Friday 23 August 2019

'When I lost Phil I died for five years, but Stardust victims' mum saved me'

Mother of Thin Lizzy frontman tells Alan O'Keeffe of her loss and surviving cancer

Philomena Lynott with a room full of memorabilia about son Phil (below) at her home in Sutton, Co Dublin. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Philomena Lynott with a room full of memorabilia about son Phil (below) at her home in Sutton, Co Dublin. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Alan O'Keeffe

Philomena Lynott felt as if she had "died for five years" following the untimely death of her rock star son Phil.

Philomena found closure in 1991 when she met the mother of three Stardust fire victims tending the tombstone of her deceased children.

"That was the day I stopped grieving for Phil," she said.

Thin Lizzy star Phil Lynott died aged 36 from septicaemia as a result of heroin addiction on January 4, 1986.

His mother, now 86 years old, had lost all interest in life until she met the brave mother cleaning the tombstone of her three children.

"When I lost him, I died for five years. It was like I just lay down for five years. I went down to six stone.

Phil Lynott
Phil Lynott

"All I was doing was smoking and drinking. I couldn't bear life without him," she said.

She recalled visiting Phil's grave at Saint Fintan's Cemetery in Sutton one cold February day.

"It was all frost on the ground. I looked around . . . then all of a sudden I saw a woman a long way away.

"I walked over very slowly. The lady was lying down cleaning a stone and her hands were purple with the cold. She never looked up.

Phil Lynott
Phil Lynott

"And I read three names on the stone who all died on the same day. They were three of her children who burned in the Stardust disaster.

"I fell to my knees and I said to her 'Were they your three children?'

"'Yes', she said. That was the day I stopped grieving after Philip. At that moment, I took the cloth. I cleaned the stone.

"I picked her up. I put her in my car. I took her back to my house. I fed her a bowl of hot soup and she told me her story," she said.

Her children were among 48 young people killed in the nightclub fire in Dublin on Saint Valentine's Day, 1981.

"I said to myself that I was grieving for one son who, and I'm only admitting it now after 30 years, took his own life, if you think about it, when he took drugs.

"I said to myself that I am grieving for one son and look at this woman. That was the day I took hold of myself and became alive again."

Fans will fly into Dublin from all over the world for his 31st anniversary sold out concert 'Vibe For Philo - Saga of the Ageing Orphan' at the Workman's Club in Dublin on January 4.

Philomena was diagnosed with lung cancer around 18 months ago.

At first, she refused to undergo treatment because she was in her mid-80s, but she eventually completed a course of radiotherapy at St James's Hospital.

"When I went for the result, they told me 'your cancer's gone.' And I went 'what!?'

"I told Philip's fans that it was Philip who did it. He had gone to holy God and told him: 'Don't let her come up here because if she does, she'll batter me'," she laughed.

Philomena has given frequent talks to young prisoners in jail for drug offences.

She recalled addressing a group of prisoners in Maghaberry Prison in Northern Ireland.

She told the prisoners very frankly about how Phil was dead from drugs. She told them addicts end up in prison while wealthy drug dealers remain free and ensure their own children do not take drugs. Afterwards, they queued to shake her hand.

Philomena grew up in Crumlin before emigrating to England, where she became pregnant following a relationship with a man from British Guiana.

She gave birth to her son in a convent home for single mothers in Birmingham. She endured prejudice for having a child while unmarried and experienced racism for having a black child.

At the age of four, Phil was brought to Ireland to be brought up by Philomena's parents in Leighlin Road in Crumlin, while she continued to work in England.

She made regular visits to him and sent home money for his upkeep.

Phil had a happy childhood, he was popular in school, and his musical talents blossomed when he joined his first band at the age of 11.

Philomena accompanied Phil on three music tours of the US. She fondly recalled attending many of his concerts and Phil always ensured his mother had a good seat and said she reacted with anger if he ever got racist heckles .

"I still love Philip. I feel he's always with me," she said.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News