Br J V Lynch

Br John Vincent Lynch (1910-1977) (“Vinny,” “Poncho”) had a happy disposition, was an extrovert, popular, and liked by the Brothers, Staff and pupils. He was one of that fine band of men called the “Ordinary Brother” — no glamorous distinction calling for applause, but a lovable character who loved all in return. The poor and needy always had a special place in his heart.

In 1944 he was diagnosed with TB, as a consequence of which he lost the use of one of his lungs, resulting in a lopsided gait.

Br Lynch was a dedicated teacher who prepared for his lessons, daily,  in a ‘detailed’ manner. His gifts, however, were not limited to the classroom. During his time in the Calcutta Male Orphanage, St Joseph’s Bowbazaar and Goethals, he taught woodwork and craft, kept a fine garden, and was somewhat of a gourmet chef. There was a tale going around in Mt Abu, that he once forgot to put yeast in a cake, was disappointed in the result, and flung it across a room, resulting in a broken window pane! In Mt Abu he was in charge of the tuck-shop, and he seemed to have an endless supply of goodies for the boys — stick-jaws, ice-cream, pickles, jams, etc.

In January 1977 he suffered a heart attack while on holiday at St Patrick's Asansol. He was up and about the next day after treatment. On 26th January he and Br Larry Kelly spent the day with us at Burnpur — my Dad was then the Security Adviser at the Indian Iron and Steel Company. He spoke lovingly, at length, about his past pupils, how they were doing in life. They left for St Patrick's around 4 pm. That night he suffered another serious heart attack. The doctors advised that he be moved to a hospital, but when the Brothers returned to collect Vinny, he had passed away. Br Kelly made the call the next morning to inform us. We were shocked and devastated.

—Stephen de Silva (1972)

Stephen mentioned Poncho's lung problem. How many of us have seen a lung working? Everyone in my class has. Poncho had a pair of real sheep (or maybe cattle) lungs brought to class. Thoroughly cleaned, he repeatedly assured us. Karl Patton volunteered as the bellows. With a glass peashooter as a buffer, he blew into the trachea. Right before us, the lungs puffed up to full size. Like oversize football bladders. A lesson we'll always remember. Four men in our class grew up to be physicians, one of them a pulmonary specialist.

Besides the tuck shop at the west end of the old building, Poncho had the little room next to it (twin of the little outer parlour on the east side) as the fret shop. In the 1960s, boys learned to handle a fret saw, cutting shapes like birds out of plywood, and painting them. He had a lathe and some power tools too, and we got a first look at how these machines worked. One of my brothers participated in the fret shop activities, and went on to be an engineer.

Yes, Poncho had that missing lung, but an extra big heart. Pretty much every evening, after games and wash-up, he sat on the stone steps of the old building, in front of the chapel (now the dormitories), and a bunch of smallies gathered around. He was a surrogate parent, often reaching out and giving them one-arm hugs. And for a surprise, he'd press our noses in with his thumb, saying “Paaeee!”  It was genuine, wholesome affection, nothing more, nothing less.

Despite his disabilities, you didn't mess with Poncho. His standards were high, his expectations were clear, and you delivered. I'll always know the four islands of Japan because of him. Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushyu. It was our homework assignment to memorize them. Like the rest of the class, I didn't know them in the morning. So we had to write them out 150 times during lunch break. I sat in the shade of Cup Rock and wrote and wrote, with a very tired hand. He also drilled us with geometry theorems. First thing in the morning, write out the proof that three angles in a triangle add up to 180°. A mark off if we forgot the “QED.” We'd race up to the front of the class when we were done, and after he'd examined the first few, we'd check each other's work.

I'll have to ask around if anyone in our class grew up to be a mathematical geographer.

— Val Noronha (1973)