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Climb Every Mountain

Joss Lynam 1James Perry O’Flaherty ‘Joss’ Lynam might best be described as a ‘Renaissance Man’. Or he would be if they had spent as much time in the Renaissance climbing mountains and rambling hills as they did writing and thinking. Lynam was prolific in both areas : a pioneer in Irish adventure sports and a prolific author of guidebooks, articles, reports, letters and lectures, as well as diaries, prose pieces and an unpublished memoir.

James Perry O’Flaherty ‘Joss’ Lynam (JL) was born in London on 29 June 1924, the son of emigrants from Galway. Lynam trained to become an officer with the British Army during World War II, and was sent to India with the Royal Engineers in 1944 to train cadets in Roorkee, the Siwaliks and Bangalore. It was at this period that Lynam consolidated a childhood interest in mountaineering and rambling. Officer training in Manchester and Wales facilitated visits to the Peak District and Snowdonia, while his period in India was crowned by Lynam’s first Himalayan expedition, to Kolahoi Peak in 1946.

On demobilisation in 1947, Lynam studied engineering at Trinity College Dublin under a British Government scheme. Here he reconnected with one of his Royal India Engineering cadets, William R. ‘Bill’ Perrott (1925-2004), whose small Irish Mountaineering Club (‘Old IMC’), founded in 1942, had petered out when Perrott was sent to India. Lynam and Perrott decided to reformulate the IMC in 1948 as a national (32-county organisation) organisation open to both sexes, with a commitment to exploring new routes and publishing guidebooks to Irish hills and mountains.Mountaineering

Many Irish people were forced to emigrate in the 1950s; judging by JL’s unpublished memoirs, he chose to work abroad for the experience : Wales (1951-1952), Ambleside (1952-1960) and India (1960-1965). In each case, Lynam chose civil engineering jobs (Edmund Nuttalls in the UK, Gammon in India) located close to mountainous areas, and was able to pursue his mountaineering and rambling activities. He remained active in the IMC proper, serving as Wild Geese representative on the Central Council attending the annual general meeting and contributing to the IMC journal. During this period he climbed in the Alps (1952-1953, 1955, 1957, 1961), the Himalayas (1958, 1961, 1964).

Joss Lynam died on 9 January 2011 aged 86. Among those paying public tribute was former Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív, who called him ‘Laoch ar lár’ (fallen hero). His daughters Ruth and Clodagh donated his papers to his alma mater TCD, where he had been presented with an honorary doctorate in 2001. These papers cover aspect of Lynam’s life and career, including his family genealogy, childhood and education, wartime experience, career as an engineer (the collection is very strong on plans and project files), his co-founding of IMC, the umbrella group Federation of Mountaineering Clubs of Ireland, the Association for Adventure Sports, his involvement with the international mountaineering body Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme (he served as President of its Expeditions Commission) and various state bodies (such as Cospóir, the Irish Sports Council), as well as archives of his many writing projects. Among his many interests, Lynam was an inveterate photographer, and the collection contains a treasure trove of photographs and slides, mostly, but not exclusively dealing with mountaineering and landscape subjects. There is also an extensive collection of maps from 1597 onwards compiled by Lynam and his father, with an especial emphasis on British colonial maps. In order to provide an overview of the collection’s contents, Lynam’s ‘Memoirs’ have been extensively indexed.

The collection is very large and only that part of it dealing with sporting activity has been made available for research. To be fully catalogued would take a year’s work by an archivist. The Library is seeking philanthropic collaboration to support this process.

Darragh O’Donoghue

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