Eamonn Duggan marks the centenary of Jack Lynch’s birth with a five-part series on the the man historian and journalist T. Ryle Dwyer has called “the most popular Irish politician since Daniel O’Connell”.
One hundred years ago on 15 August 1917, one of the most popular and notable individuals ever to grace Ireland’s public stage was born just yards from the famous Shandon Bells in Cork City. The child was christened John Mary Lynch and though no one in the country’s second city would have ever have imagined it at the time, Jack Lynch, as he became popularly known, was destined to have a profound impact not only on their beloved “rebel county” but also on the country itself.
The youngest of five boys, (the family also had two girls), young Jack was by all accounts a lively young lad who had a penchant for getting into trouble. He was educated at St Vincent’s Convent on Peacock Lane and later attended the famous North Monastery Christian Brothers School.
Tragedy struck the family when Jack was thirteen years old with the death of his mother, an event which naturally had a huge impact on him. One of his aunts, who had a family of her own, stepped in to take on the challenge of looking after a second family and though times were often difficult, Jack managed to do well for himself at school and on the sports field.
In an interview in 1979, Lynch recalled his early years in Cork and his life at home with his parents, Dan and Nora (nee O’ Donoghue) and his siblings. He remembered his father, a tailor who worked for Cash’s drapery store, and originally from the Bantry area, as a tall, quiet, dignified man who liked an occasional drink and who was very interested in all sports.
He had played a bit of football in west Cork before playing with the Cork city club, Nil Desperandum, whose members were mostly associated with the drapery trade. Lynch recalled that his father was an enthusiastic walker who occasionally participated in a game of bowls which he had played regularly back in west Cork in his younger days.