In search of the Lynch mob

This article is a follow-up from the lady who kept us amused with the story about the little doll that said "Mamma".

The interest that has been taken in that lovely little story is just incredible - it ranged from the Loney to the Whiterock, then to Poleglass. Divis Flats, Twinbrook and back to the source. Una Lynch, who came from Massareene Street but has resided in the South of England for the past 50 years or so. Although now resident in Hertfordshire (pronounced Hartfordshire), Una is a Falls woman through and through, which means she loves a laugh, but don’t try to be too smart or you will get put in your corner. In the era I am writing about you had to know when to speak and when to keep quiet, these women had the resolve of iron - they had to have as times were rough.

Like so many of us do, Una has fond memories of the black kettle sitting on the hearth, the money for rent, coal and society sitting neatly on the mantlepiece, the tin bath on the back door, milkmen, laundry men, lemonade men, the man on the bike who sharpened the scissors by peddling like a demon, the window cleaners and “Mup and Yup”, the ‘rapper-uppers’ who made sure you didn’t sleep in for work. The rapper-uppers’ modus operandi was simple, they would bang on the front door shouting “Yup?” and the reply would come back at them from the top window “Mup!”.

Una tells me about an Auntie Rosie who lived at the bottom of Baker Street - apparently she was a cousin of the Straneys. Rosie taught Una and her sister Mary how to knit and the Doherty family showed them great love for as long as she can remember.

The thing is, Una would love to know more about her family, where she came from, her neighbours and all that.

I wonder does Una remember what a “sprazzy” or a ‘tanner’ was. How much was a ‘make’ or a “Barney Dilling”?

And the toughest of the lot, how much was a ’wing’ ?

Well, Una, to save you any bother they were a sixpence, a ha’penny, a shilling and a penny!I was going to put ‘greyhound’ in there but there but nobody had too many of these in those days (a greyhound, of course, was a pound note).

Una mentions a man I knew well, terrazzo-layer Tommy Madden, who came from Baker Street and died at a young age. Una is right when she writes that he was a lovely man who would buy them coal brick for the fire and black liquorice all sorts to eat. Tommy used to come into the Glenowen years later along with Bap Fitzpatrick and Seansy Wilson, the quiet men!

Una tells me her Granda Lynch was a blacksmith and she remembers he wore a long leather apron and had a photo of himself with horses. He also had a blue Irish terrier that had Albert Street on its toes all day.

Tommy Madden’s great mate was boxer Joe Anderson, another product of the Immaculata and also from Baker Street, and sadly no longer with us. I contacted Peter Lynch from the Whiterock for a chat, but he was originally from the Old Lodge Road where he got myself and the brilliant Sammy Simms to play for Johnny Logan’s Lodgeville football team. Despite his North Belfast beginnings, Peter says he will make a few inquiries for Una and if he can help, he will.

There was a Jimmy Lynch but he was always in the bookies, Una writes he died of cancer in England about eight years ago. John Lynch lived at No. 20 Massareene Street and some of his neighbours were ‘Spike’ McCormick, the Hannas, the Conlons, the Curries, the Bradys, Matt McGuckian, the Voyles, John Kavanagh of Brookville fame, the Boyles, Crossey’s shop, Bridie Doran, the Canavans, the Crillys, Jimmy Kempton, the Girvans, the Wilsons, the McGurks, docker John Power, ‘Bendo’ McKee, John O’Hanlon, Ned McCormick.

And it’s just registered in my head that Massareene Street could have had some boxing and football exponents on show as there were five All-Ireland Champions in that lot. Back to Una Lynch who started all this...

I met a woman last week and she said her sister was a great friend of Una Lynch and that the article had helped fill a few gaps in their early lives, and when I told her Una had sent me her telephone number in Stevenage, she was delighted and asked me to give her the number. I had to decline until I spoke to Una myself, I think that’s the proper thing to do. Una wrote in her last letter that she hoped I was not getting bored with all this and asked me to please accept her thanks in regard to me having helped her find her “lovely little godmother”Eileen Shannon (McCorey) who lives in Twinbrook and has been in touch with Una. They had a great chat. Believe me, it’s a pleasure helping anyone when it ends as nicely as that.

Una writes she feels real gratitude towards everyone who has been so kind to responding to us, what might be called the Lynch mob, their names are Mary, Roy, and Una Lynch. As far as Mr Thomas goes, he lived in a caravan at Stoneyford and had great brass ornaments with massive glass covers on them and it seems that Granny Lynch smoked a white clay pipe, she also owned a wind-up record player that carried on it a huge horn. Granny also made red jellies for Una when she was coming out of school, she kept them in cold water as there was no fridge.

Una goes on that granny sold needles and thread round the doors when she was younger. “I would love to know if anyone knew my Granny Minnie, we have no other information, only my memories.”
Her granny worked in the mill with no shoes and along with her, also in bare feet, was Mary Shannon, her godmother’s mum, who was Una’s best friend and wrote all her letters for her.

As you can see this is a woman searching for her past and I think she will get a good piece of it. Time waits for no man or woman - just keep on searching! And Una, if there is any way I can help you just ask!

I can finish by saying that when I rang Una Lynch I found that she has one of the kindest outlooks on life that I have ever encountered.

It is obvious she has had her difficult times, as have we all, but she has a humour second to none. She spoke of the Lynches, the Dohertys, the Maddens, the Shannons, etc, and it’s a certainty she will encounter them somewhere along the way. If anyone has any knowledge on the subject just let me know as I have a feeling it will make a certain lady feel like she’s six years old again.

God Bless.

Courtesy of the Andersonstown News
October 2004