Decorated Army commandant turned hotelier and winemaker

 

Michael Lynch:CMDT MICHAEL Lynch, who has died aged 66, enjoyed a distinguished career in the Defence Forces during which he participated in several United Nations missions.

He served in Cyprus in 1965, in Sinai in 1974 and began a tour of duty as a UN Middle East observer in 1980. The latter tour took place against the background of civil war in Lebanon, and in 1982 Cmdt Lynch was one of the first witnesses at the scene of the Sabra-Shatila massacre in west Beirut.

He was one of only six recipients of the Military Medal for Gallantry, 2nd class with distinction, the highest Irish military decoration to be awarded, after he recovered the bodies of UN colleagues who had driven into a minefield.

The citation reads: "For showing exemplary loyalty to his fellow UN observers and with disregard to his own safety, displaying the highest degree of courage and initiative in undertaking and successfully following through a difficult and dangerous mission behind Syrian lines, in the mountains east of Beirut, Lebanon, on the night of the 25th September 1982 and for reflecting through his actions during the mission outstanding credit on himself and his country."

Born in Dublin in 1942, he was one of the two children of Col Thomas Lynch and his wife Anna Flood. He was educated at Newbridge College and studied at Trinity College, Dublin, for a year before enlisting as a cadet at the Military College in the Curragh in 1961.

Commissioned in 1962, he was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Battalion. After a succession of postings at home and abroad, in 1998 he took leave of the Army holding the rank of camp commandant, Clancy Barracks, Dublin.

As a schools rugby player, he proved to be a very useful prop forward and went on to play for north Kildare, Carlow and Lansdowne.

A long playing career ended on a high note when in 1980 he captained Monkstown to victory in the O'Connor Cup.

After retiring from the Defence Forces, he embarked on a new career.

A born host with a gregarious nature, he bought the Orwell Lodge Hotel in Rathgar, Dublin, which he ran for six years.

On selling the hotel in 2004 he decided to realise a long-held dream of establishing a winery. He first considered setting up in France, and then turned his sights on Romania. On further investigation, high levels of crime and corruption there prompted him to look elsewhere.

He decided on Mendoza while on holiday in Argentina with his wife Áine in 2005. He loved the pace of life in Argentina, and with the help of advisers from Australia and New Zealand he successfully launched the El Comandante label.

He was in his element. Interviewed in 2006, he said: "So far it has been a great experience; people here are welcoming and warm. Argentina is a spectacularly beautiful place and Mendoza has an old world elegance about the city."

His entire first production, equally divided between a Malbec red and Chardonnay white, was earmarked for the Irish market. Eagerly anticipating the verdict of wine drinkers, he unfortunately fell ill just as the wine began to be marketed.

He is survived by his wife Áine, daughter Anna and sons Tom, John and Cormac.

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Commandant Michael Lynch: born April 24th, 1942; died October 24th, 2008