News 2015

Joss on Paradise Lost 80th birthday
Title: Joss Lynam remembered
Date: 09/01/2015
System Date: 09/01/2015
Today, 09 January 2015, is the fourth anniversary of the death of Joss Lynam (29 June 1924 - 09 January 2011).

The following obituary was published in the Irish Times.

May he rest in peace.


JOSS LYNAM: JOSS (JAMES Perry O’Flaherty) Lynam, who has died at the age of 86, was one of Ireland’s best-known mountaineers at home and abroad.

The London-born civil engineer was not only a keen hillwalker, orienteer and prolific writer, but was a family man, friend and confidant to many. He undertook many mountaineering expeditions to the Alps and to Asia’s Greater Ranges, made an outstanding voluntary contribution to the development of adventure sports in Ireland, and played a key mediating role in disputes over access to the countryside.

“Laoch ar lár” was how the former minister for community, rural and Gaeltacht affairs Éamon Ó Cuív described him this week, paying tribute to his “pivotal role” in Comhairle na Tuaithe, the countryside council initiated by the minister to deal with access and development strategies for recreational activity in rural areas.

He and his older sister, Biddy, were born in London to Galway natives Edward and Martha (née Perry) Lynam. His father was curator of maps at the British Museum, and wrote a number of books about maps and mapmaking. Both parents loved the outdoors, and took trips home to Connemara. It was on one of those trips that he climbed his first mountain – Knocknarea, Co Sligo – with an aunt.

At the age of seven, he was taken by a relative to see a documentary on a 1930 expedition to Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain, and he was entranced.

In 1942, at the age of 18, he was sent with the Royal Engineers on military service to India, where he learned to speak Hindi and spent time in the Himalayan foothills north of Delhi. He recalled later that he had a “quiet” second World War, being demobbed before Indian partition. However, he lost a close friend who had remained behind and was caught in the ensuing bloodshed.

He subsequently studied engineering at Trinity College Dublin, and both he and fellow student, the late Bill Perrott, founded the Irish Mountaineering Club (1948), initiating an appeal through The Irish Times letters page. They were out in Luggala in Wicklow on the day their appeal was published and returned to a sheaf of telephone messages waiting for them.

Writing in the golden jubilee journal to mark 50 years of the Irish Mountaineering Club (IMC), Lynam recalled how ropes then were “heavy manila or hemp, of doubtful strength and horrible to use when wet”.

The first meeting was held in Dublin’s Central Hotel in Exchequer Street, and Robert Lloyd Praeger, naturalist and author of The Way That I Went, was elected as first president. Lynam’s aim was to ensure it was mixed sex – at a time when many English and international clubs were male only – and cross-Border.

One of those first IMC members was his future wife, Nora Gorevan, whom he married on his graduation in 1951. Fortunately, Lynam’s career as a civil engineer brought the couple to work in a number of mountainous regions, including Wales, the English Lake District and India. At this stage, he had been to the Alps, and had already undertaken his first international mountaineering expedition – to Kolahoi in Kashmir at the end of the war.

He described many years afterwards how much of his technique was self-taught and how he slipped away from base camp with a book to learn how to cut steps on ice. “How we survived, I don’t know,” he observed later. “It was the first real mountain that any of us had ever seen.”

He was leader or deputy leader of expeditions to Greenland, the Andes, Kashmir, Tien Shan, Garhwal and Tibet, including the 1987 expedition to Chang-tse (7,543m), which was the forerunner to the successful first Irish ascent of Everest in 1993.

He was joint leader with British climber Mike Banks of a veteran mountaineering trip to the 6,632m high Jaonli peak in India in 1991 when an earthquake struck less than 15 miles away. His sound mountaineering judgment, knowledge of different ranges, route-finding and navigation ability, perseverance and understanding of the mountain environment all contributed to his considerable leadership skills.

He brought this experience to bear in his role as president of the Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme’s expeditions commission in the 1990s, and was instrumental in making the case for greater involvement of the “host” countries, such as India and Pakistan.

Arguably, one of his finest legacies was the formation with others of a number of organisations supporting adventure sports, including the Federation of Mountaineering Clubs in Ireland, the Association for Adventure Sports, the Irish Orienteers, Bord Oiliúint Sléibhte, Tiglin – the National Outdoor Training Centre in Co Wicklow – and Outdoor Education Ireland.

He was a driving force in developing a national network of waymarked trails, as chair of the National Waymarked Ways Advisory Committee from 1984 to 2007. His vision of a representative body for hillwalking and mountaineering was realised in Mountaineering Ireland, which has grown from very small roots to an organisation of 10,500 members. He also created a “Celtic fringe” of alliances among Irish and British mountain training organisations in his role as chair of a joint consultative committee.

The early 1980s were a difficult time for him and his family; he was made redundant in 1983, but said afterwards that it was the “best thing that could have happened”, as he undertook consultancy work, lectured in Bolton Street and produced a number of walking guides for Gill and Macmillan while also editing Irish Mountain Log, which he had founded in 1979. In 1986, he had a coronary bypass operation, and his son Nicholas died the following year. However, there was some good news also with the arrival of his first grandchild, Christopher.

He served on Cospóir, the national sports council, from 1974 to 1984, and advised on curriculums for outdoor pursuits courses and organisation of outdoor education centres run by Vocational Education Committees. Dissatisfied with Ordnance Survey maps of Connacht at the time, he re-surveyed the region’s mountains in 1988 and published Mountains of Connemara, with an introduction by cartographer and writer Tim Robinson, under Robinson’s Folding Landscapes imprint.

He was also a contributor to Encylopaedia Britannica, and continued his civil engineering work – such as with the Office of Public Works at the Skellig Michael world heritage site off Co Kerry, and on a number of pier and harbour schemes.

His natural style was one of “benign persuasion”, but he could be a tough and determined negotiator when required, though always willing to see the other’s perspective. In recognition of his extraordinary voluntary work and achievements, an honorary doctorate from Trinity College Dublin (2001) was conferred on him and he received the Irish Sports Council’s inaugural Sport Volunteer of the Year Award (2005).

He celebrated his 80th birthday climbing the Paradise Lost route, and abseiled down Winder’s Slab on his 82nd birthday. Both were to raise money for cancer research, as he had had treatment himself.

Friends and colleagues have spoken of his first belief that access for hillwalkers could only be sustainable in an Irish context through working with landowners and addressing their reasonable concerns.

He was known for his incredible energy, his endless enthusiasm and as the inspirational mountaineer who followed the fortunes of younger climbers and kept meticulous statistics of Irish ascents at home and abroad. Nora, his selfless partner, supported his activities while rearing their family and maintained an open door for the many visitors to their Dublin home.

Joss Lynam’s ashes were scattered from the summit of his first mountain, Sligo’s Knocknarea, on February 12th 2011.

He is survived by his wife Nora, his daughters Ruth and Clodagh, his grandchildren Christopher, Ruairí and Conor. His son Nicholas predeceased him in 1987.

Joss Lynam: born June 29th, 1924; died January 9th, 2011

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