Ellie O’Byrne pays tribute to Cork music legend Mick Lynch who passed away last week
MICK LYNCH, songwriter, performer and former frontman of Cork new wave band Stump, passed away after a short illness in Marymount Hospice last Thursday. He was in his mid-50s.
Tributes and anecdotes poured in for the larger-than-life character, a familiar figure on the streets of Cork, within hours of his passing. Friends, family and admirers gathered to commemorate him at his funeral on Saturday.
Lynch grew up on the South Douglas Road, one of five siblings born to the late Tadhg and Noreen Lynch. He is survived by three sisters, Julianne, Noreen and Marie.
He attended Douglas Community School, and by his late teens was embroiled in Cork’s burgeoning punk scene, centred around venues like the Arcadia, where bands like Nun Attax were emerging in an economic landscape beset by unemployment and lack of opportunity.
Among his early bands was a version of Microdisney with Cathal Coughlan, Sean O’Hagan and drummer Rob McKahey. He also worked at both the Arcadia and Sir Henrys, two of Cork culture’s greatest landmarks.
In 1983, when McKahey and Lynch found themselves as part of the emigrant wave to London, Rob got in touch to see if he’d be interested in fronting a newly formed four piece, Stump.
Lynch’s surreally subversive lyrics, quick wit and dynamic performing ability made an enormous impression on McKahey, as well as bassist Kevin Hopper and guitarist Chris Salmon.
“Mick was a star, an enigma, one in a million,” McKahey said. “He’d come in for rehearsals and read out the lyrics he’d written to one of our crazy tunes and we’d all just be in awe.”
Live performances were raucous and at times hazardous, with Mick goading the audience in between chaotic renditions of songs like ‘Buffalo’ and ‘Charlton Heston’ whose musical complexity and humour generated a cult following for the band to this day.
The latter song also contains one of the great rhymes of the era: “And Charlton Heston put his vest on.”
Stump enjoyed a brief but meteoric rise to fame, finding a dedicated supporter in the form of legendary BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, for whom they recorded four Peel Sessions before signing to Chrysalis records. They also made several appearances on Channel 4’s music show, The Tube, presented by Jools Holland and Paula Yates.
However, differences emerged between band members and after recording one album for Chrysalis, they disbanded and Lynch eventually returned to his home town.
A revival of interest in music of the era had seen Stump reform for one gig in 2015. They were in negotiations for a season of festival appearances when Lynch received the news of his illness .“It was so strange, because we had been rehearsing, and the day we got the news that we were going to tour festivals, we called Mick and he was in the Mercy Hospital,” said McKahey.
After he had returned to Cork from London, Lynch got involved in acting and toured with several productions, also appearing as a character actor in a Murphy’s Irish Stout ad in the 1990s.
He also developed a one man show based on an alter-ego of his own invention, Don for Chickens, a solo act that involved performing songs accompanied by rhythms pounded out on a stringless guitar.
The surrealism, humour and lyrical talent that defined his contributions to Stump remained evident in these performances.
A meeting in the late 1990s with Tasmanian puppeteer Cliff Dolliver led to the foundation of Dowtcha Puppets, a puppetry and street theatre company where Lynch’s performing talents and love of writing saw him pen several shows in Irish and perform all over the country.
“He had this combination of a love of Irish traditions and culture, and a punk attitude,” Dolliver said. “His shows always encouraged people to go back to their roots, but at the same time made sure they were awake enough to think for themselves.
“He was a huge and uniquely talented character.”
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