Ireland’s Che Guevara stamps

by Phil Duncan

This coming Monday (October 9) marks the 50th anniversary of the execution of the legendary Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara.

Che, a leader of the Cuban revolution, was captured in Bolivia where he was leading a guerrilla struggle against the dictatorship; rather than put him on trial the Bolivian dictatorship, in cahoots with Washington, decided to execute him.

He was shot dead, his hands were cut off and his corpse was buried in an unmarked grave.  It wasn’t until 1997, thrity years later, that the Cuban government was able to retrieve his remains and take them back to Cuba, where Che is a national hero.

Che was hugely popular in his lifetime, inspiring radicals, especially the younger generation, all over the world.

One of the organisations marking the 50th anniversary of Che’s execution is An Post, the postal service of the southern Irish state.  On October 5 An Post issued a special one-euro stamp featuring the most famous picture of Che, a picture which was turned into many posters, including one by Irish designer Jim Fitzpatrick.

Ireland is in the midst of the centenaries of a bunch of important events, basically from 1916 to 1922. So, some people at An Post are probably particularly aware right now of anniversaries. The southern state is also an interesting beast.

It was the product of a counter-revolution, but a counter-revolutiuon that emerged from within the revolution – a section of the independence movement, which espoused radical goals, abandoned those goals and turned on the people who kept to them. But it does give the southern state a weird kind of character – it traces its origins, for instance, back to an armed anti-imperialist rebellion whose leaders were social and political radicals, not conservatives.

Che also had Irish ancestry, being partly descended from the Lynch clan around Galway.  Ernesto Guevara Lynch, Che’s father, would state, “the first thing to note is that in my son’s veins flowed the blood of Irish rebels”.

According to the New York-based Irish Echo, one of Che’s grandmothers, his father’s mother, had fled the Irish famine, migrating to Buenos Aires.  I’m not sure of the source for this because she is not mentioned at all in the wikipedia entry about the Lynch emigration to Argentina.

Instead, the wikipedia entry says Che is descended from Patrick Lynch (b 1715) who left Ireland, as members of his clan had ever since their defeat during the Cromwellian and Williamite conquests of the late 1600s.  No mention of famine, although there was also famine around the time he left Ireland.

Patrick Lynch went to Spain in the 1740s and turned up in Buenos Aires where he married in 1749.  He was Che’s great, great, great, great grand-father.

Che also passed through Ireland several times in the early 1960s as a leader of the Cuban revolution.  Jim Fitzpatrick claims he met Che in a bar in County Clare in 1961, although he may have had his place and dates mixed up.  In March 1965, Che was flying from Prague to Havana when the plane had suspected engine trouble and had to land at Shannon airport.  Some accounts have him staying overnight in Limerick and walking into a pub there.  However, Shannon is in Co. Clare, so perhaps Fitzpatrick has the place right but the year wrong.

What is not disputed is that Che passed through Dublin on his way to Algeria in 1964 and was interviewed on Irish TV (see here).


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