Excerpt #6 of my new book: “It will not be long now ’til our wedding day”;The Death of Liam Lynch, April 10th, 1923; His dying words, “This should never have happened!”


They say Michael Collins was on his way to talk
truce to Liam that day in August 1922 he was
gunned down at Beal-na-Blath by Liam’s IRA.
By April 1923: Liam –also truce-opting—was also
dead –shot by Michael Collin’s Free-Staters!

The Wind, The Wind, The Wind, The Wind!
It was The Wind that shook the Barley.

It intensifies our sense of tragedy to know that
both men, engaged to marry, had agreed with
their betrotheds to wait until the war was over –
(“It will not be long, love, ‘til our wedding day!)

Poet G K Chesterton wrote about “the Gaels”
“All their wars are merry,
and all their songs are sad”.
He was half-right –many songs are indeed sad.
Two particular love songs –sad enough to
break your heart—share such a poignant
resonance with our Collins & Lynch tragedy,
they could have been specially composed for it!

The first, “The Wind that Shakes the Barley”,
is filled with a familiar sense of foreboding:

“I sat me in the valley green,
I sat me with my true love,
My sad heart strove the two between,
The old love and the new love—
The old for her, and the new that
made me think on Ireland dearly,
While soft the wind blew down the glen,
and shook the golden barley.”

It ends: “T’was hard… to break the ties that
bound us…harder still to bear the shame
of foreign chains around us.”
[A bullet kills his love;he “full soon will follow.”]

The second song, “She moved through the
fair,”(sadder & even lovelier) repeats the line
“It will not be long, love, till our wedding day”.
Michael & Liam would have known both songs,
might well have sung them to their beloveds:
“It would not be long, love.” But –just as in both
songs, their weddings were not to take place.

21. “MY GOD, LADS, I’M HIT!”

At Annie’s English Convent one day
in April, 1923, when she was 17,
the sad news came from home:
Liam was dead! Dead!

The Death of Liam, aged 29, on the wind-
swept slopes of Knockmealdown, down the
road from Mitchelstown. Liam –who knew every
field & every hedge in these parts –Dead! The
Liam that Annie had known all her young life–
The Good, The Mild, The Brave, The True.
Liam the Dependable, Determined, Resolute.

But –also Liam the Obdurate; The Stubborn.
Liam who over-ruled his closest colleagues
pressing him to change his casting 5-4 vote.

Liam, Deaf, the Obdurate Over-ruler. Yes, Liam
the Unrelenting (–even as he was slowly,
relentlessly, relenting inside his own head.)
Liam the Self-Torturing. Yes!

Liam who could have said “Yes” to The Truce
and the war would have been all over –Yes!
Now, too, Liam was gone.
And now, too, the Civil War was all over!

Steadfast determination –“never give in”–
lay, in Yeats’ phrase, at Liam’s “deep heart’s
core”: Liam was “utterly dependable”.
Could we ask for a finer trait, a truer friend?
One who never gives up on us? Is it not the
very definition of the “faithful friend”? Until…

Until they go too far –& keep on going! “STOP!”
we cry. To no avail. We are over-ruled! Deaf!

Never give up! Never give up!
Hadn’t Winston Churchill been the same?:
“Never give in! Never give in!
Never! Never! Never!
He had vowed he would NEVER permit Liam
to have the Irish Republic he wanted: that was
…”Unthinkable!” But in their War of Wills –The
Terrier versus The Bulldog—Liam had bested
the British Empire’s best –Winston Churchill!

[Winston’s turn would come, 20 years hence. In
1940 –steeled now with the Moral Authority of
Defender– he would inspire the British People,
calling forth their gritty best. And deliver
England (& the rest of us!) from the Impending
Cataclysm. He would be the hero that Britain
“would not see for a thousand years”, the hero
who gave the British people “their Finest Hour”.

[Though he would later revert with Kenya…]

In a good play, it is said, everyone ends up in
the right.” [Everyone? That MAY be pushing it
–something we can explore later, if you prefer…

… But –can we agree?: “Understanding precedes
true forgiveness.”?]


THE DAY HE DIED: Early in the morning of
April 10th, 1923, drinking tea in a safe house,
word had come from Liam’s lookout team:
“Enemy approaching over the hill.” Two Free-
Stater pincer groups were coming to cut them
off. (An army of hundreds saturated a wider
area –hunting for the IRA, for Dev, for Liam.)

Escape! Flee! Avoid capture at all costs! Liam
& his men fled across the open mountain:
“Vital papers” must get through.(How “vital”
could they be? More vital than Liam himself?)

A shot rings out; a Free-Stater’s bullet hits
Liam; he falls. It was –would prove to be– the
last shot fired in that dark conflict. In disbelief,
Liam had cried out: “My God, lads, I’m hit…”

My God, lads, I’m hit! Impossible!!! But the
dying Liam urged his men to flee, to leave him,
to save themselves. A Free-Stater thought they’d
got DeValera!”
Then Liam spoke: “I am Liam Lynch, Chief-of-Staff
of the Irish Republican Army. Get me a priest & doctor
-I’m dying.”
The Free-Staters –killing done, now caring, even
reverential– took him down the mountain gently
–lest he suffer (further) pain. Liam & his shooter
become friends. An Act of Contrition is recited;
& repeated: “O my God, I am sorry.” Liam gives
(for-gives) his new friend one of his fountain pens.
A priest happens by. Obsequies are set in train.

Hours later, on his deathbed, came the last
words Liam would speak in this world:
“Poor Ireland! All this is a pity.
It should never have happened.”

[“It should never have happened!” Quick! Get
his headstone; let us carve those words into it
for all to read who would come to his Kilcrumper
grave-side to do honor to his memory.
To do honor. Not out-do!]

[END of Excerpt #6. More soon.]

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