr.Sheehy to Michael Doheny
to Sean Hogan and Dan Breen and the wanted men of the ‘Flying columns ‘,that all passed this way.
The many boithrins,mass paths, Holloways, double ditches ,provided the hidden routes that the IRA
Flying Columns used to prosecute their Guerilla war against the tyrannical occupiers.
The local IRA was led by Sean Prendergast with Sean Myles his no2. These men would have
organised ‘billets’ for the men of the Flying Column when they were staying locally and ensured their
safety ,providing armed sentry’s ,and scouts and spotters to ensure their area was ‘safe’ and a type
of ‘exclusion zone ‘was created ,so no one came or went without the knowledge of the local IRA
Active Service Company. The area was basically in lock down with scouts on high ground and
strategic points on roads and boithiríns during daylight, and armed guards at night. When word was
sent by messenger that the ‘boys’ were on the way these small farmers,shopkeepers,labourers,
were on a ‘war footing’.

Their normal routines were on hold and often while the Column was in
their area ,they would be busy trenching roads, cutting wires, keeping suspect informers under
observation and carrying Despatches to and fro between the ‘Column’ and HQ.
Families like the Walshes Ballyboy,James McGrath Killeigh, Prendergasts Curraghatoor,O ‘Learys
Knockballinira,Condons, Houlihans,Carrigans Crough,Myles’ Slatterys, Kenneallys,Murphys, Hacketts
Graigue,Thomas Burke, Aherns, Kildonogue , English’s Tullow, Mescals Frehans, Moloneys,Sullivans
Castlegrace, these are just some of the families I have come across while researching IRA Safe
Houses at the foot of the Knockmealdowns and the local IRA Active Service Company . The anti
treaty IRA relied on the goodwill of the people and in this part of South Tipperary those faithful to
the 1916 proclamation were always given refuge.
Committee member Tommy O Leary of Kildonogue Ardfinnan and his grandson Cathal Burke, had
the flag poles erected early and the flags of the four provinces and Tricolour flew proudly in the
shadow of the Round tower monument. Tommy has been bringing the poles up the mountain for
years. Tommy’s family the Burkes was another Safe House the ‘ lads’ frequented regularly.
At 2.30 with perfect weather conditions for a commemoration , Chairman Sean Nugent called the
crowd to line up . Pat Boyce proudly held the Tricolour high as he moved to the front of the crowd
and took up his position . Pa Cronin piper, who hails from where “ The Chief” Liam O Loinsaigh was
also from,’ Anglesboro, ‘ stood next in line with the Cork Flying Column group next with rifles at the
ready. As the ancient sound of the pipes drifted over the crowd, and the Tricolour floated in the
fresh mountain breeze,,Pat led the procession up over the bridge that leads to the monument. The
Flying Column moved in single file spread out, as the ‘Flying Column’ would have back when they
traversed these Tipperary hills and boithríns from 1921 to23.
Sean Nugent welcomed all those who had come to honour their fallen hero. Sean’s father was one
of the Column men who operated in this area, “Gunner Nugent”.
“It makes no difference what your political affiliations or views are, once you have come to
remember Liam Lynch you are always welcome, we are absolutely delighted to see the huge
attendance. As the years go on the numbers are getting higher”
Billy Stokes of Kilshellan was then asked to take to the podium and recite the rosary ‘as Gaeilge’. Billy
hails from a family with long links to the cause of Irish freedom, and many prominent IRA men
stayed at Stokes’ Safe House.
Sean then spoke of the great feat it was to have erected the monument and he paid tribute to the
volunteers who took on the significant challenge of building it.
“It speaks volumes for the high esteem in which Liam Lynch was held, the volunteers were mainly
local people from places like Ardfinnan,Newcastle,Ballymaccarbary and the general Clonmel area,
and they had to carry materials a considerable distance across what was then a barren
mountainside. The result of their endeavours is one of the finest monuments in rural Ireland to a
fallen hero.”
Sean praised the foresight of these locals whose plans included the construction of a podium of
stone which has been used every year since 1935.
“They would not have been disappointed as under various banners down the years Liam Lynch has
been remembered at this spot. This monument has stood the test of time as has the memory of
Liam Lynch. “
Sean concluded by remembering those that erected the monument, repaired it and those that
organised the commemoration down through the years.
“In more recent years we remember Enda O Riordan, Kitty Harney,Nicholas Macgraith, John Hassett,
and another great attender at these events Kathleen Cleary who died tragically some months ago”
Sean then asked Pat O Donnell of Mocklershill to lay the wreath. Pat a life long Republican from a
family with a proud tradition of being involved and active in the pursuit of freedom. Pat ferried many
famous names to and from this commemoration and others down through the years.
The main speaker then was introduced by Sean. Dr.Tomás Mac Conmara is a well known historian
and author of numerous books including his latest the “ Scariff Martyrs”
It is great to hear our native language spoken and Tomás spoke fluently as he began his oration.
“Tá buntáist nach beag ag an té athá in iúl faoi an scéal agus saol Liam O Loinsaigh agus tá cáilúin
ollmhor ag an té gan an tuiscint sin.Tá sé práinneach duinn scéal Liam Ó Loinsaigh a sceapadg chomh
leithne agus is féidir linn”
Tomás began by underlining the importance of knowing about the ‘ Liam Lynch’ story
“There is a significant advantage to the person who is aware of the story of Liam Lynch and a
tremendous loss to the person who does not know or understand that story. If we are committed to
the memory of Liam Lynch ,we have to do our best to spread his story around this area and country
because his story was never more important than it is now ,particularly for younger people in Ireland
. It is my hope that in 2023 when we are gathered here once more, many more people will know and
understand the story of Liam Lynch”.
Tomás continued
“When Liam Lynch lay bleeding and dying on this spot on 10th April 1923,with his comrades moving
into the distance and Free state soldiers coming closer, he would have been forgiven for thinking
that soon his name would be forgotten. He knew that the powers of the state were against him, he
knew that the church were fundamentally opposed to his position, he knew that the business
sectors were against his position, he also knew that an increasingly powerful government and an
increasingly ruthless army were fundamentally against his position. And an observer looking on at
that time might have agreed that this man’s name and the names of his comrades would be
forgotten, yet 99 years later here we stand in a powerful demonstration that the memory of Liam
Lynch and the cause that he fought for breaks through all of the public narrative and often times the
voices of the powerful do not reflect the voices of the people” The large crowd acknowledged those
inspiring words and a large applause broke out.
The crowd which included a lot of relations and descendants of the IRA local Active Service
Company’s and “Safe House” families listened intently to every word Tomás spoke. Tomás spoke of
how he sometimes felt it was wrong to concentrate too heavy on the leaders of the revolution.
“Liam Lynch would have accepted and would have insisted that the importance of Safe Houses like
Houlihans that he left that morning, the Cumann na mBan women and the women outside of that
organisation that were critical to the over all success and effectiveness of the Republican movement,
to the Scouts, to the ordinary Volunteers , all contributed to the sub total of what a revolution and a
revolutionary period should be.
Tomás spoke of Liam Lynch as having a “mixture of that revolutionary ruthlessness that is required,
but he had most importantly an intellectually and idealogically informed political position and I
reject as Iam sure all of you reject the presentation of Liam Lynch as some kind of’ zealot’ that
refused to see pragmatism when it was put in front of him, in fact Liam Lynches position when we
look back now one hundred years later and we examine our own history of our Nation, Liam Lynches
position in defending the Irish Republic and refusing to compromise on the Irish Republic is very
very difficult to argue with”
As a historian Tomás said it was important to reflect on the human story of the Civil war, to accept
and try and explore what it means,
“We can equalise the human experience , but we cant equalise the positions taken and the
consequences of those positions, the opponents of Liam Lynch in 1923 many of them were sincere
many more were all too willing to compromise and for those to whom principle means very little,
somebody like Liam Lynch to whom principle means everything , can be an immense source of
frustration, and therefore the narrative of the ‘zealot’ who would not compromise was presented.”
Speaking about the Civil war Tomás said the divide is long dead and the discussion around
reconciliation should be about the North of Ireland. Liam lynch is buried in Kilcrumper cemetery
Fermoy along side his comrade Mick Fitzgerald, and Tomás speaking of that fact recounted
“I cant find in my mind a better companion in death for Mick Fitzgerald than Liam Lynch, because
the resilience and incomprehensible endurance of will that is represented in every hunger striker
that has died from 1917 through to 1981,is something that is difficult to comprehend, but certainly
outside of that fold Liam Lynch came very close”
Describing the hallowed and sacred place, for Irish Republicans ,that is the location on the slopes of
the Knockmealdowns of the Liam Lynch Monument Tomás described
“This spot has become sacred from that very day an obscure part of the Knockmealdown mountains
became a sacred spot in the Republican consciousness, and as has already being mentioned that
relationship between history, memory and the Republican story ensures that this spot for ever more
will be sacred”
Tomás recounted how thousands of Republicans had come to the unveiling of the monument in
1935,and many travelled from the north on buses ,the name ‘Liam Lynch’ means something very
deep to the people in the north of Ireland.
“Last week I was in south Derry and in the area around Donegal, Drumboe, talking about Charlie
Daly and the other Drumboe martyrs , and Liam Lynches name was mentioned several times in
conversations I had with Northern Republicans about the importance of people like Charlie Daly and
Liam Lynch”
Dr Mac Conmara then spoke of the importance of the endurance of his memory, describing how
Liam Lynch sacrificed himself for something bigger than himself , and that today is a powerful
antidote to what seems to me has become a very individualistic tendency in modern culture, and
young people in particular need to understand the story of Liam Lynch, and there is a duty on us to
remember Liam.
“There is a utility well beyond just faithfulness to his memory because I believe particularly younger
people need to understand the story of Liam Lynch, no more do we have to send them out to war,
but any young person growing up in this country and this world who is grounded, he or she, in their
own history in an understanding of their historical experience, and can be inspired by the efforts
made by people like Liam Lynch and his many , many comrades , will be a better individual in their
life experience.”
“The responsibity is on us the heirs to that remembering to ensure that more and more people
know the story of Liam Lynch”
Tomás then told the story of a King in the Persian empire who couldn’t get enough land or take over
enough territory, his name was Darrius. He had only one group left to subjugate called the Cytians,
and every time they tried to fight them, the Cytians would retreat from battle. King Darrius became
frustrated by this and eventually sent a messenger to meet with the king of the Cytians.
The king of the Cytians told the messenger quite calmly the reason they ran from battle. They had
no towns, no houses, they were a nomadic people and they didn’t feel the need to die to defend
land that was not theirs. But he told the messenger of Darrius
“Tell your King that this should not be confused with some fear of battle, and in fact if your King
Darrius wants a battle ,then ..tell him to try to get near our ancient burial grounds ,because if he
tries to get near our ancestors memory ,then he will truly know what a battle is”
Tomás continued
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful as we move in past the centenary of Liam Lynches death, to know young
people in Ireland ,International as they can be, are grounded in an understanding of their history ,
their culture and their heritage, and are proud of the men and women who before them fought so
that they could have their liberty, and they live out their liberty rooted and connected to their place.
Wouldn’t that be a powerful place to be. So we need to move and encourage the memory ,beyond
the shadow of this fantastic tower, beyond the graveside in Kilcrumper,and out into the minds of the
youth of the Irish nation, because truly if they know the story of Liam Lynch ,then in a century’s time
his story will still be remembered ,and his story will withstand the relentlessness of times apparent
Dr Mac Conmara then concluded his inspiring oration with a poem written by an anti-treaty
volunteer in Limerick prison upon hearing of the death of Liam Lynch
“Dearest Liam you have left us, in this vale of mist and tears,
But though absent, still your memory shall survive the fading years
Shall survive the hate of tyrants casting forth its golden ray,
Till the land you loved shall flicker
At the dawning of the day.
And we stand beside your graveside, not in sorrow but in pride,
Loving oer our nations martyrs who for liberty have died
Future years shall memory’s cherish
From the grave where in you lye,
Dearest Liam hear us whisper from our hearts a last goodbye”
AS Dr Tomás Mac Conmara stepped away from the podium he got huge applause and a truly
inspiring oration, by one of our best historians was ended.
The 99th anniversary of “The Chief” was concluded with our national anthem. The ‘faithful’ had
ascended the mountain in their droves to honour a true Irish patriot, a tradition repeated down
through the generations. Many of these IRA Volunteers handed down their medals to family
members received for their effort in pursuit of freedom. Many more received no medals, and no
mentions in the pages of the history books, just ordinary people who when faced with tyranny did
what they could. Most of these great men and women didn’t speak of what they had seen and
being involved in. These were just ordinary people who were forced to make a stand. Tim Horgan
the great historian who spoke at this commemoration in years gone by said it all when he made the
”These young men were of your community. They were born to hold a pen, a shovel, or Hurley, but
not a gun. However a century ago their conquered country called, and rifles sloped uneasily on their
shoulders, these men of the Column began their march, oblivious of the dangers they faced. If
freedom had a price, they would pay it.”
Many of those present had Grand parents or fathers who fought alongside Liam or in another IRA
Column with the same ideal and beliefs that he gave his life for. AS people waited to meet Dr Tomás
Mac Conmara and take photos of the monument, old friends reunited ,people mingled and spoke of
their own families histories and experiences. The Erin go Bragh flags erected to guide the
‘Republican pilgrims’ up the stony path from Goaten Bridge fluttered in the light breeze on a Sunday
in Tipperary as the crowd dispersed ,many heading for a cup of tea and a chat to Goatenbridge. A
tradition that had begun officially in1935 was over for another year. The Committee have begun
preparations for the 100th anniversary already. Well done to Nicola O’ Connell for recording the
day. I will finish with a poem by Tipperary man Ben O’ Hickey
“Yes, sing their praises night and day,
And keep, their memories green,
No braver, nobler men than these the world has ever seen,
They gave their lives to save our land,
In history write it red.
Oh speak their names in tender tone,
The martyred Irish dead.

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