Philomena Lynott: Keeper of her famous son’s flame

Phil Lynott’s mother was an indefatigable champion of the Thin Lizzy frontman

A vibe for Philo: Philomena Lynott with one of her late son’s guitars in 2015. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

A vibe for Philo: Philomena Lynott with one of her late son’s guitars in 2015. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

She was the keeper of the flame, the mother who with a vice-like grip held on to the memory of her famous son, and who refused to allow his vibrant personality to fade.

Philomena Lynott, who has died at the age of 88, was born in Dublin on October 22nd, 1930, and raised in the district of Crumlin, in the south of the city. She left Ireland as a teenager to work as a nurse in Manchester. On August 20th, 1949, two months before her 19th birthday, she gave birth to her son, Philip, in the English midlands town of West Bromwich. When he was four she took him to Crumlin so he could live with his grandparents.

Despite the decision to live apart for some years, a bond developed between mother and son, aided by her regular visits. The relationship developed further from the early 1970s, when her son’s rock group, Thin Lizzy, started their career proper in the UK.

Touring brought them to Manchester, where Lynott still lived and worked as the manager of the Clifton Grange Hotel, in the city’s Whalley Range suburb. The hotel had a loose arrangement with touring bands (as well, reputedly, as with licensing laws) and is noted as the only hotel in Manchester willing to accommodate The Sex Pistols on their Anarchy tour, in 1976.

In 1980, with Thin Lizzy at their height, Philip bought his mother a house in Howth, at the northern tip of Dublin Bay. By the time of her son’s death, on January 4th, 1986, Lynott had long been a constant presence in his life. She then gradually embarked on what was to become a lifelong crusade to ensure her son – or, indeed, Thin Lizzy – would not be forgotten.

She became a key figure in securing permission for a statue of Philip to be created and placed in Dublin city centre (on Harry Street, off Grafton Street), as well as being an annual guest of honour at Vibe for Philo, the Dublin-based celebration of the musician’s life and music, each January.

Lynott’s spirit remained undimmed even while she lived with cancer, in the final few years of her life. A formidable woman from start to end, she in later years became almost as durable a personality as her son. Ultimately, perhaps, she will be remembered for being as courageous and loving a mother as any woman can be, from lashing out at the United States Republican Party for using Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back in Town at its convention to washing the hair of rock stars before a television appearance. One of Thin Lizzy’s guitarists, Brian Robertson, once said she was “like everyone’s mum, rolled into one”.

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