Lynch, Arthur Alfred (1861–1934), polymath and politician, was born 16 October 1861 at Smythesdale, Victoria, Australia, fourth among fourteen children of John Lynch, surveyor and civil engineer, and Isabella Lynch (née MacGregor), a native of Perth, Scotland. His father, originally from Co. Clare, emigrated from Ireland in the early 1850s and took a leading part in the Eureka stockade rebellion. As a young man Arthur was an Australian republican and a keen athlete, and worked for a time as an engineer and maths teacher. He studied at Ballarat College and the University of Melbourne, graduating in civil engineering (1885) and philosophy (1887). In 1888 he left Australia, never to return, and studied physics, physiology, and psychology at the University of Berlin (1888–9) and thereafter medicine in L'Hôpital Beaujon, Paris. In 1891 he moved to London, worked as a journalist and, due to his admiration for C. S. Parnell (qv), became involved in the Irish National League of Great Britain. In July 1892 he stood as a Parnellite candidate for Galway but was defeated by a small margin and attributed his defeat to clerical intimidation of voters. Shortly thereafter, he became active in the London Amnesty Association; a responsibility that brought him into contact with some IRB activists, most notably Mark Ryan (qv), who delegated him to attend the inaugural convention of the Amnesty Association of America (6 June 1893) in New York. The following year he became president of the Amnesty Association of Great Britain (est. August 1894); a position he held until mid 1895, when he became president of the (soon to be defunct) Irish National League of Great Britain. During this time Lynch worked as a columnist for several popular British newspapers, such as the Evening News, the National Reformer, and the Daily Mail, and sought to establish himself in literary circles. He joined both the London Irish Literary Society and the Rhymers' Club, but soon left them because of his distaste for W. B. Yeats (qv), who, in turn, ridiculed his rationalist ideas about literature. To vindicate himself (and denigrate Yeats), Lynch published a book entitled Our poets (1894), but it was a critical and commercial flop.
Through his involvement with the London Young Ireland Society (est. September 1896), he became an associate of Maud Gonne (qv), attending meetings of her Parisian branch of the society and contributing to its publication, L'Irlande Libre (May 1897–October 1898), but he took little or no part in the 1798 Centenary Association of Great Britain and France which it promoted, probably due to the fact that Yeats was elected as its president. By the time he was made Daily Mail war correspondent for the Boer war (October 1899), he had ceased to associate with the London Irish community. Nevertheless, following the example of John MacBride (qv), in February 1900 he formed an Irish ‘brigade’ to fight on the Boer side, acquiring the rank of colonel. His unit saw limited action and so, following its disbandment in June, he went to the US to give publicity to the Boer cause. During this tour he was persuaded by Michael Davitt (qv) and J. F. Finerty (qv) to re-enter politics. As a result, he stood as the Irish party candidate for Galway North in a 1901 by-election, defeating Horace Plunkett (qv) by a large margin. Having renounced his British citizenship when he joined the Boers, however, he was prevented from taking his seat and a warrant was issued for his arrest. In January 1903, after eight months imprisonment, he was tried for treason and sentenced to be hanged. This sentence was quickly commuted to life imprisonment and, after Irish party petitioning and the intervention of King Edward VII, he was actually released from prison the following year. He was granted an official pardon by the king in 1907.
After graduating from the University of London in medicine (1908), he practised as a doctor in Paddington, but continued to pursue other interests, completing a diploma course in electrical engineering at L'École Superieure d'Electricité (Paris) and writing numerous books. A prolific writer in both English and French, in total he wrote over two dozen books, including four volumes of poetry, four novels, and studies in psychology, literature, ethics, and science, but none of these achieved any critical or commercial success, nor were they printed by well established publishers. Although elected MP for Clare West (1909–18), his career as an Irish party MP was also undistinguished. A critic of both the party ‘machine’ and John Redmond (qv), he was an unpopular figure in the party, while his original analysis of Irish politics, Ireland: vital hour (1915), and his novel, O'Rourke the great (1922), a satire on the Irish party's politics, were further illustrations of his idiosyncrasy. Having acted as a liaison officer between the British and French governments during the early stages of the first world war, in June 1918 he was appointed as a colonel so that he could act as a recruitment agent in Ireland, but his efforts were futile. He did not bother to defend his Clare seat in the 1918 general election but ran instead as a Labour candidate for two London constituencies and was defeated on both occasions. A fierce critic of the entire British system of education, the previous year he had formed an organisation known as the English Republican League to champion his ideas, but this experiment soon proved completely abortive.
On retiring from politics and returning to his medical practice, he wrote an entertaining autobiography, My life story (1924), in which he expressed a desire for the complete dismemberment of the commonwealth and reasserted his belief in his own genius. He died at his home, 30 Antrim Mansions, Haverstock Hill, Paddington, London, on 25 March 1934 and was survived by his wife Annie (née Powell; m. 1895), daughter of an anglican clergyman. They had no children. Originally a catholic, in his later years he rejected all religions as irrational.