Walk for the weekend: Lynch Walk, Co Tipperary
A 20m edifice based on early Christian round towers marks the place where IRA chief of staff Liam Lynch was shot
The Liam Lynch Monument at Knockmealdown, Co Waterford
During the Civil War, Larry Clancy was a Free State army officer based in Clogheen, Co Tipperary. His task was eliminating Republican forces from the area. On April 10th, 1923, he was leading a detachment of troops towards the Knockmealdown mountains when they were fired on.
Ahead a group of men were “daringly standing on rocks while wearing black overcoats and hats and firing”, recalled Clancy. “We fired off five rounds and I saw them jumping off the rocks. I saw them running down the hill towards the skyline. I then observed a man fall forward and remain there. When we got to where the man was lying, I asked ‘who are you?’ and the man answered, ‘I’m Liam Lynch. Get me a priest and a doctor, I’m dying’.”
That spring the position had become desperate for republicans fighting the Civil War. Lynch, the IRA chief of staff, was under pressure to call a ceasefire. To discuss the options it was agreed to convene an IRA executive meeting for April 10th.
Moving between safe houses, Lynch arrived at Goatenbridge, beneath the Knockmealdown mountains. He assembled with other executive members at the isolated Houlihan farm until a sentry spotted Free State soldiers heading directly for them. To escape Lynch and his companions rushed up a stream bed towards Crohan Mountain.
To follow in the footsteps of Lynch, I set out from Knockballiniry car park by tagging the pink arrows for the Crough Loop along a forest roadway. The arrows soon conveyed me up a rustic lane that segued into forestry. When the arrows divided, I went left following red arrows over a footbridge to a turning circle where the Houlihan house once stood. Nothing now remains, but the deep river bed which the men escaped in is obvious.
Returning to the Crough Loop, I pursued the arrows up a steep track to another forest roadway. Here the way was left following a sign for the Liam Lynch Monument. At the next junction I went left again and immediately over a stream. This is the point where Lynch and his companions become vulnerable: the stream they had followed rises out of its deep ravine here and no longer affords cover.
A later description from Frank Aiken, the future minister for internal affairs who accompanied Lynch, gives a clear indication of the terrain: “The fight took place on mountain as bare as a billiard table.”
Today the area is heavily forested, but further on the trees disappeared and I enjoyed sublime vista over fertile plains to the meandering waters of the river Suir. Eventually coalescing with the East Munster Way, the trail doglegged west to a large monument.
Marking the point where Lynch was shot, it is a striking 20m edifice based on the round towers of the early Christian period, and guarded, in heroic pose, by four bronze wolfhounds.
Lynch was a deadly opponent of those who accepted the treaty. Still, Clancy’s soldiers made every effort to save him. Laboriously they carried their comrade from the War of Independence down the mountainside, but he later succumbed to his wounds in Clonmel hospital.
Afterwards, as I followed the walking arrows back to the trail head, the great tragedy that was the Civil War fills my thoughts – and particularly the improbable single shots from the distance that killed both Liam Lynch and Michael Collins.
LYNCH WALK, CO TIPPERARY
Start: From Clonmel take the R665 to Ardfinnan. Cross the bridge, then go left and uphill and continue to Goatenbridge. Knockballiniry car park lies about 1km directly ahead.
Suitability: A generally unchallenging outing on reasonably sound tracks.
Time: 3 hours
Map Discovery Sheet. 75