Kevin Lynch RIP
One of the jobs I have is as a peer reviewer for the Royal College of Psychiatrists. I have visited at a guess 60-80 psychiatric wards around these islands as part of their ward accreditation process. I always put my name forward if free but when Belfast came up a few years ago I specifically asked to be put on the team and was. I told my brother (who was then the head of the local Police intelligence unit) and he had recently been over to see Bedford Blues play Ulster in the Anglo Irish Cup. He told me to call Paddy Campbell at and take the tour of the city. Paddy told me he'd take me to both sides of town and tell me both sides of the story. This he did. He then invited me to look around the Sinn Féin shop. There was just the lady serving so I told her I knew Kevin Lynch's brother in Bedford where I live. She did not reply maybe surprised with my English accent. On the way out to get back in the taxi she asked me if I meant Kevin Lynch the hunger striker. She then gave me two Kevin Lynch badges. I realised this was a diplomatic incident but was certain what to do: take them back to Bedford and
Kevin Lynch badge and Special Air Service wings on my cap. Kevin died after 71 days without food
ask Kevin's brother Ollie for permission to wear the badge. This I did and he gave it. The landlord's son was listening to our conversation and asked me how much I wanted for the 2nd badge but of course I just gave it to him. I wanted to wear the badge because the side effects torture the NHS had put me through put suicide in protest continually on the agenda and really no way was I not going to wear the badge provided now I had permission. When later I was awarded SAS wings it was best to wear the pin badge wings under Kevin's badge out of respect. So Kevin came out on top of the SAS this time!
Once I had got official permission to wear Kevin's badge and I'd been awarded Special Air Service wings, I found myself on another Royal College of Psychiatrists job in Belfast. It seemed as I was there the thing to do was make a visit to Dungiven, Kevin's home town, wearing my badges. That's a story in its own right (please see following section). But on my return to Bedford Kevin's brother Ollie asked me if I'd visited the grave and I hadn't. Some time later I once again got a job in Belfast so made another trip to Dungiven, staying with Margaret and Jim McCloskey at the Edenroe Guest House within sight of the grave. We've all had a number of unseemly events with obsequies during the troubles and I hoped to achieve something better by paying my respects at the grave. Could not find the grave at first despite it being the biggest one in the graveyard! It was paid for by the people of Dungiven. When I had found the grave had the sense that 2 people in the graveyard were keenly aware which I was visiting. Took my cap off facing the grave, not sure what else I was to do. Decided to look at the grave whilst concentrating on what I was doing in 1981 when the 10 hunger strikers died and when I was 25 the age of Kevin when he died. After oh 20 minutes staring I saw Kevin rising from the grave like a sleeping man, then waking up brushing himself down before walking up to me and putting his hand on my shoulder. At this moment the hallucination or visitation of whatever it was ended and I immediately noticed that the 2nd of the two bunches of flowers on the right had become dislodged by the strong wind that day or something. So bravely, I felt, I stepped onto the grave and pushed back the rubber stopper the bunch was in into its holder. Occurred to me later that (see picture I took of the grave) the SAS flower arranging class might think my flower arranging skills were found a little wanting! Signed copies of the new Kevin Lynch portrait by Robert Ballagh available here: www.kevinlynchs.com.
Next day, seeing as Dungiven is just a bus trip from the city of Derry (or Londonderry if you prefer for historical reasons) I took the bus there. I noticed there was a slower "scenic route" bus that went through the Sperrin mountains and Parc, where Kevin and Ollie were born so took that instead. Given the fact that back in 1994 I had decided for myself to spend some time thinking about the issue you may not be surprised to learn I decided to spend the bus journey listening, again, from the archive, the RTE 1 radio show Sunday with Miriam where she spoke to Gerald "Ollie" Lynch and the brothers of 2 other hungerstrikers Raymond McCreesh and Francis Hughes. The show finished exactly as the bus pulled into the stand at Derry. Don't believe me? Try it yourself and I can heartily recommend the Edenroe guest house in Dungiven where Margaret and Jim McCloskey will look after you superbly!