REV. JAMES LYNCH
James Lynch was born into a Roman Catholic family in the parish of Muff, County Donegal, Ireland, in about 1775. He converted to Methodism when he was about seventeen and entered into the Wesleyan Methodist Ministry in Ireland in 1808. He spent five years working in circuits in the north of Ireland and was one of the missionaries offered by the Irish Methodist Conference to assist Rev Dr Thomas Coke with his planned mission to Asia.
Lynch along with Thomas Squance with the two men arriving in mid August in Jaffna. Lynch and Squance began preaching in the Dutch Church at Jaffna Fort, mainly to soldiers and colonists, opened a school and laid the foundations for a successful mission. Throughout his tenure as a missionary Lynch continued to stress the importance of education in mission work, particularly through the establishment of mission schools.
As early as 1815 requests for a missionary to serve in Madras had been received. By 1817 the missionaries in Ceylon agreed the need to send a missionary was pressing and it Lynch was dispatched. Lynch established a mission in Madras preaching his first sermon in a warehouse at Black Town [George Town] on 2 March 1817 (in 1822 the site become a Methodist chapel). Lynch’s lack of Tamil meant that his efforts were restricted mainly to those of European descent. In March 1819 Lynch founded the first Methodist chapel on Indian soil (at Royapettah) and in the same year became the superintendent of the Tamil district (which incorporated the missions in the north of Ceylon and the south of India). In 1820 the Negapatam mission began (with Squance being appointed to serve there) with later the same year a mission commencing in Bangalore and soon after that in Trichinopoly (all garrison towns).
From 1817 financial problems arose and by 1821 they had deteriorated sufficiently for the committee in London to censure Lynch. Lynch offered his resignation but his synod insisted he remain and gave him their full support. By 1824 the mission committee’s attitude and criticism had softened but in July Lynch left Madras for good: in part as a result of his experiences and in part due to health concerns. Not long after his departure the Tamil District was divided into two separate districts: one centred on Madras, the other on Jaffna.
Lynch returned to working in Ireland, including in Lisburn in County Antrim, Strasbane in County Tyrone, Irvinestown in County Fermanagh and Newry in County Down (where physical infirmities forced him to become a supernumerary in 1842). He relocated to Leeds in 1845 and died there on 21 March 1858.