A month on from the sudden passing of gay rights activist and founder of the Irish LGBTQ+ Oral History Project, Edmund Lynch, his long-time friend, Patrick O’Byrne, looks back fondly on their time together.
Edmund Lynch was a dear friend of over fifty years. I cannot recall where we first met, but it was almost certainly in either Bartley Dunne’s or Rice’s, the two popular Dublin gay bars.
It was in the early 1970s, and I was new to the Dublin gay scene. He was only a few years older than me, but when it came to self-assurance and confidence, he was streets ahead.
He befriended me and, one evening in 1971, invited me to his flat in Donnybrook for drinks, to listen to music (I remember Melanie singing ‘ Look What They’ve Done To My Song’) and to meet a colleague of his in RTÉ.
A coup de foudre happened, and I was with this talented and charismatic man for six months. It ended in tears. My tears.
When the unfortunate IGRM (Irish Gay Rights Movement) ‘split’ took place in 1977, Edmund left with David Norris and others to eventually set up the National Gay Federation (now NXF).
I stayed with IGRM and volunteered at the weekend discos in 46 Parnell Square West and helped produce the in-house magazine Phoenix. However, Edmund and I remained friends, a friendship that endured until his sudden death in October.
Usually, like many others, I would meet him at the Irish Film Institute in Eustace Street, where he held court for many years.
He was capable of drinking enormous amounts of coffee, and he never allowed me to buy any. “Unlike you, Pat, I have a good pension“, he would say. Some of the coffee ended up on his jumper. He didn’t care about his appearance at all.
When he met his future husband, Martin, he couldn’t conceal his delight. “Pat, you won’t believe it, but I’ve met a young and handsome man, and he finds me attractive,” he told me.
“Then there’s hope for all of us, Edmund,” I said.
“B*tch!” he responded with a smile.
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One day I came into the IFI and spotted him at his usual table. As I approached him, he said, “Oh Pat, I can’t talk to you now as somebody very important is coming here to have a drink with me.”
I didn’t take offence. It was Edmund, after all, and I was used to his ways. Of course, others took offence many times with Edmund, especially in the early years of political in-fighting.
He seemed to know everyone and never failed to mention his friendship with Mary and Martin McAleese. “She is a friend since my RTÉ days, and we are very close,” he would say.
We rang each other regularly, and he loved a good gossip.
I took part in his LGBTQ+ Oral History Project about 11 years ago. I was reluctant at first, but he persisted, and eventually, I agreed – he wouldn’t take no for an answer. When the interview took place, he was totally professional, and he also took me and the cameraman to lunch.
When my friend of over 40 years, Maurice Cassidy, put on his one-man mesmerising performance Searching for Secret at Outhouse on Saturday, September 23, I rang Edmund and asked him to come to the show. There were about ten people there for Maurice’s show. Edmund loved it and thanked me for inviting him.
We had coffee, and he was in great form – irreverent, witty, and planning more projects – there was always a project on the go with Edmund. His commitment and energy was extraordinary.
As I parted from him that afternoon, something compelled me to kiss him on the top of his head. It was the last time I saw him. We did speak on the phone a couple of times before he suddenly died.
I was unable to go to his funeral on October 14 as I had a nasty dose of Covid, but I watched it on my iPad in bed.
When Bagatelle’s ‘Summer in Dublin’ was played, my tears flowed.
Goodbye, my dear friend Edmund Lynch.
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