- 03 Mar 11
She was a single mother in a strange city. He was a dashing man in uniform. In an exclusive extract from her astonishing My Boy memoir, for the first time ever Philomena Lynott writes about her affair with an American soldier, which took place just nine months after her son Philip was born.
Philip Parris Lynott was born in August, 1949. My lovely daughter Philomena followed in March 1951, and then came a second son, the wonderful Leslie in June 1952. Those are not the names I gave the younger two on their birth certificates, but rather the names they use now. So there it is. By the age of 21, I was three times a mother. But to reveal the full details of how, where and when, I need to rewind a little bit. The funniest thing, looking back, is just how little I knew about sex even then. Like most parents at the time, my mother had given us no sex education at all. But of course she’d had none herself and so I’m sure it never even remotely occurred to her that she might have a responsibility in this regard.
When I had my first period at the age of about eleven, she must have noticed something, because she enlisted my eldest sister to act as my ‘governess’! “Take Philomena into the bathroom and talk to her,” she instructed. My sister did what she was told and explained to me that whenever this happens to you, you must not go near boys. “But you’re not to be worried,” she said. “You’re not sick.”
While that came as a bit of relief, the rest of what she said was misleading, to put it mildly! But that was the end of it. In fact, my sexual education before I met Cecil was so lacking that, at one point, I was convinced that if a boy kissed me I’d get pregnant. So in reality, when I left home, on my own, to go to England at 17 years of age, I was as pure as a lily. Well, nearly…
This was not very long after the war had ended in 1945 and I gradually became aware that there were lots of men in uniform about the place. They might have provided a distraction on occasion, but in general life was dull. There was no clear air, what with smoke coming out from fires in houses, the heavy fog, shortages of goods and so on. My life had been pretty drab after Philip was born, and it got worse after his father Cecil, moved to London. So with Cecil off the scene, I began another affair – with a white American serviceman. He was stationed at the US base in Burtonwood, a few miles outside Liverpool, where lots of GIs were garrisoned. Local girls would meet the US army men in the dancehalls in the area, and get up to all sorts of mischief.
As for me, I know it doesn’t sound very romantic, but I actually met my suitor at a phone-box. Although it was obvious to me at least that Cecil and I were unlikely to spend our lives together, we kept in touch while he was up in London and he’d visit on occasion. We had an arrangement that he would ring a particular phone-box at an agreed time, which might seem a bit mad now, with mobile phones and how easy communications have become, but it was the way long distance relationships had to be conducted at the time, unless you were well off enough to have a phone installed, which I certainly wasn’t.
One day, after I’d picked up the receiver, I noticed there was a man outside the phone-box, waiting to make a call. As I chatted away to Cecil, this chap kept knocking on the window to get me to finish off, so he could use the phone. Bloody impatient he was! Or that was what struck me at the time. Underneath I was thinking that maybe there was some crisis in his world and that he really did need to use the phone quickly. It was raining too, I remember, and Philip was in the pram outside the phone-box with the hood up.
But, in between his banging, this man started to play with Philip, keeping him amused. I saw him giving Philip a tiny bit of a Hershey bar, which got me to bring the conversation with Cecil to an end pretty sharpish. Philip was less than nine months old at the time and, in all honesty, I was afraid that he might choke. I mean you don’t give sticky toffee to a baby. So I finished talking to Cecil, came out, and said hello to this stranger. I was still shy, and so I thanked him for the chocolate, grabbed the pram and headed off towards the house I was staying in.
It turned out he was the persistent type. As I pushed the pram ahead of me, instead of him making his precious phone call, he traipsed after me, right around to where I was living. If it happened nowadays, you’d feel nervous, and maybe think of reporting the man to the police as a potential stalker. But back then it just seemed normal. It was what boys did, sniffing after us like stray dogs. And, of course, in a way I was flattered. In fact, I thought about him quite a lot that evening – but in truth I assumed that it was a one-night wonder and that I was unlikely ever to see him again.
The next day, however, one of the other tenants came knocking on the door of my room and told me that there was an American GI in uniform asking at the door for the lady with the little black baby. My heart was palpitating as I went down the stairs to see who it was, though I had my suspicions. It was him alright, the guy who had followed me home. He handed me a package of nylon stockings, which I can assure you were a very sought-after luxury at that austere time, and a box of chocolates. As if that wasn’t enough for me to deal with, in a way that was quite touching, he asked if I’d like to go to the pictures. I had to explain that since I had a baby to look after there was no way I could go on a date just like that.
I went back upstairs and, a little bit later on, took the nylons out and tried them on. I thought I looked wonderful in them, which added to the spark. There was something about his face that I had liked. In fact the more I thought about him, the more I agonised about the fact that I’d had to turn him down. How could I be so rash?
His name, as I later found out, was Louis Caldwell. Louis was white, but he didn’t seem to have any problem with me having a black baby – which seriously mattered to me given the extent of racial prejudice at the time. Far from being put off, Louis kept pleading with me for a date until – eventually – I did what I had secretly wanted to do all along. I got a babysitter for Philip, and we went out together, beginning what I suppose was really an affair. After all, I was still in a relationship of sorts with Cecil, who came back to visit us as often as he could get away from his London duties and at one stage had even tried to persuade me to move to London with him.
Despite the hardships, I felt I was better where I was; I was also beginning to make friends in the area around where I lived and I didn’t want to walk away from that unnecessarily. And so I admit I was being a bit sneaky when I hooked up with Louis – and the truth is that I felt bad about it at least some of the time. But he was a really nice guy and he was persuasive – and so we started to have sex, which needless to say I hadn’t planned.
My Boy will be published to coincide with the launch of the Phil Lynott/Thin Lizzy Exhibition, opening March 4