Walk down the quiet Alness Road in Whalley Range today and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything that catches your eye. It’s just row upon row of houses, complete with a 20mph speed limit which betrays the rather rock and roll past that lurks within one of them.
As you approach the corner of Wellington Road you might just spy a rather odd, detached house – one which in the 1970’s was a hotel – The Clifton Grange – a haven for celebrities, rock stars and entertainers from all over the world.
You see back in 1966 the hotel was bought by Philomena Lynott who, even though she had zero experience in running a hotel, had moved to Manchester from Dublin in the 40’s to take advantage of a burgeoning job market created by the rebuild effort from the war.
Upon arriving in Manchester, Philomena quickly entered into a relationship with Cecil Parris and they both had a child, Philip, who she subsequently sent back over to Dublin to be raised by her parents due to the prejudice that she (and her child) suffered due to the illegitimacy of the birth and the fact that Philip was mixed race.
By 1966 Philomena was in a relationship with a bloke called Dennis Keeley and they both took over the “fallen on hard times” Clifton Grange Hotel in Whalley Range – with the sole purpose of creating “a showbiz refuge.”
You see, by this point in time, that little lad that she’d sent over to Dublin as a baby to be raised by her parents, well, he was now the lead singer of a new band called Thin Lizzy and things were about to get very exciting for them all.
Very quickly the hotel became synonymous with celebrities and performers, and it quickly got a reputation as the place to go when visiting Manchester. It quickly gained the nickname “The Biz”, short for “The Showbiz” or simply known as “Phyllis’s” after it’s extraordinary owner.
She was quoted in the book ‘Phil Lynott: The Rocker’ by Mark Putterford as saying; “We ran the hotel to suit showbusiness people, not normal people. Breakfast wasn’t at 8am, it was at noon. If you missed noon, then you just got in the kitchen and cooked yourself… It wasn’t really a hotel, it was a showbiz digs.”
The hotel certainly was an odd place, where upon entering you’d be greeted by a female contortionist, grass-skirted Maori dancers, pop stars, magicians, casino croupiers or any other random entertainer you can think of. It was SO bizarre in fact that Phil would travel frequently to the hotel not just to see his mum but also to revel in the unique atmosphere and eccentric characters. Many of which went on to inspire his songs.
With Phil one of the most famous and successful musicians of the time, the hotel would become the world epicentre of rock n roll whenever he returned, leading to some infamously massive (and messy) parties.
Phyllis became known as ‘The Fairy Godmother of the North West‘ hosting parties for a mad set of characters from “George Best, Coronation St actors, hookers, policemen, burglars” and even members of the infamous Quality Street Gang, which most people agree is whom Thin Lizzy’s most famous anthem ‘The Boys Are Back in Town‘ is about.
One of the most enduring memories of the Clifton revolves around the infamous Sex Pistols gig that took place at The Free Trade Hall in 1976. Considered to be “The Gig That Changed The World“, the Sex Pistols themselves struggled to find somewhere to stay in the city afterwards, most likely due to their bad reputation as swearing, loutish oafs.
So, the lads ended up traipsing all the way to the Clifton Grange in Whalley Range after the gig, rocking up to Phyllis’s door late at night, soaking wet. They were quickly given the five-bed room aptly named ‘The Barracks’ and Phyllis herself remembers them fondly – “They were the nicest-mannered… I’ve never forgotten them.”
Sadly, Phil’s rock and roll lifestyle, and an increasing dependency on drugs and alcohol, resulted in his death in 1986 at the age of 36. By this point Phyllis had moved back to Dublin, so the Grange Hotel was no more, but it lives forever on in infamy due in part to the self-titled track on the 1971 album ‘Thin Lizzy’…
Clifton Grange Hotel
Pack up your bags
Leave family society
Oh come with me
Where they treat you well
At the door
Old Lou the jew
Will welcome you
In the corner lies the hotel
At this refuge of mercy
Head of the table
King of laughter
And if you speak too much
You’ll soon be heard
By that mynah bird and whiskey
At the top
You’ll find another brother
Go ask my mother
She knows them all very well… hotel