Rock star’s mother who kept her famous son’s legacy alive

Philomena Lynott, whose son Phil Lynott found fame with Thin Lizzy, has died aged 88

Philomena Lynott at the unveiling of the restored bronze scupture of Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynnott on Dublin’s Harry Street in August 2013. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Philomena Lynott at the unveiling of the restored bronze scupture of Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynnott on Dublin’s Harry Street in August 2013. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

Born: October 22 ,1930

Died: June 12,2019

Philomena Lynott, who has died at the age of 88, was always a welcome sight on the Dublin music scene. Effervescent, gracious and charming, she devoted herself to keeping the memory of her rock star son, Phil Lynott, alive. Whether it be arranging for a statue of the son she always called “Philip” to be erected in Dublin City Centre or attending the annual Vibe for Philo concert held in his memory, Philomena was in her own way part of Irish musical royalty.

She was born in the Liberties area of Dublin on October 22nd, 1930. When she was aged aged four the family moved to Crumlin, where she had a happy childhood. Leaving school at age 13, she was keen to make a living for herself and at just 17 she travelled to England where jobs were plentiful due to the rebuilding of the country after the second World War.

Lynott worked as a nurse in various English cities, but it was at a dance in Birmingham in 1948 that she first met Cecil Parris, a good-looking man originally from British Guiana (now Guyana) in South America. The two began what turned out to be a short-lived relationship and Lynott gave birth to their son, Philip, on August 20th, 1949.

As an unwed teenager, Lynott had to move into a home for unmarried mothers, where she was strongly advised to give Philip up for adoption; but she was determined to keep her child.

Mindless racism

Those early years were a struggle. Lynott lived in digs and tried to hold down two jobs while bringing up her son. She deeply resented the mindless racism directed at her mixed-race baby, and when Philip was four she made the heartbreaking decision to send him to live with her parents in Crumlin.

Although they didn’t have a traditional mother-child relationship, Lynott and her son had a very close connection

Philip thrived in a loving family in Crumlin and would later go on to become one of this country’s most successful and most loved musicians due to the global success of his band, Thin Lizzy.

Although they didn’t have a traditional mother-child relationship due to the distance between them, Lynott and her son had a very close connection. While working in England she would always post him pocketmoney each week, and the young Philip was spoiled with toys – many of which weren’t available in Ireland yet.

Ambitious and hard-working, Lynott always dreamt of running her own establishment – a restaurant or a hotel – and thought nothing of working three jobs in order to save the money to pay for the deposit on a hotel which took her fancy in Manchester.

She only revealed later in life that during this period – just a few years after Philip was born – that she gave birth to two other children: a daughter, Jeanette, was born in 1951 and a son, James, was born in 1952.

She gave both the children up for adoption but was thrilled to be reunited with them when they became adults and were able to find out who their birth mother was.

‘Fallen woman’

She kept the news of her two other children secret for decades. As she explained later: “I had hidden them from the world because to have one child out of wedlock was bad, but three? I was the fallen woman, the sinner. So, I waited till my mum had passed away, because I didn’t want her to think I was going from one man to another over there in England.”

Philomena Lynott, the mother of legendary Irish rock icon and Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott, photographed at the National Wax Museum in Dublin in February 2018, where she unveiled a waxwork of herself sculpted by artist PJ Heraty. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
Philomena Lynott, the mother of legendary Irish rock icon and Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott, photographed at the National Wax Museum in Dublin in February 2018, where she unveiled a waxwork of herself sculpted by artist PJ Heraty. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Although she never married, she had a long-term partner in England, Dennis Keeley (the two were together for 50 years until his death in 2010).

The two had taken over the management of the Clifton Grand Hotel in Manchester in the mid-1960s and turned it into a thriving business. It was a hotel that was frequented by touring rock music acts (mainly because it had a late bar licence).

She was happy running the hotel in Manchester but, for her 50th birthday in 1980, her son Philip (by then a wealthy rock star) bought her a house in Howth, Co Dublin, and she returned to live in Dublin with her partner.

Although very close to Philip, she had no real idea of the extent of his alcohol and drug intake, and when he died an early death from pneumonia and heart failure (associated with his drug use) in 1986 aged just 36, she was heartbroken.

Sculpture

Remaining in Dublin, she dedicated her life to ensuring Philip’s musical legacy would not be forgotten. She was one of the prime movers behind getting a sculpture of Philip erected on Dublin’s Harry Street (just outside Bruxelles Bar) and she was always a very welcome presence at the annual Vibe for Philo tribute concert held in Dublin in his honour – never tiring of signing autographs or answering questions for fans.

She retained the habit of ringing in to a radio or a TV station to thank them whenever her son’s music had been played

She was a much-loved presence on the Dublin music scene and was made an honorary member of Lillie’s Bordello nightclub. Even well into her 80s she looked decades younger and was known for her good-natured company.

She retained the habit of ringing in to a radio or a TV station to thank them whenever her son’s music had been played.

She had been suffering from skin cancer for the last few years of her life. She is survived by her son and daughter and three grandchildren.