The Lynches of Galway

Samuel Gamble Bayne
Recess to Galway (4) | Start of Section

Since the middle of the last century, the fortifications have gone fast to decay, and now nothing remains but a fragment near the quay and a massive archway leading to Spanish Place. There is also a square bastion of great thickness in Francis Street, and a portion of wall with a round-headed, blocked arch. Within the last century the town has so much increased as to cover more than double the space formerly occupied within the walls. Some of the houses are built Spanish fashion, with a small court in the centre and an arched gateway leading into the street. The most striking specimen of domestic architecture is Lynch's Mansion, a large, square building at the corner of Shop and Abbeygate streets, having square-headed doorways and windows, with richly decorated mouldings and drip-stones. There is also a portion of the cornice or projecting balustrade at the top of the house, the horizontal supporting pillars being terminated with grotesque heads. On the street face are richly ornamented medallions bearing the arms of the Lynches, with their crest, a lynx. This castle has more gargoyles and coats-of-arms carved upon it than ever Mr. Carnegie can hope to cut on the battlements of Skiebo. I was going to say, the Lynches had carvings "to burn," but, considering the incombustible nature of these ornamentations, the phrase would perhaps be inappropriate.

The family of Lynch, one of the most celebrated in Galway annals, is said to have originally come from Linz, in Austria, of which town one of them was governor during a siege. As a reward for his services, he received permission to take a lynx as a crest. The family came to Ireland in the thirteenth century, and flourished there till the middle of the seventeenth. In 1484 Pierce Lynch was made first mayor under the new charter of Richard III., while his son Stephen was appointed first warden by Innocent VIII., and, during a period of a hundred and sixty-nine years, eighty-four members of this family were mayors; altogether the Lynches were great people in Galway. In Market Street, at the back of St. Nicholas's Church, is the "Lynch Stone," bearing the following inscription:

"This memorial of the stern and unbending justice of the chief magistrate of this city, James Lynch Fitzstephen, elected mayor A.D. 1493, who condemned and executed his own guilty son, Walter, on this spot, has been restored to its ancient site."

Below this is a stone with a skull and cross-bones, and this inscription:


Remember Deathe Vaniti of Vaniti and al is but


James Lynch Fitzstephen had been one of the most successful of the citizens in promoting commerce with Spain, which he had himself personally visited, having been received with every mark of hospitality. To make some return for all this kindness, he proposed and obtained permission from his Spanish host to take his only son back with him to Ireland. The mayor had also an only son, unfortunately addicted to evil company, but who, he hoped, was likely to reform, from the circumstance of his being attached to a Galway lady of good family. And so it might have proved had he not jealously fancied that the lady looked too graciously upon the Spaniard. Roused to madness, he watched the latter out of the house, stabbed him, and then, stung with remorse, gave himself up to justice, to his father's unutterable dismay. Notwithstanding the entreaties of the town folk, with whom the youth was a favorite, the stern parent passed sentence of death, and actually hanged him from the window with his own hand.

The Joyces, however, ran the Lynches a close race in Connemara, a part of which is called "Joyce's country." In Abbeygate Street is the Joyces' mansion, now in ruins. On a house in the adjoining street are the arms of Galway. The complete ruins of Stubber's Castle are in High Street, the entrance to it being through a shop, the only feature of which worth noticing is a carved chimney-piece bearing the arms of Blake and Brown (1619). In Market Street are the remains of the Burkes' mansion.

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Samuel Gamble Bayne was born in Ramelton, County Donegal, and educated at Queen's University in Belfast. At the age of twenty-five he left for America with a view to making his fortune. He invested in an oil well in Pennsylvania and later founded a bank which subsequently came to be the JP Morgan Chase bank in New York. By the time this book was written he was wealthy enough to be referred to as a billionaire. His account of the tour through the north, west and south of Ireland is a pleasant snapshot of how that part of the country was in the early part of the 20th century. He describes what is to be seen, gives some background history and, through the illustrations especially, provides wonderful glimpses of the area's social history.

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