by jdurney on November 22, 2013

Newbridge woman’s secret jail marriage to forgotten rebel

Liam Kenny

A Newbridge woman had a ringside seat to the planning for the 1916 Rising through her relationship with a rebel leader who has been ignored by modern day historians. In a new book published by Mercier Press the role of Cork man Diarmuid Lynch – said to be the last man to leave the blazing GPO at Easter 1916 – is asserted by author Eileen McGough.
Lynch was working for the national cause from his early teens and moved in the same circles as Tom Clarke, a signatory of the Proclamation, Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera. Indeed he was described by one historian as being the most senior IRB leader to have survived the Rising and executions. Yet he has got little of or no mention in the voluminous publications on the period.
He escaped execution in the aftermath of the rising but two years later — resulting from his actions as Sinn Féin Minister for Food — was interned by the British in Dundalk Jail in March 1918. In April he was deported to America as he had US citizenship having spent some years working in the States.
On arriving in New York he continued with his passion for Irish independence and became a leading organiser and fund-raiser for the Friends of Irish Freedom – a powerful organisation which mobilised support for the independence movement through the powerful Irish-American network on the east coast.
However he crossed swords with De Valera who came out to America in 1920 to raise funds for the Irish volunteers during the war of independence (1919-21). There was a calamitous split in the Irish support movement in the United States arising largely from De Valera’s intervention and Diarmuid Lynch ended up on the wrong side of that fissure and was promptly written out of the history books when recollections of 1916 were published in the following years in Ireland.
Back to the Newbridge connection and a note in the Kildare Observer newspaper of June 1918 reports that “Mrs Diarmuid Lynch (nee Kathleen Quinn) wife of the Sinn Féin Controller, who has gone to join her husband in America, is a daughter of the late Mr John Quinn, a well-known merchant in Newbridge. Mr Quinn was an active member of the local boards in Kildare County.”
Careful research by author Eileen McGough, which included invaluable access to Lynch family papers, suggests that the Newbridge woman first met Diarmuid Lynch in 1915 by which time he was a senior figure in the Irish Republication Brotherhood and privy to the steps being taken to mount a rebellion against the British.
After the rebellion at Easter 1916 Kathleen Quinn visited Lynch in Kilmainham jail on 18 May 1916, the day he was condemned for treason arising from his being a leader of the Rising. They surely thought it was to be the last they would see of each other given the string of executions of rebel leaders in the preceding days.
However Lynch’s family mobilised appeals for clemency from Irish-America arising out of his US citizenship. Such was the power of the Irish-American lobby in the States that  US President Woodrow Wilson was drawn into the case and he instructed the British Foreign Office to insist that Lynch’s impending execution be deferred until the American government could investigate his case.
In the end Lynch – like De Valera – escaped execution but in common with hundreds of other Irish Volunteers was transferred for internment in English jails where he was to remain until released in June 1917.
He returned to Ireland to a hero’s welcome with over 10,000 people gathered at Cork railway station to greet him as one of the top figures in the Sinn Féin movement. However it was not long before he came to the attention of the British authorities who had him under frequent surveillance. He had been appointed Director of Food in the Sinn Féin shadow government and his aim was to halt the export of food to England when people in Ireland were going short.
In February 1918 Lynch masterminded the seizure of pigs being exported to Britain via the Smithfield Markets in Dublin. His dramatic seizure of the England-bound pigs created a sensation in Irish and English papers and boosted Sinn Féin volunteers throughout the country in their campaign to keep food in Ireland. For his troubles Lynch was again arrested by the British authorities and interned in Dundalk prison. His relationship with Kathleen Quinn had become closer and when news came through that he was about to be deported to the US he and Kathleen arranged to be secretly married in Dundalk jail before his deportation.
Under the guise of a visit to three prisoners Kathleen Quinn, a female friend, and a Capuchin priest managed to get permission to visit the prison. In the visiting room two of the volunteers managed to distract the warder and in a whispered few words the Capuchin married Kathleen Quinn and Diarmuid Lynch. Their marriage took place on 24 April 1918, two years to the day since the outbreak of the 1916 rising.
Shortly after Diarmuid Lynch was deported to the US and Kathleen followed him on 1st June 1918 which returns the story to the report in the Kildare Observer quoted above.
This was far from the end of the story for the Lynch couple and their years involved with the Irish-American movement when they became intimately acquainted to Kildare-born Fenian leader John Devoy are described with great clarity by Eileen McGough.  Diarmuid Lynch became a leading figure on the Irish-American scene and was chief secretary and fund-raiser for the Friends of Irish Freedom.
However the subsequent split in the Irish-American support base was – even by the standards of Irish splits – was vitriolic and was to scar many. Diarmuid Lynch although remaining true to the memory of 1916 was one of the casualties of the split and his star faded to the extent that he is almost unknown to modern scholars of the Irish rebellion.
This new book “Diarmuid Lynch – a forgotten Irish patriot” by Eileen McGough and published by Mercier Press will go a long way to rightly reinstate him as being one of the most influential figures in Irish early 20th century nationalism. And as a footnote it might be remarked that the “Leinster Leader” was no doubt the paper of the week in Kathleen Quinn’s family home in Newbridge. Now a century later a book in which she features is being reviewed in the same newspaper.
Postscript: for readers interested in the book on the Morpeth Roll and NUI Maynooth reviewed last week, more information can be had from Anthony Tierney at Four Courts Press on 01 4534668.
Series no: 334

Liam Kenny reviews a new book “Diarmuid Lynch – a forgotten Irish patriot” by Eileen McGough which throws new light on Newbridge woman Kathleen Quinn

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