Arthur Alfred Lynch (16 October 1861 – 25 March 1934) was an Irish Australian civil engineer, physician, journalist, author, soldier, anti-imperialist and polymath. He served as MP in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland as member of the Irish Parliamentary Party, and represented Galway Borough from 1901 to 1902, subsequently West Clare 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 I.
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 (néeMacGregor) 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 John Lynch wrote a book, Austral Light (1893–94), about it – later republished as The Story of the Eureka Stockade.
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 MAin 1887. Lynch qualified as a civil engineer and practised this profession for a short period in Melbourne.
Europe and Ireland
Lynch left Australia and went to Berlin, where he studied physics, physiology and psychology at the University of Berlin in 1888-89. he had a particular respect for Hermann von Helmholtz. Moving to London, Lynch took up journalism. In 1892, he contested Galway as a Parnellite candidate, but was defeated.
Lynch met Annie Powell (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).
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 Louis 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. In his comprehensive history on the Australia’s Boer War, Wilcox said, it was misleading to call the seventy or so men in the Irish unit raised by Lynch “a brigade”, rather he suggested that “the publicity that comes from spectacular gestures…” made Lynch appear “a romantic warrior” and that his actions “flattered many Irishmen and women…”. In contrast, 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.
Politics in ways
From South Africa, Lynch went to the United States, and then returned to Paris, from where 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.
During World War I, Lynch volunteered for the New British Army. 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.
He had qualified as a physician many years earlier, began to practise medicine in London, at Haverstock Hill. He died in London on 25 March 1934.
Lynch wrote and published a large number of books ranging from poetry, to a sophisticated attempt to refute Albert Einstein‘s theory of relativity. His verse was clever and satirically Byronic, and his essays and studies show much reading and acuteness of mind. E. Morris Miller, himself a professor of philosophy, mentions Lynch’s “high reputation as a critical and philosophical writer especially for his contributions to psychology and ethics” (Australian Literature, p. 273). His publications include:
- Modern Authors (1891)
- Approaches the Poor Scholar’s Quest of a Mecca (1892)
- A Koran of Love (1894)
- Our Poets (1894)
- Religio Athletae (1895)
- Human Documents (1896)
- Prince Azreel (1911)
- Psychology; A New System (two vol.; 1912)
- Purpose and Evolution (1913)
- Sonnets of the Banner and the Star (1914)
- Ireland: Vital Hour (1915)
- Poppy Meadows, Roman Philosophique (1915)
- La Nouvelle Ethique (1917)
- L’Evolution dons ses Rapports avec l’ethique (1917)
- Moments of Genius (1919)
- The Immortal Caravel (1920)
- Moods of Life (1921)
- O’Rourke the Great (1921)
- Ethics, an Exposition of Principles (1922)
- Principles of Psychology (1923)
- Seraph Wings (1923)
- My Life Story (1924)
- Science, Leading and Misleading (1927)
- The Rosy Fingers (1929)
- The Case Against Einstein (1932)
- Geoffrey Serle, ‘Lynch, Arthur Alfred (1861 – 1934)‘, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, MUP, 1986, pp 176–177. Retrieved 23 September 2009
- Wilcox, Craig. (2002) Chapter 13, ‘Interloper Arthur Lynch, Irish Australian Boer’, in Australia’s Boer War: The War in South Africa, 1899-1902 Oxford,pp. 262-268)
- Wilcox cited a source describing the Second Irish brigade’s uitlanders as, ” fifty or sixty soreheads, greasers, halfbreeds and dagos…the laughing stock and contempt of every commando in the neighbourhood”
- The London Gazette: . 3 December 1901.
- Antony O’Brien, Bye-Bye Dolly Gray, Artillery Publishing, Hartwell, 2006. (a novel includes several sympathetic scenes involving Lynch’s exploits on the Colenso, Johannesburg and Transvaal front during 1899 and 1900)
At the Boer War
- Craig Wilcox. (2002), Australia’s Boer War: The War in South Africa, 1899-1902, Oxford.( a blunt appraisal of A.A’s action at the War)
- Michael Davitt. (1902) The Boer Fight For Freedom: From the Beginning of Hostilities to the Peace of Pretoria, Funk & Wagnalls, New York. (3rd Edition)
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Arthur Alfred Lynch