Jerry Lynch

Honored posthumously, May 11, 2013

John Jeremiah Lynch was born on May 30, 1934 in Clogher, Kilfenora, County Clare.  Known as Jerry, he was the accordionist in the celebrated Kilfenora Ceili Band which first won All-Ireland fame in the 1950s.  His father, fiddle player John Joe was a founder member of the Kilfenora Ceil Band when it formed in 1907. Jerry’s sisters Betty and Noreen and brother P.J. were also in the band and later his nephews Pat and John (P.J.’s sons) with John taking over the band leadership in the reformed band in the 1990s. 

In his youth, Jerry played Gaelic football for the Kilfenora team along with his brother P.J. and cousin Frank O’Mahony (who also played in the Ceili Band). 

Like his brother P.J. Jerry started his musical career as a mouth organist in the school harmonica band.  He tried the fiddle but he switched over to the accordion influenced by the neighboring Joe Ward (brother of Jim Ward who was later in the Kilfenora C.B.).  He joined P.J. in the Kilfenora Ceili Band that won three consecutive All-Irelands Senior championships from 1954 to 1956.  He was a part of a great ceili band rivalry in County Clare with their neighbors to the East, the Tulla Ceili Band. 

In 1959 Jerry moved to New York for the first of two stints living in the Big Apple working in construction.  He also found part-time work in a number of New York area ballrooms and venues mainly with his own “Jerry Lynch Trio” and also playing with many of the versatile musicians around town who combined traditional music with the popular music of the day.  He would later join the Killoran Clancy Branch of Comhaltas based in Queens led by the late Jack Whelan, a fellow Clareman as Lynch regularly joined the ranks of the musicians who played at their monthly Ceili when he lived in New York.  It is his New York legacy that warranted him a place in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Hall of Fame. 

After returning to Ireland to live permanently he both advised and inspired the newly reorganized Kilfenora Ceili Band in the 1990s under the direction of his nephew John Lynch who took over the role that Kitty Linnane performed for 40 years. The new band accomplished another three-peat Senior All-Ireland Ceili Band Championship in the years 1993-1995, the only band to do it twice.   Jerry made guest appearances on special occasions with the KCB and appears in the documentary In the Blood prepared for the Centenary of the Band as well at the 2011 TG4 series on the development of ceili bands. 

His influence on Kilfenora music was immense, in preserving the great heritage of tunes from earlier times, and also from the repertoire he learnt on his travels and listening to other great musicians like Joe Cooley and Jimmy Shand. 

He passed away in May, 2011 and is buried in Holy Rosary Cemetery in Doolin.  He is survived by his wife Betty, his son Elwood and daughter Tara who assumed the chairmanship of the Reynolds-Hanifin-Cooley-Branch of CCE based in Boston last November replacing the late legendary Larry Reynolds. 

– Edited by Paul Keating from an article in Treoir Magazine