General Liam Lynch

The death of General Liam Lynch from a fatal bullet wound inflicted by Free State forces on the morning of April 10th, 1923 as he retreated with members of his army staff to avoid an encirclement movement to capture him in the Knockmealdown mountains above Goatenbridge, heralded the end of the tragic civil war that divided the Irish nation. Lynch was Chief of staff of Republican forces in a war he did all in his power to prevent. As in the war for independence, Lynch, who possessed a good military brain, was a man who, while reasonable hope of success remained, was prepared to fight on while other of his comrades had felt for sometime that continuing the conflict was hopeless. There was growing differences among the Republican Army Council during the final two months of his life which caused Lynch serious problems.

The morning of April 10th, 1923 was selected by General Prout, Waterford Divisional Commander of the Free State Army, for a major encirclement of the Knockmealdown mountain region covering south west Tipperary and west Waterford to round up and capture as many Republicans as possible in a dawn swoop. Captain Tom Taylor, a native of Cashel, was in command of a garrison of Free State soldiers in Clogheen. On April 9th, 1923 he received a written order from General Prout in Clonmel to proceed with one officer and sixty of other ranks at 4am to reach Newcastle by daybreak. Taylor with Lieutenant Larry Clancy, a native of Drangen, set out in the cover of darkness from Clogheen and reach Goatenbridge at 5am where they halted before proceeding up the laneway that now leads up to the monument. Those smoking were allowed to light up their cigarettes as they sheltered from the chilly April breeze. Taylor and Clancy moved further up along the lane suddenly guns opened fire oin them and they took cover thinking it was friendly fire from another contingent of their own army.
Returning to their own troops, Taylor and Clancy moved with them further up the lane and then each took charge of a section and spread out for better viewing of possible targets.

Lieutenant Clancy has left us a detailed and accurate account of the tragic events that unfolded, resulting in the noble death of a great chieftain and soldier of Ireland.

As Lieutenant Larry Clancy moved ahead of the men using his field of glasses from the cover of a rock, he quickly observed a group of men dressed in dark clothes all wearing hats daringly standing on rocks firing automatic weapons in his direction. Clancy stated: "I then knew they were Republicans and ordered my men to fire at a range of 450 yards. We fired off five rounds and i saw them jumping off the rocks before the bullets ceased to whiz around us. I fired two shots then used my field glasses and saw them all running down the hills towards the skyline. It was at the moment I observed a man falling forward and remaining there. All stopped and two of the group turned back to him and began to drag him on his back away up the hill towards the remainder of the group, who were going away hesitatingly. I shouted to my men that we had shot one of them and told them to fire again and not to stop until I told them.

Clancy went on to relate what he had said to his men. "They are dragging him away, let them have it, they are diehards alright. At that moment I saw the two men who were dragging the body stand for a few moments, then turn and run away, leaving the wounded man behind lying on the Hillside. Fire was again opened up on us, from the rear this time, and we were compelled to take cover at the enemy's side of the rocks. For a moment I thought we were surrounded, but suddenly I heard a voice away up on the hill in the direction where Captain Taylor and the remainder were, giving orders to stop firing, telling his men that we were Clancy and his party.

Larry Clancy went on "It was our own men who opened fire on us. So when the fire ceased I said 'come on lads' and we all ran as fast as we could up the hill. We were under no fire now. When we got near to where the man was lying, one soldier was 20 yards in front of me so I told him to keep him covered with his rifle as he approached him and told his men to spread out and not to bunch together. As the soldiers approached the man he was lying on his side with a folded coat under his head acting as a pillow. One of the soldiers thought it was De Valera. I knew Mr De Valera by sight. I asked the wounded man who he was. The man answered: "you did not get Dev, it's Liam Lynch, get me a priest and a doctor, I am dying"

We will complete the amazing story and the bond of friendship that developed between the dying Liam Lynch and his captor, Larry Clancy over the last hours of the General's life. It highlights the pain and tragedy that civil war inflicted on the Irish people dividing brothers, sisters and otherwise inseparable friends.

Courtesy of John J. Hassett and The Avondhu