Thursday 14 November 2019

Former U2 manager Paul McGuinness recalls the day he kissed his father goodbye

Left, Former U2 manager Paul McGuinness, and right, his late father Phillip.
Left, Former U2 manager Paul McGuinness, and right, his late father Phillip.
Paul McGuinness
Cillian and Brendan Murphy
Philip McGuinness
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Former U2 manager Paul McGuinness has recalled how, as a child, he was "so devastated with loneliness" at Kildare's Clongowes Wood College that he visited the place where his father dropped him off for days after he had driven away.

His emotional account is contained in a new book celebrating the relationship between sons and fathers in aid of the Irish Hospice Foundation.

McGuinness poignantly writes about how his father, Phillip, brought him to Ireland on the B&I Line mail boat from Liverpool before dropping him off at the school.

"I remember the trip vividly," he recalls. "He hired a car in Dublin and delivered me and my trunk and tuck box to Clongowes, and after the handover he drove away. I kissed him goodbye halfway down the long avenue and walked back to the school. For the next few days, never having been so devastated with loneliness before, I would visit the place where his tyres had flattened the grass."

Before going on to become Ireland's richest music manager worth over €100m, McGuinness recalls how, as a boarder at the private school, "there were boys at the school whose families had more money than mine. I resented that".

He took on jobs as a waiter and dishwasher, and during his teenage years, his relationship with his father deteriorated because he didn't apply himself at school.

After going to Trinity to study Philosophy and Psychology, where he says he preferred to concentrate more on girls and music, he recalls: "My parents were thoroughly disappointed and thought I was blowing it."

His failure to attend lectures in third year left him unable to sit his exams, which led to him losing his grant. He then had to return to live with his parents and enrol in the University of Southampton, which he commuted to by train.

He writes: "I hated it and hated my parents for not having the money to send me back to Dublin, where my girlfriend and all my other friends lived. My relations with my father got to the point where we were hardly speaking. I was very condescending and he was angry.

"I thought I was much more sophisticated than he was. He regarded the things that I had been doing at Trinity - theatre, magazines, etc - as frivolous. I'm sure I was fairly obnoxious. He thought I was wasting my life."

Eventually, McGuinness saved enough money to return to Dublin, met a girl called Kathy, who went on to become his wife, and his relationship with his father improved, to the point that his dad went to U2's first concert in the National Stadium on February 26, 1980.

It also turned out to be the night U2 were spotted by Island Records to whom they subsequently signed. The music impresario afterwards said his father "could sense there was something significant happening. He came round to my flat a month or so later and we had a proper talk about what a record deal was and how the music business worked. For the first time I had the feeling he was impressed and proud of me. That was the last time I saw him alive".

McGuinness's story is among over 100 searingly honest accounts by famous men about their relationships with their fathers.

Oscar winning director Neil Jordan, Booker Prize winner John Banville and actors Cillian Murphy and Gabriel Byrne are also among those who share memories that depict the unique relationship between sons and fathers.

U2 guitarist The Edge talks about a fishing trip with his father Garvin Evans - a hobby that he then went on to take up with his own son Levi, while The Usual Suspects star Byrne describes how his late father still haunts his dreams.

He writes: "I ran towards you, my father, walking away from me. 'Stop,' I cried. 'I need to know where you are.' You seemed in a hurry to be away but turned in a weary voice: 'You must stop searching for me, I'm not where you think I am.'"

While in a poem to his father Eamon, Colin Farrell writes: "The moments I remember, some were fine, and others grip me still through all this time."

All proceeds from the book, which is being published by Penguin Random House, will go towards The Irish Hospice Foundation.

The book, entitled Sons and Fathers, is now available in book stores and online at the hospice foundation's website

Sunday Independent

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