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Updated: Feb 17

Insignia of the “The Most Illustrious Order of St. Patrick” (the harp, crown and shamrock) granted by Queen Victoria.

Figure 1: Michael Patrick Lynch, 1912 - 1934.



Michael Patrick Lynch died as a result of gunshot wounds on the 13 August 1934, he was twenty-two years of age. The incident took place during a seized cattle sale in Marsh’s Yard in Cork City. My father and his brothers have always claimed that our branch of the family was related to the Lynch family. Once and for all, I decided to pursue the matter; were they correct and irrespective of the answer, what were the circumstances of Michael Lynch's death?


Who was Michael Lynch?

Michael Lynch was born on the 16 March 1912 to Daniel and Hanora Lynch (nee Dunlea) in Lyre, Carrignavar, Co. Cork, approximately twelve kilometres north of Cork City.

Figure 2: Birth certificate of Michael Patrick Lynch.

His parents had married two years earlier, on 5 February 1910, and Michael’s older brother and ‘Irish twin’, Thomas, was born during the last few days of 1910. The link to the Forde family comes via Hanora Lynch’s mother, Elizabeth. My great-grandfather William and Michael Lynch’s grandmother were siblings, making Michael my second cousin once removed, confusing but undeniable; the family folklore was confirmed.

According to the 1911 Irish census, Michael’s father, Daniel was a farmer and is recorded as living in Lyre, Co. Cork. He is newly married, living with his wife, three month old, Thomas. Also resident in the house are Daniel's mother and siblings. The family of eight, are living in a house with five to six rooms.[1]

1911 Census - Lynch Family

Figure 3: 1911 Census for Lynch family, Lyre, Carrignavar, Co. Cork. [2]

Life in Ireland during the beginning of the twentieth century was tumultuous.


Ireland following Independence

Britain relinquished its hold over Ireland in 1921. The circumstances of the transition were not seamless; to the contrary they were dramatic. Britain partitioned the country, insisted that the Irish Free State should join the Commonwealth and prescribed a controversial oath of allegiance to be taken by future members of the Irish parliament. It retained control over three strategic naval ports and demanded payment of a share of its national and war debts. [3] The Treaty signed between Britain and Ireland on 6 December 1921 was narrowly accepted by Dáil Éireann in January 1922. However, division and contempt was rife. Civil war ensued and raged for almost a year. The aftermath brought infrastructural wilderness; roads, bridges, factories and civic buildings were damaged or destroyed and the rebuilding projects certainly stymied Ireland’s beginnings. On a much greater level, it was the atrocities carried out by both sides that surely must have caused an air of malevolence to permeate the walls of Leinster House.

The first government, Cumann na nGaedheal, led by William T. Cosgrave was ill equipped in terms of economic expertise. Besides inheriting a common legal system, currency and a variety of other institutions, the fledgling State also acquired an economy evolved from British rule. [4] The six counties of north-eastern Ireland had a bustling industrial economy centred in Belfast, specialising in shipbuilding and textiles. In contrast, in the twenty-six counties of the Irish Free State, the predominant export was the excess of agricultural goods produced, and this was exported to Britain (figure 4).

Figure 4: Imports and exports from Ireland (twenty-six counties) 1925-1963[5]

The foundations for economic stagnation were set early on in the State’s birth. In 1922, national income per head was 56 percent of that in Britain — fifteen years later it was at 49 percent.[6] Although politically independent, the State’s colonial heritage as ‘an agricultural district of England, marked off by a wide channel from the country to which it yields corn, wool, cattle, industrial and military recruits’ continued after independence. [7] The Blueshirts aimed to reverse the realities of life in 1930s Ireland, the rot had to cease, and young Irish people like Michael Lynch joined the organisation.


Who were the Blueshirts?

For more information click here


13 August 1934

Monday, 13 August 1934 began with the promise of warm sun to shine for the day.[8] Michael Lynch donned his blueshirt and left the family home in Lyre to travel twelve kilometres south to Copley Street in Cork City. He was going to Marsh’s Yard for twelve noon to protest at an auction of ‘cattle seized for land annuity arrears at Bishopstown and Ballincollig’ the previous week. [9]

Figure 7: Newspaper advertisement for Seized Cattle Sale. [10]

Michael Lynch and his comrades rammed the gate of Marsh’s Auction Yard with a reinforced truck complete with an iron hook. They successfully entered the yard, whereby armed detectives, known as the Broy Harriers opened fire on the contingent.[11] The result was ‘one man fatally shot in the stomach [Michael Lynch], six others wounded by bullets and some 30 men treated in hospital for other injuries’. [12]

Figure 8: Aftermath of the ramming of Marsh's Yard, Copley Street.

The astonishing fact is the sale continued although delayed by one hour and the fourteen livestock were sold to a Mr. O’Neill for £17 15s. It was reporting in the Evening Echo that ‘Jeremiah [sic] Lynch … sat beside the driver of the lorry. He was shot through the stomach, the bullet going clean through the liver and spleen and emerging at the back.’[13] He was operated on in the South Infirmary hospital but died later that day.

Figure 9: Death Certificate for Michael Patrick Lynch.


Funeral and Aftermath

The funeral of Michael Lynch took place on 15 August 1934, the funeral cortege was scheduled to leave Saint Peter and Paul’s Church at 2.30 pm. Each shopkeeper in Cork and Munster was ‘requested to give practical evidence of their respect for the Martyr’.[14] The Lynch funeral ‘was one of the most impressive demonstration of regret witness in Cork for many years. Thousands accompanied the remains from the South Infirmary to S.S Peter and Paul’s Church.’[15]

Michael Lynch's Funeral Procession, Cork

Figure 10: Funeral Procession in Patrick Street, Cork.

Michael was buried in the family plot in Dunbullogue, and his memorial dominates the skyline when you enter the older part of the graveyard.

Michael Lynch Grave, Dunbullogue

Figure 10: Michael Lynch's grave, Dunbullogue Cemetery.

The most poignant detail on the memorial is not immediately evident, but look to the rear of the structure and you will see the engraving of a calf suckling its mother.

Figure 10: Rear of Michael Lynch's grave, Dunbullogue Cemetery.

The symbolic element sums up the ordinary Irish person in the 1930s. Hard working and attempting to eke out a living to support their family but confronted with three elements. Firstly, Ireland’s colonial history as ‘an undeveloped, semi-barbarous, purely agrarian country, a land of poverty-stricken tenant farmers.’[16] Secondly, Fianna Fáil, ‘a despotism disguised as a democracy’.[17] Finally, the Catholic Church, the ‘primary global carrier of the toxic virus of misogyny‘. [18]

Figure 11: Michael Lynch's bloodstained shirt, held by his sister.




[3] The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 bestowed dominion status on Ireland, and is the State’s founding document. The Treaty, a remarkably concise document, at 1,800 words, granted Ireland ‘the same constitutional status in the Community of Nations known as the British Empire as the Dominion of Canada … with a Parliament … and shall be styled and known as the Irish Free State.’ Ronan Fanning, Michael Kennedy, Dermot Keogh, Eunan O’Halpin (eds) Documents on Irish foreign policy (10 vols, Dublin, 1998 – 2016), i, 356.

[4] With the deaths in 1922 of Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins, the new government under the leadership of W.T. Cosgrove were heavily reliant on civil servants in the new Department of Finance. Two key experienced men, both nationalists, Joseph Brennan and J.J. McElligott were pivotal in the economic direction the foundling state took. Both men had close ties with the London treasury and the department took its views into account when advising the Free State government. In 1928 Ireland had its own currency, in name only, as for the next 50 years the Soirstat Pound (founded under 1927 Act) defacto maintained parity with the Sterling Pound (only disengaging when Ireland took the Punt following the joining the EU, Britain kept its currency).

[5] Andy Bielenberg and Raymond Ryan, An economic history of Ireland since independence (Abingdon, 2013), pp 126-8.

[6] GDP per capital in 1922, UK 4,637, Ireland 2,598; 1947 UK 6,604 Ireland 3,092, based on Angus Maddison statistics available (accessed 9 August 2019).

[7] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, On Ireland (London, 1971), p. 105.

[8] Irish Examiner, 14 August 1934.

[9] Evening Echo, 13 August, 1934.

[10] Irish Examiner, 11 August 1934.

[11] The Broy Harriers were a special branch of the Civil Guards. Justice Judge Hanna described them as an ‘excrescence upon that reputable body.’ T P Coogan, Ireland in the twentieth century, (London, 203), p. 203. They have also been described as ‘a kind of Special Branch of de Valera’s police.’ Liam Ó Murchú, Black Cat in the Window: A Family Album with Much Love and Squalor, (Cork, 1999), p. 15.

[12] Irish Examiner, 14 August 1934.

[13] Evening Echo, 11 August, 1934.

[14] Irish Examiner, 15 August 1934.

[15] Longford Leader, 18 August 1934.

[16] Vladimir Ilʹich Lenin, Lenin Collected Works (45 vols, Moscow 1972), xx, 148. (accessed 9 August 2019).

[17] Mark Quigley, Empire's wake : postcolonial Irish writing and the politics of modern literary form (New York, 2013), p.118.

[18] Irish Examiner, 16 March 2018.

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