When most people hear the word “lynch” they think of angry mobs with shouts of “string ’em up”. Or they think of white men in white hoods hanging a black man from a tree. If legend holds – then the origin of the term “to lynch” is nowhere near today’s meaning.
Back in the Old Country of Ireland, back in the days when Spain and England were the world’s biggest powers, the Spanish decided to try to settle things with the English in one fell swoop. So they sent out almost their entire navy – the Spanish Armarda as it came to be known – to do battle with the English.
The weather proved to be against the Spanish fleet and their commander made the tactical error of bringing the fight into the narrow straight between England and Ireland where the smaller, faster English ships had a distinct advantage. The result was a rout and many of the proud ships of the Spanish fleet were sunk in the Irish Sea.
Many Spanish sailors were able to make it to the safety of the shores of Ireland where they found welcome. The Irish and the Spanish had much in common (specifically their Catholic faith and hate of England). Many Spanish sailors settled in Ireland where their dark hair and complexion can still be seen today (descendants of the Spanish gave rise to the term “Black Irish” in reference to the common feature of black hair).
One such sailor found refuge in the sea-side city of Galway.
The Mayor of Galway was a well respected and much loved man named Lynch. He brought this sailor into his home where he became like a brother to the Mayor’s true son.
Tragically the sailor and the Mayor’s son fell in love with the same woman. One thing led to another and in a fit of jealous rage the Mayor’s son killed the Spanish sailor.
An investigation led to the truth and the Mayor’s son was found guilty of murder. The punishment was to be death by hanging.
Now because the mayor was so well loved and respected – no one could be found that would be willing to act as executioner. With nobody to act as executioner – the job fell to the Mayor himself. Out of respect for the law and in order not to break his oath to the people to uphold his sworn duties – Mayor Lynch had to put to death his own beloved son.
The term Lynch originally meant "brought to justice no matter what the personal cost." Now you can see how far from the original meaning we have come.
Lousy, stinking, lustful Spanish sailors! It’s all their fault!