Lynch, John (c.1599–1677), historian and priest, was born in Galway city, and went to study on the Continent at an early age, firstly at Douai in the Spanish Netherlands, where he followed the Ratio Studiorum of the Jesuits. Subsequent stays in the Oratorian college in Dieppe (1618) and Rouen (1618) must have consolidated his command of Latin and theology; his rather ornate Latin style shows a vast range of classical and biblical reading. At Douai he was helped financially by William Tirry (qv), future bishop of Cork, and at Dieppe by Francis Kirwan (qv), then a lecturer in the Oratorian college and later bishop of Killala. He was tonsured on his return to Ireland and ordained in 1625, subsequently being made archdeacon of Tuam c.1631, a benefice which he held for some forty years. He held the office of warden of St Nicholas church, Galway, during the 1640s, was chaplain to Sir Richard Blake (qv), and had contacts with Richard O'Ferrall (qv), then superior of the Galway Capuchin residence and supporter of Rinuccini (qv), the papal nuncio. During 1642–3 he met the scribe Dubhaltach Mac Firbhisigh (qv) and commissioned him to copy historical documents in Irish for his use. This is Lynch's first known historical activity; he may have used these documents for his major works. His friendship with Roderick O'Flaherty (qv) probably dates from this time. While initially favourable to the surrender of Galway in 1652, he appears to have changed position. He departed to France perhaps in late 1652 or 1653 after the Cromwellian capture of the city. He does not appear to have been imprisoned, unlike fellow catholic clergy. His whereabouts and activity from 1652 to 1660 are currently unknown.
Lynch settled in the Saint-Malo area; definite evidence of his presence there dates from 1661. He thus joined a number of senior Irish catholic churchmen who fled Cromwellian rule and resided in eastern Brittany. In 1666 he was a guest of the Lesquen family in St Lormel, near Plancoët, west of Saint-Malo and on the border of Saint-Malo and Saint-Brieuc dioceses. He appears to have remained in that area until his death, although a journey to Paris cannot be excluded, as he collaborated with the prominent Parisian Oratorian authors of the Gallia Christiana (1656) on matters of ecclesiastical history. He stayed in Villemeneuc manor, Saint-Lormel, when finishing his life of Francis Kirwan in 1668. During this period he was mentioned as a possible candidate for a bishopric in Ireland, but like his kinsman Andrew Lynch (qv), bishop of Kilfenora, he preferred to remain in Brittany, a preference explained in disillusioned terms in a Latin poem to Roderick O'Flaherty. He died of illness at L'Argentais in Saint-Lormel on 30 September 1677 and was buried in the Rosaire chapel, in what is now the old church of Saint-Lormel.
Save his biography of Bishop Francis Kirwan, Pii antistitis icon (Saint-Malo, 1669), printed under his own name and as archdeacon of Tuam, Lynch published his works of controversy and history under the pen-names ‘Gratianus Lucius’ and ‘Eudoxus Alithinologus’. All these works were printed by the diocesan printer in Saint-Malo, La Mare. Lynch's early works were essentially reactive and responded to existing works by others; the intended readership was far-flung and included the Irish catholic diaspora. His most ambitious work was Cambrensis eversus (1662), a refutation of the description of Ireland and the mores of its inhabitants by Gerald of Wales (qv) (Giraldus Cambrensis). It is a defence of Irish history and culture, and attempts to provide a corrective to centuries of hostile descriptions of the Irish, drawing on a wide range of sources in various languages, including Forus feasa ar Éirinn (‘Compendium of the history of Ireland’) by Geoffrey Keating (qv), which Lynch translated or had translated into Latin. Material from Keating thus circulated on the Continent for the first time. Like Keating, Lynch defends the Old English settlers and their political outlook in this work; he was later to express intense Old English Galwegian pride in his life of Kirwan. He articulates the deep-seated loyalty of his social group to the English crown in his dedication, while pleading for relief for loyal Irish catholics. Cambrensis eversus also contains much material on ancient Irish royalty, literature, and church history. Relatively few copies of the work survive, as most were destroyed in the great fire of London (1666).
Alithinologia (1664) is a polemic against a memorandum submitted by Richard O'Ferrall to the Roman authorities, defending Rinuccini's decisions and criticising compromises made by leading members of the confederation of Kilkenny. Like other works of the time written by exiled Irishmen, Lynch's work reviews the events of the 1640–60 period in Ireland, in this case defending the Ormondist party and criticising the supporters of the nuncio and the Old Irish for their intransigence. Lynch expanded his argument in Supplementum Alithinologiae (1667), similarly polemical in tone although O'Ferrall was by then dead. Lynch was aware of the political sensitivity of these books vis-à-vis Rome. His subsequent works were historical: in his portrait of Bishop Kirwan, Pii antistitis icon (1669) Lynch details the career of a counter-reformation Irish bishop – a rare contemporary account of such material – and gives interesting insights into the continental education and stays of Irish clergy, and the application of counter-reformation teaching in an Irish context. Costs of publication of this book were defrayed by fellow-Galwayman Gregory Joyce (canon in Brussels) and a Breton nobleman. Lynch appears to have continued working on Irish church history, possibly with a view to publication alongside the Oratorian project Orbis Christiana. The manuscript De praesulibus Hiberniae (‘Of the bishops of Ireland’) remained in France after Lynch's death, and was not published until 1944. It chronicles episcopal successions in Ireland, and the history of catholic successions after the reformation in particular, thus complementing the work of similar title by James Ware (qv) outlining the protestant successions (1665). Lynch's text contains much valuable information on individual bishops and conditions for catholic clergy and laity in late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Ireland.
Lynch's reputation developed after his death. Generally judged to be an even-minded source by such as Abbé James MacGeoghegan (qv), Lynch's books, especially Cambrensis eversus, were much quoted by Irish catholic historians from the eighteenth century onwards. Cambrensis eversus and Pii antistitis icon were reedited and translated in the nineteenth century by Matthew Kelly (qv) and C. P. Meehan (qv) respectively. Manuscripts of Lynch's are in Bibliothèque Mazarine, Paris (De praesulibus Hiberniae), and Biblothèque Municipale de Troyes (Latin translation of Keating's Forus feasa).