Nights In

“looking back at the photographs” with philomena lynott

Almost three decades have passed since the death of her son Philip Lynott, but the grief is still as fresh as ever as Philomena recalls what she misses most about her son. 
 
“His voice,” she says, as her own breaks. “When he died that’s all I missed. Picking up the phone and hearing his voice.”  
 
After his untimely death in 1986, Philomena struggled to cope with the depth of her loss. “When he died, I died with him. For five years all I did was drink and smoke, I didn’t care if I lived or died. The grief – I just couldn’t accept that he wasn’t on the planet.” 
 
Seated in her living room surrounded by photographs and memories, she attributes her survival to a strong connection to Philip’s fans.  
 
“Everywhere I go, Philip was so well liked.  I couldn’t understand it at first – the devotion. Then the letters started to arrive. They were like a big, woolly blanket, their words warming me.  It’s the reason I’m alive today.” 
 
Philip’s drug abuse was widely known as the cause of his death at just 36 years of age.  Philomena stiffens at the subject.  “I ask reporters to stop talking about what he died of and talk about what he achieved. We all know drugs destroy us. I’d sooner you go fight in the army and drop dead of a bullet than the waste that happened to my Philip.”
 
She reaches for a photo amongst the shrine. It’s a black and white photo of Philip as a baby in her arms. “He was a lovely baby.  He was a lovely son,” she says.
 
Philomena describes being a young, single mother in England as “horrendous”. A time where prejudices were rampant and punishments cruel. 
 
“Unmarried mothers were classed as prostitutes and babies born out of wedlock were bastards. Me? I go whole hog. My baby wasn’t just illegitimate, he was black,” she explains. 
 
“They were sending the babies off to America, but Philip being black, they were finding it hard,” she chuckles.
 
Philip was sent back to Ireland aged four where he lived with Philomena’s parents. “Although I missed him, I knew he would have a better life,” she says.
  
It is his childhood in Dublin that she feels influenced his character and music.  He had a strong engagement with his “Irishness” and his music was reflective of this.
 
“I’m no Simon Cowell, I just go with the flow of music, but anyone could hear the Irish lilt running through Philip’s music. That’s the stuff I liked best, but I listen to it all. Even the blasters which have me half deaf.”
 
Philomena Lynott’s biography “My Boy” allowed readers an insight into her own personal struggles and achievements.  It told her story as much as Philips. 
 
She admitted for the first time to mothering not one child, but three.  Philip, a daughter Jeanette and a son James.  
 
At 84 years of age, it seems there is still a lot to learn about this woman.  Her support of wild goats for one.
 
Bilberry Hill in Waterford is home to the wild Bilberry goat tribe.  The goats have been on the hill for over 400 years and have become endangered. 
 
“I heard they were in danger of dying, so I went down and became Patron of the Wild Goats of Ireland. Now they all have sanctuaries,” she says casually.
 
Philomena claims her proudest achievement is fighting for her son’s memory. She has visited prisons to speak to inmates serving time for drug charges. 
 
“It can happen to anyone. You go to a party and someone gives you a spliff.  Young people need more help.”
 
It is clear that the sadness she still harbours is met with anger at the needlessness of Philip’s death.
 
“I loved him and I will. Always. But when I get up to heaven I am going to give him one hit in the face. For breaking my heart.”