Letter reveals insight into Diarmuid Lynch’s incarceration

Like many other prisoners after the Rising, Diarmuid Lynch had to have correspondence to family and loved ones smuggled out of prisons and military barracks.

Letter reveals insight into Diarmuid Lynch’s incarceration

The words pictured here are the first section of a long note he wrote on a fragment of paper bag two days after his court martial on May 19, 1916. He had previously got five other despatches out from Richmond Barracks, where he was initially held before being identified and court-martialled.

It is one of many such documents in the possession of Bríd Duggan, daughter of the recipients — Diarmuid’s half-brother Denis Lynch, a distillery manager in Dublin, and his wife Alice.

As well as his own situation, Lynch refers to his brother Michael, or ‘Mick’, who had been active in the Irish Volunteers in their native Tracton near Kinsale, Co Cork.

On Easter Sunday, 1916, he travelled Co Cork on a motorcycle whose sidecar was laden with explosives, fuse coils and detonators, hand grenades, while armed himself with a rifle and two revolvers. He too was an active IRB member, and was in charge of the group of Volunteers amassed in Bweeng, between Blarney and Mallow until Cork Brigade commander Tomás MacCurtain’s ordered that the mobilisation be cancelled.

A note on piece of brown paper bag, written by Diarmuid Lynch in Kilmainham on Sunday May 21, 1916, and was smuggled out
A note on piece of brown paper bag, written by Diarmuid Lynch in Kilmainham on Sunday May 21, 1916, and was smuggled out

Another man mentioned in Diarmuid Lynch’s letter is Dublin councilor William Partridge, who had been up and down to Kerry to organise the intended landing of German guns over Easter weekend at Fenit. The location was identified by Lynch to the IRB in 1915 as the most suitable place for the landing.

On one side of the paper bag, a note was added by Lynch:

“Don’t let it be known that you got a note from me under this date!”

  • Diarmuid Lynch: An Fear Dearmadta de 1916, a half-hour documentary on his life will be aired on TG4 on Easter Monday, March 28, at 7.30pm.


“Kilmainham Sunday May 21.16. My dear Denis and Alice, I dare say you know of the visit I had here of Mary and Nora. I got my sentence last night, perhaps it is in today’s papers — death commuted to 10 years. I expected something like that from the attitude of the ‘Court’ at my trial.

I requested that the American Consul should be present thereat, but they would not wait.

They sent for him and allowed him to look over the summary of the evidence as made out by the presiding officer.I did not attempt to deny the main point against me — that I held the rank of captain in the GPO.

Lieut EL King, whom I released from the cellar when they were in great danger from fire and explosions, was the only witness produced to show that I participated actively in the fight. I rubbed in that fact, but told them I asked for no leniency because of it and did not make it on personal grounds.

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Partridge T.C. got 15 years (less five) though little or nothing was proved against him.

Colm O’Gaora of Cong Co Mayo got 15, less 5, though he had no part in the fight. Simply because when arrested at his home — a week after we started in Dublin — he had a revolver in his possession and on the oath of two policemen, the charge was made that he attempted to shoot the sergeant which he claims to be an absolute falsehood.

Oh well, thank God, all this will have no effect.

The consul asked me if he could do anything for me and I said NO.

Now, however, he can do something if he will.

My friends in America will put up a fight when they get details. Anyway I’m game — even if I have to put in the full time.

I’ m sure Tim will be home soon.

As for Mick, I dare say they will trump up some special charge against him and give him some time in gaol.

Let him get a solicitor.

I refused to get any ?— I knew it would be no use. In fact if I had said nothing in court, it may have been better for me, though I suppose they would have had their ‘pound of flesh.’ I believe I go to Mountjoy from here and then to somewhere in.....? (Diarmuid’s question mark). Had I expected to be here so long I would have sent for clean underclothes. I gave some of the tablets to Mick and left .....? in my room at Richmond so must depend on the doctor.

Hope D(Denis) got my letter ----? at Ship Street. The £1 Alice gave me is now held here in Kilmainham.”

Lynch signed off with a note about his possessions:

“They have £1 and my pipe. Love to you both, Slan libh, Diarmuid.”


The man who pioneered 1916 participants' testimony  

Diarmuid Lynch's 1937 Easter Week questionnaire
Diarmuid Lynch's 1937 Easter Week questionnaire

Diarmuid Lynch’s succinct report, compiled in 1936/37, gives the briefest description of his activities during Easter Week of 1916. It was Lynch who, in 1935, proposed recording the experiences of the GPO survivors.

He coordinated and reviewed those reports and, with the consensus of all survivors, the completed, 44-page report was lodged with the National Library of Ireland. This invaluable document was created a decade before the Bureau of Military History began a similar task, in 1947, but more survivors had died by then.

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