Diarmuid Lynch and the Bureau of Military History

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 1(Jan/Feb 2012), Letters, Revolutionary Period 1912-23, Volume 20

Sir,—Fearghal McGarry’s article on the Bureau of Military History and Easter 1916 (HI 19.6, Nov./Dec. 2011) does not give credit to the first recorder of witness statements, Diarmuid Lynch. Repatriated from America to Ireland in 1932, Lynch began an active programme of contacting, interviewing and recording statements from all those of the GPO garrison who were still alive. He devised a standard form in 1935 for these witness statements, and 147 completed statements were returned during 1936–7. These are archived in the National Library. He physically followed up on the information provided in the returned forms by meeting survivors for on-site discussions around the GPO. Having compiled a draft report, based on the statements, the resulting account was further edited and validated at a general meeting of the GPO garrison members before he completed a final draft, ‘Report on Operations, GPO Garrison Area, Easter Week, 1916’.The breadth and thoroughness of his research is illustrated by one example out of many. It concerned the authenticity of Pearse’s valedictory letter of 28 April 1916. On this subject there was an exchange of letters during 1937 between Lynch and Molly Reynolds, Winifred Carney, Margaret Skinnider, Desmond Ryan, J.J. O’Connell and others, and then with Prof. Eoin Mac Neill in 1938. These letters are also filed at the National Library. In November 1937 he interviewed Elizabeth O’Farrell and William O’Brien TD on the same subject.Lynch retired to his native parish of Tracton in 1938 and in the subsequent years he continuously researched, edited and recorded various aspects of the Rising, frequently combining his efforts with those of Florence O’Donoghue, who became a firm friend. Extensive communications between O’Donoghue and Lynch concerning the content of a series of articles that appeared in An Cosantóir during the 1940s on the subject of the signatories of the Proclamation are filed in the Cork City and County Archives. O’Donoghue was then editor of An Cosantóir and was a founder member of the Bureau of Military History, established in 1947. I have no doubt that Lynch’s persistent and dogged determination in accurate recording and his thoroughness in research lent impetus to the establishment of the bureau.Lynch’s unrelenting programme of research, recording and editing went on until his death in November 1950. Despite a serious health set-back in the spring of that year, between August and October an animated exchange of letters between Lynch and Florrie O’Donoghue continued, concerning the actions of the Cork Volunteers in 1916. As the first, persistent and painstaking researcher and recorder of the 1916 Easter Week events, Diarmuid Lynch, a member of the supreme council of the IRB and aide-de-camp to James Connolly in the GPO during Easter Week 1916, deserves recognition.—Yours etc.,EILEEN McGOUGH


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