It did not have his hand on the tiller this time out but Jim Lynch’s influence was still central to steering the 41st Letterkenny Christmas Annual into and beyond its publication date.
And last Thursday night, family, friends, and members of his beloved community gathered for the official launch of what is a must read for everyone with Letterkenny engraved in their hearts and heritage.
The Station House Hotel provided a fitting host venue where Jim would have attended many a meeting and function in his various capacities.
By Paddy Walsh
Introducing proceedings, Kieran Kelly, who agreed to edit this year’s Annual after doubts on its immediate future, echoed the sentiments of all present when he described it as a “special evening” to celebrate the man who had ensured the publication’s continued appearance over the years in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
He, Kieran was just four years of age when the first Christmas Annual emerged into the locality and he and it had grown up together, “I have not known a Christmas without the Christmas Annual.”
There had been confusion about this year’s edition following the passing of its long time editor but in the end the committee felt there had to be one. “Two words – for Jim.”
Kieran cited the many facets of Letterkenny life with which Jim Lynch had been involved, pointing to the Letterkenny Cathedral Quarter committee, the Tidy Towns, the former International Folk Festival, the Letterkenny Reunion, and the Community Heritage Group – all of them with Jim as the common denominator.
He had also served on the Town Council – a true community man.
And out of the 40 editions of the Letterkenny Christmas Annual, Jim had edited thirty-seven of them – a publication that helped them remember where they were and where they came from.
It was not an occasion to mourn but instead one to celebrate and to remember, Kieran insisted.
Secretary of the Cathedral Quarter, Donnan Harvey, spoke of Jim’s dedication and cited one story that summed him up.
He, Donnan, was heading off to Portugal on holidays and asked if Jim would take care of watering the flowers in the Church Lane. He had left the key for the watering equipment under the gas cylinder at his home but while Donnan was away, his brother had removed the key and taken it out to their mother.
But Jim and helper Val observed an upstairs window that had been left open and subsequently retrieved a ladder to make the ascent. They had subsequently broken into the house to get the equipment! Flowers watered – dedication underlined…!
Next to the podium, councillor Jimmy Kavanagh who maintained: “Jim had the community at his very core.” And when he, Jim, put motions before the Council they were always for the betterment of the community.
Jimmy Kavanagh had first been elected to the Local Authority in 2009 alongside Tom Crossan and the talk had been about how near Jim Lynch had been to being elected Mayor on previous occasions.
And consequently the new comers, that also included Jimmy Harte and Gerry McMonagle, realised they could form a majority of five and get Jim elected to the prestigious post for the first time.
“I rang Jim about it and he said…mmh…. aye…mmmmh”, and hung up!.”
“I thought I had blown our cover completely,” Jimmy recalled.
On a subsequent day, he was walking down the Main Street when Jim’s car pulled up and ordered him to get in. And off they drove to Corravaddy Woods with the passenger wondering if he had become involved in something like the Mafia!
But he, Jim, was happy with the plan of action in terms of the election of Town Mayor though he had been concerned as he had been close a few times and had had the carpet pulled out from under him.
Not this time, however and, Jim Lynch was elected Mayor and proud to be.
“He was an absolute legend who will be missed by his family and the community.”
He had, cllr Kavanagh indicated, made an “enormous contribution” to the town.
Next to the tribute podium – representing the Community Heritage Group, Brian Walsh, to talk turkey! M.C. at many of the Letterkenny Memories gatherings, Brian recalled quoting from a newspaper article from 1999 that focused on litter in a certain part of the town as highlighted at an Urban Council meeting and the final line of the report which attributed the following to the then cllr. Lynch: “Let them clean it themselves.”
It was an indication that Jim considered it better that people should do something for their own area as opposed to depending on others.
A story that Jim himself had related involved his father, Jack, bringing home a live turkey to the Lynch home in Ard O’Donnell and getting it plumped up for Christmas
Whether the turkey got wind of its fate or not, it managed one day to escape out the garden gate and headed off (the original turkey trot) up Ard O’Donnell.
“And it headed into the Cathedral seeking something like a medieval sanctuary!”
But it may, indeed, have finally ended up on the dining table in the Lynch household on Christmas Day.
Welcoming the latest edition of the Christmas Annual and the decision to keep it going, Brian maintained: “It’s what Jim would have wanted.”
That was a view echoed by Letterkenny Community Centre Manager, Liam O’Donnell who highlighted Jim’s involvement as founding member of the Centre and his thirty-seven years editing the Christmas Annual.
Liam’s heart had not been in it following Jim’s passing when it came to making that decision to keep the annual going but he was eventually persuaded and Kieran Kelly’s name had been mentioned to take over the role of editor.
Liam remembered Jim coming into the Community Centre dressed in his shorts and tee-shirt and ready for some work in the gymnasium and, Liam, often intervening and luring him away for a cup of coffee so they could discuss the latest Annual.
“I knew how to work Jim – to get him to move up the gears!.” And once he did, Jim put in a huge effort and spearheaded the whole team as they worked on the Annual. “Hopefully Kieran will get the bug too.”
The Christmas Annual had started off as a fund-raiser for the Community Centre and the money raised, thanks to Jim and the team, helped foot the bills over the years.
“The Centre was built by the community for the community.” And Jim Lynch had left a great legacy,
Formally launching the 41st Christmas Annual, Municipal Mayor, Donal ‘Mandy’ Kelly, nephew of Jim, said his uncle had been very good to him and helpful when he had been elected to the Local Authority. “He always had great advice for me.”
It had been, he indicated, a “massive shock” when they had got the call informing them of Jim’s passing.
“He was an outstanding community man and an outstanding Letterkenny man.”
Donal went on to laud Kieran Kelly for stepping up to the plate and taking on the role of editor. “It’s a massive part of Letterkenny and district.” And to so many people around the world, he added.
On behalf of his fellow councillors, he said they were always delighted to support the Annual every year. It was an absolute honour to have it dedicated to Jim Lynch.
During the launching proceedings, Kieran praised all those behind the scenes and the team effort involved in getting the Annual published.
And as they acknowledged Jim’s passing and sympathised with his family, this year’s editor also took time to “pray especially for the people of Creeslough” who had suffered during one of their darkest days.