Civilian John Sullivan-Lynch

Civilian John Sullivan-Lynch (aged ‘about 40’) of Castle Cottages, Carrigrohane

Date of incident: 29 May 1921 (ex-soldier kidnapped by the IRA as a suspected spy and later killed and disappeared)

Sources: UK World War I Service Medal and Award Rolls (WO 329/1700, TNA); CE, 2 July 1921; CE, 14 Jan. 1922; II, 18 Feb. 1922; IRA Executions in 1921 (Collins Papers, A/0649, Military Archives); Correspondence between First Southern Division HQ and GHQ, IE/MA/CP/5/2/6 (LXXXIV), (Military Archives, Dublin); Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA); WS 810 of Timothy Herlihy et al., 32 (BMH); Borgonovo (2007), 68; Murphy (2010), 41. 


Note: An ex-soldier and a railway parcel clerk, Lynch came under suspicion as ‘an Englishman’ living in the same house on the Carrigrohane road as city Volunteer Patrick O’Sullivan. Two other city Volunteers ‘watched his movements and saw him entering the Orderly Room of the [Ballincollig] Military Barracks on several occasions and [so] reported to Leo Murphy, who informed the brigade. He was abducted by the IRA on 29 May 1921.  Lynch was held captive for a number of days, possibly at Cullinane’s (Old House) near Aherla in the Third Battalion area.  He was handed back to H Company, First Battalion in the city district where he lived, and executed on 5 June 1921.  His body appears to have been secretly buried, as by 1922 neither his wife Julianna, nor the police, had any information as to the location of his remains (CE 14 January 1922; Collins Papers, A0649; WS 810, Timothy Herlihy, BMH). An inquiry into his death was made on behalf of the Irish Labour Party.  The IRA’s First Southern Division headquarters informed the IO General Headquarters on 17 July 1921: ‘he was executed as a spy on the 5th ult.  The sentence was confirmed in the usual way by the cmdt. but owing to an oversight the execution was notified to these HQ.  Lynch made a written confession of his guilt before his death.  If you require this I can get it for you.’  IE/MA/CP/5/2/6 (LXXXIV), (Military Archives, Dublin). The name of John Sullivan-Lynch appears in the Compensation Commission Register under 29 May 1921, with the notation that liability was split 50/50, and with a note that £2,650 was awarded. See Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA).

His wife J was ordered to leave County Cork on 9 June 1921, never to return, and she fled. She was later informed by the Free State Department of Defence that it was fairly definite that her husband had been tried and executed for spying, and that there was no longer any objection to her returning to Cork. In February 1922, while still living near Belturbet, Co. Cavan (no doubt for her safety), Mrs Sullivan-Lynch ‘was awarded [compensation of] £2,650 by the Recorder of Cork for her husband, an ex-soldier and railway employee, who disappeared near Carrigrohane on May 29’ of the previous year. See II, 18 Feb. 1922.

British military records indicate that John Sullivan Lynch had served with a series of British regiments, including the Connaught Rangers, also known as ‘The Devil’s Own’ (2nd and 6th Battalions), the Leinster Regiment (2nd Battalion), and the Prince of Wales Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians). He was discharged from the last-named regiment as ‘surplus’ on 5 March 1919. He was a recipient of the British War Service Medal and the Victory Medal. See UK World War I Service Medal and Award Rolls (WO 329/1700, TNA). Sullivan Lynch was probably a Catholic, but his religious affiliation cannot be confirmed. 

The Irish Revolution Project

Scoil na Staire /Tíreolaíocht

University College Cork, Cork,