Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Arthur Lynch Australian Irish MP for Galway and West Clare and Labour candidate in Battersea South in 1918.

Arthur Alfred Lynch 1861 – 1934) was an Irish Australian civil engineer, physician , journalist, author, soldier, anti-imperialist and polymath. He was a hefty man, strikingly handsome, charming, courtesy and even tempered. He was an adventurer and a somewhat picturesque figure. He was erratic in his grasp of public affairs but was generally respected for his integrity and extraordinary range of knowledge, and was on friendly terms with many great contemporaries.

The general election of 1918 was held in those fluid political times when nationality and political party allegiance was very much in flux.  The newly divided Battersea into two constituencies immediately after after the war and with the franchise extended to all men over 21 and to propertied women over thirty it was bound to throw up interesting candidates. So, in Battersea North the Anglo-Irish Charlotte Despard was the candidate as the previous incumbent John Burns MP refused to join the Labour Party. Battersea South chose Arthur Alfred Lynch an Australian-Irishman who had previously been MP for Galway and later Clare representing the Irish Parliamentry Party.

Biography – Arthur Alfred Lynch – Australian Dictionary of

As an Irish nationalist he fought against the British  with the Boers and was tried for treason and sentenced to be hanged. He sounds like he was quite a character and had a fascinating career. He represented Labour in Battersea South in 1918 when Charlotte Despard stood in Battersea North.

Arthur Lynch in 1915

Arthur Lynch in 1915

He served as MP in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and represented Galway Borough from 1901 to 1902, subsequently West Clare, his father’s birthplace, from 1909 to 1918. Unlike most of his compatriots, Lynch fought on the Boer side during the Boer War in South Africa and raised his own Irish battalion towards the end of World War 1.
Lynch was born at Smythesdale near Ballarat Victoria the fourth of 14 children. His father, John Lynch, was an Irish Catholic surveyor and civil engineer and his mother Isabella (née MacGregor) was Scottish. John Lynch was a founder and first president of the Ballarat School of Mines and a captain of Peter Lalor at the Eureka Stockade rebellion (1854) and he wrote a book, Austral Light (1893–94), about it – later republished as The Story of the Eureka Stockade. The Eureka Stockade rebellion at Ballarat, Victoria, in 1854, became one of Australia’s great legends. Gold miners from all over the world among other things demanded parliamentary democracy–and nothing less. They were defeated at dawn on 3 December 1854 by British troops and Victoria Police. John Lynch, was a prominent Galway Irishman. Both father and son were champions of liberty against tyranny.

Arthur Lynch arrested

Arthur Lynch was educated at Grenville College, Ballarat, (where he was “entranced” by differential calculus) and the University of Melbourne, where he took the degrees of BA in 1885 and in 1887. Lynch qualified as a civil engineer and practised this profession for a short period in Melbourne.

Lynch left Australia and went to Berlin, where he studied physics, physiology and. Moving to London Lynch took up journalism. In 1892, he contested Galway as a Parnellite candidate, but was defeated. Lynch was a life-long republican. He was active in the English Republican League. He met Annie Powell a student,  daughter of the Rev. John D. Powell, in Berlin and they were married in 1895. They were to have no children. In Lynch’s words, the marriage “never lost its happiness” (My Life Story, p. 85).

The Lynch family are an ancient Norman family who arrived with Strongbow and became one of the ‘Tribes of Galway’.  They were very influential in the local politics, no less than 84 Mayors of Galway were from the family Lynch, as were many of the Wardens of Galway.  Gradually the religion changed from Protestant to Catholic and they became staunchly Irish patriots.  Lynch Castle was built in 1320 and they formed many branches of the same name.” Che Guevara was a descendent of Ana Isabel Lynch from Galway.  I have also blogged about Che and his Galway connections.…/che-guevara-statue-for-salthill-prom…

Lynch's Castle Galway home to one of the 14 tribes of the city

Lynch’s Castle Galway home to one of the 14 tribes of the city

In 1898, he was Paris correspondent for the London Daily Mail and when the second Boer War broke out, Lynch was sympathetic to the Boers and decided to go to South Africa as a war correspondent. In Pretoria he met General Botha and decided to join the Boer side. Lynch raised the Second Irish Brigade which consisted of Irishmen, Cape colonists and others opposed to the British. He was given the rank of Colonel and saw limited active service. O’Brien’s fictional Bye-Bye Dolly Gray, is kinder to Lynch’s showy South African exploits and his uitlanders. Michael Davitt who travelled to South Africa has photos of Lynch with his brigade on the veldt, in, The Boer Fight for Freedom. A Gentleman and a War Criminal: A Measure of Integrity


Lynch is the man in a white shirt centre back

Lynch is the man in a white shirt centre back

From South Africa, Lynch went to the US as he was commissioned to attempt to reconcile two Irish factions. He and then returned to Paris. He became a powerful journalist for the National Reformer, then the Daily Mail for which by 1898 he was Paris correspondent. Having travelled widely, Lynch was now fluent in several languages and wrote well in French and German.

He again stood for Galway Borough in November 1901, and was elected in his absence as MP. On going to London, Lynch was arrested because of his pro-Boer activities and remanded for eight months. Lynch was tried for treason before three judges, and on 23 January 1903 was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. This sentence was immediately commuted to a life sentence, and a year later Lynch was released “on licence by the Balfour government after Theodore Roosevelt interceded with Edward VII. The extraordinary case of Arthur Lynch begs interesting questions about identity and allegiance. In particular, his trial for high treason in January 1903 raises legal, political and cultural issues. His counsel argued that he should be tried in Ireland and that, in any case, as a citizen of the South African republic, he could not be guilty of treason against Britain. Lynch suggested that, as an Australian, he should be tried in Australia.
His case was cited in a House of Commons paper on (Forfeiture Act 1870, amended by the Criminal Law Act 1967)
The provisions of the Forfeiture Act have only once been invoked once. » 1903: Arthur Alfred Lynch condemned

In 1907 he was again elected as MP for West Clare.

World War 1.
During World War 1 Lynch volunteered for the New British Army. Arthur Alfred Lynch: Information He raised a private 10th Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers and was given the rank of Colonel, although he and his unit never saw active front service. His intention was to raise a unit in 1918 which did not have the barriers against national identity which had affected the raising of the 16th Division. He campaigned to raise recruits separately from the British recruiting drive in Ireland, which caused much aggravation, putting many obstacles in his way, including having those he recruited diverted elsewhere and the familiar denial of concessions to Irish national sentiments. He only managed to get a special uniform approved for his six pipers, they were to be kilted, their hat badges with the design of an Irish Wolfhound rather than the traditional Munster’s emblem of a Bengal Tiger.

Lynch took his full share in the turbulent sessions that saw Lloyd George introduce his first social-insurance measures. He fought particularly for higher education and a new deal for the common people. Always he continued the fight for Irish independence.

At the end of the war, Lynch chose to stand as a Labour candidate in newly created  Battersea South for the 1918 General election. He finished second to the Unionist. Battersea Borough Council, of course, had taken a stand against the Boer War even naming one of its streets on the Lathmere estate after General Joubert.

Battersea constituency was originally created in 1885. From 1892 to 1918 the seat was held by trade union leader John Burns who served as a Minister (of the Crown) in the Liberal Cabinets of Bannerman and Asquith from 1905 until 1914. The constituency was split in 1918 into Battersea North which only had four years of a Conservative MP from 1931 and Battersea South which had 38 years of a Conservative MP, the most recent spell ended in 1964. William Bennett, Caroline Ganley, Ernie Perry and Alf Dubs represented it for Labour. The two constituencies were rejoined in 1983 with Alf becoming the MP and Martin Linton winning it back in 1997 till 2010.
Arthur Lynch had qualified as a physician many years earlier when he took up medical studies at St Mary’s, Paddington, graduated from the University of London (M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., 1908) and practised at Haverstock Hill. He later found time to graduate in Paris with a diploma of electrical engineering. He began to practise medicine in London, at Haverstock Hill. He died in London on 25 March 1934.

I found Arthur Lynch MP fascinating as one of the Irish diaspora, representing the Irish Parliamentary Party in my hometown of Galway and then as the Labour candidate in 1918 in the newly formed constituency Battersea South.


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