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March 1921 Liam Lynch (Part 3)

Memoirs Of George Lennon

14. March 1921 Liam Lynch (Part 3)

It was quite late when we got back and I was handed an urgent message from Lynch to the effect that I was to contact him immediately. His headquarters was something over a mile outside the village of Ballyhooly in County Cork and about thirty miles, as the crow flies, from our present location. This posed quite a problem as it might take days to travel such a long distance cross country, the roads being out of the question owing to their continuous patrol by the police and the military. Lynch, which was typical of him, did not mention such a minor detail but merely gave the address of a contact in the village. After mulling over the matter with the others it was agreed that I might take the risk of going by train after adopting a suitable disguise.

Aileen Welch harnessed up the pony and drove me to Cappagh station the following morning. As my mind was on serious matters I paid little attention to the conversation she tried to involve me in.

My dress was an expensive tweed overcoat, a deerstalker hat and my boots were nicely polished. In addition, I carried a copy of the Irish Field in my hand and had a faked letter to the faculty of Cork University in my pocket that would explain my identity in case I was picked up.

There was only one 1st class carriage in which I took my seat. A number of the other carriages were occupied by Tommies in full field equipment coming from England as replacements.. They did not bother me, or anybody else, but spent their time in cursing, sleeping, smoking and wondering what strange part of the world they were in.

Leaving the train at Ballyhooly I had to bluff my way through a convoy of four Crossley tenders full of Tans on the prowl, so I was still more than a bit rattled when I met Liam. The last time we had been together was five months past when I had helped to train a column for him at Glenville in the Nagles Mountains.

Now, on this occasion, he pushed me very hard to remain with him and I was quite unable to convince him that I was more needed elsewhere. In any case, I said my underwear was lousey and I had to go home for a change. He offered me half of his if I would stay. This one of my most pleasant memories of Liam, I mean his offering to give me his underwear.

Lynch was one of the few men I ever met whose authority while under command I accepted without question. He was also my friend, or I liked to think so. How can he be like a military man but have the appearance of a responsible superior of a great religious order. He was by nature most abstemious and he never raised his voice, which was gentle. If he ever smiled I have no recollection of the occasion. Like many people of settled conviction he had his blind spots.

At the moment of my arrival he came quietly into the farm parlor smelling strongly of a disinfectant ointment we used for scabies, an unpleasant itch we all suffered from due probably to infrequent changes of underclothing. He had a characteristic habit of fiddling with his eyeglasses when he was tense, which he was now. After gently reproving me for the lack of activities in our area he laid out a map and asked me to study it. Drawing a circle with his pen around Fermoy (a military town) he explained it was the headquarters and the main barracks of the British 18th Infantry Brigade which was causing him constant trouble by raiding all the country isolated, as far as it was possible to do so, by bridge demolitions and road obstructions. Where his area adjoined ours we picked a place for a suitable demolition as well as some road obstructions by tree felling. Not being the kind of person to waste time in idle conversation, he then dismissed me and became immediately immersed in his notebooks. A young lad of about sixteen scouted the road ahead and saw me back to the train for my return journey.

Author: George Lennon

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