Dr Lynch & The Cultural Revival

After returning home to Coolea, Ballyvourney from America, the principle change Dómhnall noted in the area was the new Church that had been built in Coolea. Following his graduation from Queen’s College Cork and his appointment to his new post, he was now in the pay of the Queen, however he did not have much time for the same Queen and her dealings with Coolea and Ballyvourney.

He appreciated the richness of language that was around him, but he understood the danger which was present in that a lot of the language and culture would go with the older generation when they passed on. It was clear to him that if the story continued as it was, the Gaelic Tradition would be broken in his own area during his own lifetime.

The national (English-speaking) schools were doing their work effectively however the music and the old style signing were under pressure at that time. An Dochtúir Ó Loingsigh understood how the native language had declined throughout Ireland and there in Ballyvourney, which was one of the remaining outposts, it was being attacked before his own eyes. He believed that action had to be taken.

Following his travels to other countries, especially America, Canada and Brittany (France), an Dochtúir Ó Loingsigh had obtained a good knowledge of languages, and strong efforts were being made in these countries to protect their own language, however in his own country he could see there was a reluctance on the part of the people to protect their own language. Arising from this national situation, Conradh na Gaeilge was founded and it was the battle cry of the Conradh that gave the doctor an active part in the battle.

It was in his own area and amongst his own people that an Dochtúir Ó Loingsigh did marvellous work, as he was satisfied to work away quietly at home. It goes without saying that he was fluent in Irish and steeped in the Irish Tradition even though he spent a lot of years abroad in France, Rome and in America.

Dónal Ó hÉalaithe believes there was one single thing in his personality which helped him greatly in his work at home, he was thought of as being a hero and a leader in the Coolea and Ballyvourney areas. During this time there were daily stories of the brave, heroic deeds of an Dochtúir Ó Loingsigh being told locally, especially about the part of his life he spent abroad in the armies of France and Rome.

Dómhnall proved on his return home to Ballyvourney that he had the desire and inclination to work beyond the norm in everything he did. An Dochtúir Dómhnall Ó Loingsigh was the defensive shield of that Gaeltacht area as long as he lived. For 30 years he spent all his energies working with and striving to improve his native parish. His name only had to be mentioned to the old members of Conradh na Gaeilge, amongst whom he was admired and respected, and they knew of the outstanding work he did for the Irish language. He was a hero amongst heroes like Douglas Hyde, an tAthair Peadar Ó Laoire, an tAthair Pádraig Ó Duinnín, an Dr Mac Énrí, Pádraig Ó Máille, Cathal Brugha and Dr Sheehan.

In 1900 an Dochtúir Dómhnall Ó Loingsigh was chosen to represent the Irish at the first Celtic Convention in Paris. With him were Padraig Pearse, Douglas Hyde, Eoin McNeill and Dr Hickey from Maynooth University. At all these meetings there was clarity and understanding in his talks, his advice, and his viewpoints on cultural and language affairs.

Below is a picture showing the attendees at the Representative Congress in Paris in 1900. An Dochtúir Dómhnall Ó Loingsigh is in the middle of the second row from the top (sixth from either side) wearing a cap.


Dr Lynch at Representative Congress in Paris 1900

In his own way the Ballyvourney man was up there amongst the best of them. He was a member of the Central Committee of Conradh an Gaeilge and his aim was not to be absent from any of the big meetings of the Conradh.

In 1904, an article in the Donegal News, reporting on a meeting of the Executive Committee of Conradh na Gaeilge, mentions that an Dochtúir Ó Loingsigh (or Dr lynch as he is referred to in the article) posed questions about the expenditure on various items arising out of the reading of minutes of the Finance Committee –

Donegal News 17 Sept 1904 Irish Ireland Conradh na Gaeilge Finance questions Dr Lynch

In 1907 he was elected Treasurer of the first Language and Cultural Festival in Ireland and these festivals are widespread through the country since.

When an Dochtúir Dómhnall Ó Loingsigh started working with Conradh na Gaeilge in Ballyvourney and Coolea, the first thing he did was to gather the scholars and those who could write Irish from the parish and surrounding area. He founded working groups here and there and he inspected and helped them.

He also founded branches of Conradh throughout Muskerry and he put local people in each area working as well. He also put the writers previously referred to, in contact with the old people to write down the folklore and the stories of their area. The writers themselves were learning and the old people were recalling stories that they had almost forgotten. Then the older people started meeting because of the great admiration there was for the old stories and the folklore they had from their ancestors.

This was a big change in times for these people, because as long as they could remember, there was only disrespect for the Irish language and the Irish speakers. Everybody was uplifted as a result of this work. This extraordinary doctor was a man of great learning and knowledge, but having said that he was “grámhar” (humble) and kind. He had a name for kindness and almsgiving. He never looked for payment from the poor people of the parish.

According to Dónal Ó hÉalaithe, an Dochtúir Dómhnall Ó Loingsigh was never one to run after the gentry, and his inspiring personality and desire to work was totally focused on the Irish Culture and the people of Ballyvourney meaning that his devoted service could be seen from one end of the year to the next.

Another trait of his personality that is not mentioned too often was his fun and turn of phrase, which can be seen in the following tale as described by Dónal Ó hÉalaithe

The four masters lived in Ballyvourney at the start of the last century. They were Con Desmond, Michael Lynch, Tadgh O’Riordan and Michael O’Brien, and during one discussion they had about the language, one of them asked Dr Lynch what was the difference between a Gael, a True Gael and an Extraordinary Gael.

Dr Lynch answered – a Gael is narrow minded, puritanical, dour, cantankerous and unreasonable – but it is usual for the True Gael to be friendly, talkative, earnest, civil, crafty, adventurous, devoted, faithful, patriotic, active and musical.


Adapted from Éighse 2008 speech given by Dónal Ó hÉalaithe – Staraí áitiúl de chuid Acadamh Fódhla ó Chúil Aodha, translated into Béarla by James O’Leary, Coláiste an tEasbog Mac Aogháin, Máigh Chromtha.