Brunny Lynam the medical student

U 10.44-53: His name was Brunny Lynam. O, that was a very nice name to have.

Father Conmee gave a letter from his breast to master Brunny Lynam and pointed to the red pillarbox at the corner of Fitzgibbon street. [...] Master Brunny Lynam ran across the road and put Father Conmee's letter to father provincial into the mouth of the bright red letterbox.

“Brunny Lynam” was a “very nice name to have”. It seems probable that Joyce imported it into Ulysses not (as the novel implies) from the name of a fellow student at Belvedere College, the Jesuit school which Joyce attended, but from that of a fellow student at University College Dublin, at the time one of the component colleges of the Royal University.

Bernard Malachi Lynam was born at Bellaghy, Londonderry on 10 May 1880, the son of Matthew Lynam and Lucy Lynam neé Murphy. Bernard’s father Matthew (b. 1844, County Westmeath) served for thirty years in the Royal Irish Constabulary, becoming sergeant in charge of Bellaghy, Ballyronan, and Drapertown, before retiring to farm in Bellaghy. In his early days he worked for the Constabulary in Cork and Kerry, “and was through the ‘Rising’ in those counties”.1

Bernard was educated at the Rainey Endowed School in Magherafelt in northern Ireland. He passed the Matriculation Examination for the Royal University of Ireland in the summer of 1897 (Joyce matriculated at the university the following year). His education was an extended one and he did not finally qualify as a doctor until 1917. He seems to have been another of Joyce’s medical friends from the university (Oliver Gogarty, Vincent Cosgrave, Daniel Sheehan, etc.). There is no Bernard Lynam in the other Lynam family who are referred to from time to time in Ulysses.

We find him in 1898 attending a meeting in support of Nationalist voters in Dublin at the Antient Concert Rooms (the meeting was also attended by various local figures also mentioned by Joyce, such as William Field, John Clancy, and John Nagle). By 1906, however, he boards the SS Friesland from Liverpool to Philadelphia, listed in the ship’s manifest as a “labourer”. He clearly stayed in Philadelphia for several years, as it was there that he married Katherine Winters on 12 October 1909.

Returning to Ireland at a time when he would doubtless have lost contact with Joyce, he takes up his medical studies again, appearing as a “student in attendance” at Queen’s University in Belfast in 1912.2 But his medical studies were again interrupted with the onset of the Great War. A young man in his early thirties, he signed on for three years’ service at Belfast (RAMC medics), and was sent to Limerick. His army record ( describes him as Roman Catholic, 5ft 8½ inches in height (he was a “little schoolboy in Ulysses, but the adjective may not be significant), weighing 170 lbs, with a fresh complexion, brown eyes, brown hair, and a distinguishing scar.

His military career was punctuated by illness. In Limerick (April 1915) he was admitted to hospital with a minor case of tenosynovitis, and soon afterwards he was promoted to the rank of Corporal with the 30th Field Ambulance, almost immediately (26 April) being promoted again to Sergeant in Dublin.

This seems to have been largely in preparation for foreign service, as on 10 July 1915 he embarked from England for Egypt, arriving on 23 July 1915. But his health failed him again, and on 3 October he was admitted to hospital in Alexandria with dysentery, three weeks later described as “dangerously ill”. To conclude his military career he was invalided back to England on the Asturias in late October 1915, and was finally discharged from the army on 29 January 1916.

Once recovered, Bernard was able again to pursue and complete his medical studies, but this time not in Ireland. In 1917 the Lancet lists him as taking the Final Examination in Midwifery at Edinburgh University, and the official Medical Register from 1919 onwards shows that he qualified on 2 November 1917:

Lynam, Bernard Malachy, Bellaghy, Co. Derry, 1917, Nov. 2, I[reland], L.R.C.P. Edin., 1917; L.R.C.S. Edin., 1917; L.R.F.P.S. Glasg., 1917.

Medical Register (1919), p. 627

Bernard Lynam returned to practise in his native Ireland. He died in July 1945 “one of the best-known medical practitioners in Antrim”. The Irish Independent offers the following brief obituary:

Dr. B. Lynham [sic]. The death has occurred of Dr. Bernard Lynham, New St., Randalstown, one of the best-known medical practitioners in Antrim. A native of Bellaghy, he was well known at race meetings in all parts of Ireland. He was a breeder of greyhounds and competed at track and coursing meetings for many years.

Dr. Lynham took an active interest in fostering Irish dancing and was responsible for building a hall in Randalstown for Catholic social activities.3

John Simpson


1 Weekly Irish Times (1928), 5 May p. 17 (a short obituary notice for Matthew Lynam).

2 Queen's University of Belfast Calendar (1912), p. 656.

3 Irish Independent (1945), 30 July p. 3.

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