The death has taken place of Mr James Lydon, popularly known as Jimmy, who in his day was director/owner of LydonHouse, and owner of numerous pubs and restaurants locally, including Tea Time Express, Dublin. He employed more than 360 people. He was a passionate promoter of Galway, and a charming, erudite, man who was always willing to offer practical advice to people starting in business. President Michael D Higgins was in attendance at his funeral on Saturday.
Born in 1919 at 3 Nuns Island, Galway, Jimmy was the third child of Thomas Lydon and Kathleen Ford. He studied for a degree in commerce in UCG, but was never too stressed about exams. As he cycled to college to take his final exam he reflected that his student life was ending, and his work-life loomed ahead. On an impulse he threw his bicycle under a bush, and took a boat out on the lake. Later he calmed his father’s wrath by saying that he got the exam date wrong!
Jimmy’s main interest in college was sport. His team won the Whylie Cup for rowing, and he remained a dedicated sportsman all his life excelling in fishing and shooting, and promoting sporting tourism.
He enjoyed tremendous success in his working life. Many of his businesses were legendary. He contributed greatly to the growing success of Galway Races by offering wonderful food at reasonable prices. Race-goers went out early to Ballybrit to ensure a table at the LydonHouse tent — a tradition which continues today.
Together with his lifelong friend Paddy Ryan they brought new business and industry to Galway, no mean feat in the 1950s. He served in the Chamber of Commerce becoming president, and greatly enjoyed The Amicable Society for retired presidents of the chamber. His love of Galway and its history inspired him to save from destruction Galway marriage stones, and other stone work now all on view in the museum, but once were a feature of his famous Lydon’s restaurant, Shop Street.
He fought in vain to preserve the last of the 14 towers of medieval Galway; its destruction pained him deeply. His fight for various causes were numerous ranging from animal welfare, the sightless children of India, and he was a great advocate for fixing the date for Easter. He created an enormous file on the logical reason for this and wrote to two different Popes about it.
Jimmy married Doreen Cloherty, from another old Galway family, who predeceased him in 1996. They had two daughters, Phyllis and Nives who were the chief mourners at his funeral last Saturday. But as Phyllis said, that although she and her sister were sad, they celebrated their father’s long, and generous life. Other immediate family included Jimmy’s grandchildren, Sally Anne O’Sullivan, James McNamara, Roger O’Sullivan and eight great-grandchildren.
His religious beliefs were deep rooted. Up to the last week of his life, he drove himself to Mass every day, sometimes trusting in God to get himself safely there and back. He loved his garden, and worked on it right up to the end, giving instructions from his electric runabout, and planning, always planning the future. For him God was everywhere. He quoted and sang ‘A poem is made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.’