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COMMENT: Philomena is the ultimate rock star mum

Monday, 11th January, 2016 7:59am

Story by Tony McCullagh
COMMENT: Philomena is the ultimate rock star mum

Philomena Lynott pictured at the unveiling of the statue of her son, Phil Lynott, on Harry Street, Dublin, in November 2007. PHOTO BY DARREN KINSELLA

COMMENT: Philomena is the ultimate rock star mum

Philomena Lynott pictured at the unveiling of the statue of her son, Phil Lynott, on Harry Street, Dublin, in November 2007. PHOTO BY DARREN KINSELLA

IN JANUARY 1990, I wrote a review of the annual ‘Vibe for Philo’ gig, organised by the irrepressible Smiley Bolger. The event, held in the New Inn on the southside of the city, marked the fourth anniversary of the Thin Lizzy singer’s death. 

A few days after my article was published, I received a phone call from Philomena Lynott. She had called to thank me for the piece and to invite me to her Sutton home for a coffee. As a lifelong fan of her son’s music, this was an offer I could not turn down.

I spent a couple of hours in the company of this wonderful woman; a still grieving mother determined to be a guardian of her child’s legacy. With justifiable pride, she showed me some of the priceless memorabilia – the framed records; the scrapbook of press cuttings; her personal photographs. 

We discussed the possibility of writing a book together, documenting her early life and the story of her rock star child. Regrettably, I didn’t follow this opportunity up at the time and the task of penning Philomena’s autobiography – entitled ‘My Boy’ – fell to Jackie Hayden of Hot Press magazine. In fairness to him, he did a brilliant job and the book was deservedly a bestseller.

While it was an honour to be invited to Philomena’s home that memorable Sunday afternoon, there was nothing that unusual about it. In fact, Thin Lizzy fans who travelled from abroad to visit Phil’s grave in St Fintan’s Cemetery in Sutton were often brought back for tea by Philomena. Perhaps mindful of how much her son had meant to his legion of fans, she seemed to accept that she had a duty to share him with others.

Much has been written about Phil Lynott’s influence on Irish rock music and how he paved the way for others, such as U2 and the Boomtown Rats, on the international stage. Growing up in Crumlin, he may have looked somewhat exotic for that era but he was Dublin to the core and wore his Irish heritage proudly.

I once saw him queuing at the checkout in Superquinn, Sutton, accompanied by his wife, Caroline, and two young daughters, Sarah and Cathleen. He offered a cheeky grin and a wink to the star-struck ladies behind the bakery counter before making the short journey home with his young family on two rickety looking bicycles with child seats. But even when doing something ordinary like getting the weekly shopping, Phil looked very much the rock star - and you got a sense that he was loving every second of it.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of Phil Lynott’s death. Like many prominent figures in the music industry, he was taken from us far too soon. It is some comfort to his fans that he left such an impressive body of work behind.

There’s no better time than now to dust off that old vinyl copy of Thin Lizzy’s seminal ‘Live and Dangerous’ album. Be sure to play it loud!

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