The Lynch Family

Lynch family crest

(Crest No. 13. Plate 69.)

THE Lynch family is of Norman origin, and came to Ireland in the year 1172. The Lynches secured estates in the present Counties of Limerick and Galway. The Lynches were among the earlier of the Norman families who adopted Irish customs and became identified with the native population. They even assumed the Irish prefix “O” to their name, and called themselves the O’Lynches. Some of this name, however, have been shown to be of Irish, or Milesian, extraction—the O’Loinsighs, mentioned in the “Annals of the Four Masters” in the tenth and eleventh centuries as Chiefs of Ulidia, now the County of Down.

This family has given many illustrious names to Irish history. One of them, a Galway mayor, or warden, in 1493, acquired a somewhat doubtful reputation by hanging his only son from the window sill of his house for murder, an act that is perpetuated in the phrase “Lynch Law” to the present day.

A noted member of this family was the Rev. John Lynch, Archdeacon of Tuam, author of “Cambrensis Eversus” and other works. He was born in 1600, and was descended from the family of Hugh de Lacy. His father, Alexander Lynch, who lived during the Penal Laws, was one of the few remaining hedge schoolmasters in Connaught. Hardiman, in his account of his regal visitation in that province in 1615, thus refers to Lynch’s school: “We found in Galway a publique schoolmaster, named Lynch, placed there by the citizens, who had great numbers of schollers, not only out of that province, but also out of the Pale, and other partes, resorting to him. Wee had daily proofe, during our continuance in that citty, how well his schollers profited under him, by the verses and orations which they presented us. Wee sent for that schoolmaster before us, and seriously advised him to conform to the religion established, and, not prevailing with our advices, we enjoyned him to forbear teaching; and I, the Chancellor—Thomas Jones—did take a recognizance of him and some others of his kinsmen in that citty, in the sum of £400 sterling to his Mate use, that from thenceforth he should forbear to teach any more without the special license of the Lord Deputy.”

Singular as it may seem, Archdeacon Lynch, the son of this proscribed schoolmaster, was an English loyalist, and a bitter opponent of the policy of the Papal Nuncio, Rinuccini, and of Owen Roe O’Neil. After the surrender of Galway, in 1652, he had, notwithstanding his loyalty, to fly to France, where he died in exile. His “Cambrensis Eversus” is one of the most valuable Irish historical works extant. He wrote several other works in defense of his race and faith, all of which are marked by learning and ability.

Several members of this family distinguished themselves in the Irish Brigade in the service of France. At the surprise of Cremona, Captain Lynch, of Dillon’s Regiment, with thirty-five men, was stationed at the Po Gate, which he held the whole day against the Austrians, and, in the words of the French war report, “after performing prodigies of valor, saved the place by his obstinate defense.”

Dominick Lynch, of the Galway branch of the family, was a lieutenant-colonel in Lally’s Regiment, and signalized himself in three Continents. He served with Lally in India, and was one of the officers who accompanied Colonel Warren to Scotland to rescue Prince Charles, the Pretender, receiving for his services in that expedition the reward of a thousand livres.

At the siege of Savannah, during the American Revolution, when Count d’Estaing attacked the city, Lynch exhibited singular bravery. The Count de Segur relates the following anecdote of him on that occasion:

“M. d’Estaing, at the most critical moment of that sanguinary affair, being at the head of the right column, directed Lynch to carry an urgent order to the third column, which was on the left. The columns were then within grapeshot of the enemy’s intrenchments, and on both sides a tremendous firing was kept up. Lynch, instead of passing through the center or in the rear of the columns, proceeded coolly through the shower of balls and grapeshot which the French and English were discharging at each other. It was in vain that M. d’Estaing and those who surrounded him cried to Lynch to take another direction; he went on, executed his order, and returned by the same way, that is to say, under a vault of flying shot, and where every one expected to witness his instant destruction. ‘Zounds,’ said the General on seeing his return unhurt, ‘the devil must be in you, surely! Why did you choose such a road as that, in which you might have expected to perish a thousand times over?’ ‘Because it was the shortest,’ answered Lynch. He then went with equal coolness and joined the group that was most ardently engaged in storming the place. “He was,” continues Segur, “afterward promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general, and commanded our infantry in the first engagement we had with the Prussians, on the heights of Valmy, in 1792.”

In America this family has also been worthily represented. Thomas Lynch, of South Carolina, was a member of the Continental Congress, and his son, Thomas Lynch, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The late Admiral Patricio Lynch distinguished in the Chilian-Peruvian war, was a descendant of a branch of this family settled in Ulster.