- 12 Jun 19
With the news this morning that Philomena Lynott has passed away at the age of 88, Hot Press looks back at her extraordinary life.
Hot Press was desperately sad to announce the news earlier this morning that Philomena Lynott has died. Philomena – who came to national prominence when her memoir My Boy became a No.1 bestseller – was the mother of the great Philip Lynott of Thin Lizzy, often described as Ireland’s greatest rock star. Philomena was born on October 22, 1930. She was 88 years of age.
Philomena Lynott had been battling with cancer for the past number of years. However, she had made the decision not to go through the full rigours of chemotherapy. She knew that the condition was terminal and lived with that awareness in recent times, managing the illness as best she could with great bravery, with the support of her best friend and closest confidante Graham Cohen.
Philomena’s extraordinary life story was told in the book My Boy, written with Jackie Hayden and published by Hot Press Books. It was a two-time No.1 best seller. After leaving school, she departed from Dublin to work in England. However, her plans were forever changed when she discovered she was pregnant with Philip, whose father was Cecil Parris, from Guyana. Philomena gave birth to Philip in a hospital in West Bromwich, beginning a turbulent phase of her life, during which she would have two more children – the full story of which was revealed for the first time in the second edition of My Boy, published in 2011.
In the book, Philomena wrote candidly about sex, sexual education, and becoming a young mother at the age of 18.
"By the age of 21, I was three times a mother," she wrote. "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."
Philip came to Dublin while still a young boy, and went on to become one of Ireland’s most revered songwriters and musicians in a series of bands from The Black Eagles to Thin Lizzy.
Throughout her life, Philomena maintained a close connection with Phil Lynott fans. Back in 2004, Hot Press met with Philomena and discovered that her home Dublin practically doubled as a place of pilgrimage for fans of the Irish rock legend.
One room in the house was dedicated to Phil’s memory and contained a massive amount of memorabilia. All around the walls were gold and silver records, with pictures, posters, records and other souvenirs filling every available space in the room. In one corner, an old Seeburg jukebox containing all of Phil’s favourite records. Visitors to the house were usually shown into this room.
“They can’t believe their luck especially when they find that I’m at home,” Philomena told us. “They usually cry!”
She also admitted that she didn't find the constant stream of visitors an intrusion whatsoever.
“I don’t mind it at all. I’m not a normal housewife you see. For a start I’ve never been married. Secondly I used to run a hotel so I’m well used to people coming and going all the time. They just come in and sit down and I say ‘would you like a cup of tea? They say ‘we’d love one’ and I say ‘well go and make it yourself'."
Philomena Lynott was also a strong advocate for the rights of gay people. In 2012, she told Hot Press about how she objected to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney using 'The Boys Are Back In Town' as his campaign song.
"I am really upset at Philip's music being used in Mitt Romney's campaign in a political way that Philip would not have approved of," she told Hot Press. "As far as I am concerned, Mitt Romney's opposition to gay marriage and to civil unions for gays makes him anti-gay – which is not something that Philip would have supported. He had some wonderful gay friends, as indeed I do, and they deserve equal treatment in every respect, whether in Ireland or the United States.
"Neither would Philip have supported his policy of taxing the poor and offering tax cuts to the rich, which Paul Ryan is advocating. There is certainly no way that I would want the Lynott name to be associated with any of those ideas."
It was one of the great joys of Philomena’s life that she succeeded in her campaign to have a statue of Philip erected in Dublin. The statue is located on Harry Street, just off Dublin’s Grafton Street.
Another poignant moment for Philomena came just last year, in February 2018, when The National Wax Plus unveiled a new waxwork of Philomena, which stood beside that of her son.
Sculptor PJ Heraty, who had known Philomena since he worked on Phil Lynott’s statue years ago, said: “She’s very easy to get along with, despite life cutting corners off her. She’s almost like Ireland’s version of the queen, no?”