Sunday, 24 October 2021

Paul makes an unannounced trip to Liverpool and other recent Beatles' related events

Hello everybody,

I hope you’re all keeping safe and well as we head into what promises to be a busy period for Beatles fans. Some of you are no doubt already enjoying the 50th anniversary re-release of the Let It Be album and, like me, looking forward to watching the companion film, Peter Jackson’s three-part ‘Get Back’ on the Disney+ channel starting 25th November. Ahead of that we get Paul McCartney’s The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present book on 2 November, and the recently published sequel to his Grandude children’s book. Not only that, Abbey Road studios in London have today announced they are opening up their world famous Studio 2 for a series of lectures to be held over two weekends 13th-14th and 20th-21st November. 

As you might expect, with so much to promote there have been all manner of videos, social media postings, press and television interviews, a surprising number of which have featured a little nod to Liverpool in some way, most of which involve Paul. I thought it would be interesting to compile them all here because any new photo, film clip, document or anecdote is always interesting.


On 22 September a one minute clip of Paul talking with comedian, actor and television presenter Bob Mortimer in the British Library was released as a teaser trailer for his new lyrics book. 

Discussing the 1968 song Rocky Raccoon, Bob asked Paul to recount the story of the doctor stinking of gin: I was riding on a little moped to see my cousin Betty (Robbins) and it was a moonlit night, (stares up at the sky, mouth agog) ‘Wow! Look at that moon’ and when I looked back the bike is now here (mimes a 45° angle) and there’s no way to get it back up, so I’m, hitting that pavement. I smashed me lip and everything, bleeding away, and I go (covers mouth with hand) ‘Hey Betty, don’t worry but I’ve (reveals face) had an accident, arrgh oh my God and she says ‘I’ll ring the doctor’. I think it was around Christmas time, well he was pissed (impersonates a drunk)’I think you need a couple of stitches’ and I’m like, ok have you got anaesthetic? ‘No, I’ve got a needle and thread’ and he’s trying to thread the needle, but he can’t, he can’t see it, he’s seeing a few needles, so Betty takes it off him and she threads it. Well, he, was the doctor stinking of gin, I’ve never forgot him. 

I’ve previously told the story of Paul’s moped accident on Brimstage Road, Wirral, and Doctor ‘Pip’ Jones in my blog about Neston here (Link)


25 September

Three days later Paul was spotted at the bus stop outside 398 Pensby Road in Pensby, Wirral, about four miles from the scene of his 1965 moped accident. 

The sighting made the Liverpool Echo the following day. Colin Newitt and his family were returning from a meal in Parkgate when his wife spotted Paul at the bus stop. 

Colin said: "So we had been to Parkgate for a meal with our son Mason when I heard my wife shouting 'look there's Paul.'  He had just got out of a car and we had stopped at the lights. I wound the window down and shouted 'Paul.'

He shouted back 'You alright?'

I then told him that I went to the same school as him. He asked me which one and I said Liverpool Institute. He asked me who was my teacher and said I can't remember but that Mr Parker was the head.

The lights then changed and we had to go. I shouted 'See ya' and he waved goodbye. He had just got out of a car with his daughter Stella."

Colin’s son Mason managed to snap the accompanying photograph.


26 September

The following day Paul was spotted in Liverpool again, following what the Echo described as a poignant date for his family.

Paul was photographed at Lime Street station on the Sunday lunchtime with two of his daughters - fashion designer Stella and photographer Mary, as well as his wife Nancy Shevell and several grandchildren. 

That same day there were posts on social media from both Paul’s brother Michael and their third cousins the Robbins (the children of Betty and Mike Robbins), all referencing a family event the previous evening.

It’s uncertain what the extended McCartney clan were celebrating but on Friday 24th September Paul had paid tribute to his first wife Linda, on what would have been her 80th birthday. It’s also been suggested that Mike McCartney’s wife Rowena was celebrating her 60th birthday. 

There are unconfirmed reports that Paul and his two daughters also visited the Linda McCartney Cancer Centre while they were in Liverpool. I find this slightly more believable than the suggestion by one wag that Paul was back in town because Everton were playing at home.

Photos by Activate Digital

Although there’s probably no escaping the inevitable camera phones that emerge wherever he goes it’s notable that these particular images give the impression that Paul and his family were able to move around the station, apparently unmolested and in some cases barely noticed, before they took the train back to London together. 

I can’t think of many high profile celebrities who would do that and it’s perhaps a measure of how safe he feels whenever he returns home unannounced. 

Over the years Paul has said in interviews that he does this – walks around in public and uses public transport – and feels safe doing so because nobody expects him to be there and by the time people have realised he’s gone.

As someone once said, he’s a lovely lad, and so natural. I mean adoration hasn’t gone to his head one jot has it, you know what I mean, success. 

Most annoyingly, I actually got off a train in Lime Street just over an hour later and missed them!


29 September

Three days after his weekend in Liverpool there was another important birthday in the McCartney family, that of Paul’s late mother Mary (born 1909) which he marked by sharing another lovely, previously unseen photograph of them together, taken at a holiday camp in the late 1940s. It’s been suggested that the photo was taken at Butlins in Pwhelli but having looked at a lot of 1940s-1950s holiday camps I’m pretty sure it was taken at the former Squier’s Gate camp in Blackpool.


On 30 September there was an invite only event at the Liverpool Beatles Museum in Mathew Street during which a new addition to the collection was unveiled.

Figurative artist Jonathan Hague became friends with John Lennon when they both studied at Liverpool College of Art and they kept in touch throughout the Beatles' subsequent rise to fame. In 1967 John Lennon and Paul McCartney sponsored Hague’s exhibition at the Royal Institute in London which included Hague’s first portrait of the Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper outfits. Lennon subsequently purchased the painting (he also bought Hague a house in Leamington Spa). The whereabouts of this painting today are unknown.

When John was murdered in 1980 Hague was inspired to paint again, producing a second similar, but not identical painting, which remained in his house until he passed away in 2015. When they started looking for a suitable place to display the painting a few years later, word reached the Hague family about the Liverpool Beatles museum, and following a tour of it they decided they had found the perfect home for their father’s work.

Roag Best had invited John Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird along to do the honours.

This was a nice little get together with friends from the Liverpool Beatles scene, some who I hadn’t seen since the start of the pandemic and some I only knew on-line through this blog and the Facebook group of the same name.

Also on 30 September Paul McCartney’s second children’s book about the exploits of the magical intrepid explorer Edward Marshall Senior, otherwise known as Grandude, was published.

The sequel, Grandude’s Green Submarine features more adventures with Grandude and his four grandchildren and introduces music-loving grandmother Nandude, which is an obvious nod to his wife Nancy. 

To promote the book Paul took part in a Q&A published in The Mirror
Asked for his memories about the biggest adventure he went on as a child he recalled going to the Isle of Man with the school, which was pretty amazing because we didn’t travel much as kids.

He also remembered going to Butlins in Pwllheli, North Wales, around the age of 11 where he was photographed still wearing his school cap and short school trousers. He reflected ‘I think we were too poor for leisure clothes or I was amazingly proud of my new school uniform.

But, yeah, it was great, I loved it. Me and my brother Mike just zoomed round all day, going to all the various things going on – beauty contest or the knobbly knees contest or the singing contest or the rock and calypso ballroom.' 
Ringo Starr would later play a summer season at the rock and calypso ballroom while he was a member of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. 

Asked about his own favourite bedtime stories as a child Paul said I didn’t get any bedtime stories. I would read stories myself, but it just wasn’t one of those households where your parents read you stories. I read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – I love that. I also read all the annuals like the Beano and the Dandy and the Eagle. It was very exciting when they came out around Christmas. So we didn’t really do the bedtime story, but my dad did fix up headphones that came up to our bedroom so we could listen to the radio, and in a way that was like storytelling – just a super modern version. 

With the book being about grandparents Paul was asked whether he had any special memories of his own. He admitted, No, none at all. I didn’t know them, so that was a sadness. I didn’t realise that I didn’t have any until I was older – but, no, they all died before I was born so I didn’t meet any of them. It was more down to uncles and aunties than grandparents. 

The Mirror noted that the book would appeal to both preschool and early primary school children and asked Paul for his own memories of primary school in Liverpool. Although he initially attended Stockton Wood school in Speke, severe overcrowding necessitated a number of children, including Paul and his brother Mike transferring to a new school, Joseph Williams Primary in the still rural Belle Vale area of Liverpool, not far from Gateacre.   

Primary school was quite good, I enjoyed it. Even though I was living in Liverpool, I went to a school that was just outside. I liked going on nature walks. You went with the class and the teacher would show you this and that, and I became very fond of nature. I would do my own nature walks, and I was lucky because, even though we were in Liverpool, it was quite easy to get to the outskirts and be in the countryside.

I have some nice memories of friends and, you know, playing games. The girls would do skipping games with their skirts rolled into their knickers. All of those things were fun. Yeah, it was a good time. 

The title of his new book drew obvious comparisons to the Beatles’ song ‘Yellow Submarine’ and Paul was asked whether it was intentional: When I wrote ‘Yellow Submarine’ it was just before I was going to sleep in that sort of nodding off period and I was imagining the scene and I imagined the place underwater like a submarine parking lot with submarines in all colours of the rainbow so there was a red, green, yellow, blue etc. So I’d always seen more than one submarine, the song, I chose yellow for this song but always felt that I left out the others so with this I thought it’d be nice to re-introduce my idea in the form of a green submarine which also gives a nod to ecological aspects. 

A life size model of Grandude’s Green Submarine was created to promote the book in a Waterstones bookshop, and, as he often does, Paul decided that it should be in Liverpool.

Children could access the submarine from the rear and have their photos taken looking through the portholes.  A 'Grandude' (Alastair Watson), and 'Nandude' (Terri Ann Hayes),were also on hand to meet them.

Grandude and Nandude with the Green Submarine outside Waterstones. (Image: Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo)

The green submarine docked at Waterstones on Sunday 2 October and remained there until close of business the following day when it was removed to its final harbour at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. One of the busiest children's hospitals in Europe it provides care for more than 270,000 children, young people and their families every year. It's a place close to Paul’s heart. His mother Mary trained as a nurse here and he has often supported the hospital over the years. The hospital was reportedly delighted that Paul had decided to donate the submarine to them. What a grand dude!

The Echo reported people queuing from 8am outside Waterstones to get the book, the first 55 visiting the submarine receiving a £2 voucher towards the price of the book and entered into a raffle to win an exclusive signed copy. Paul had only released 100 signed copies of the book worldwide, with five going to Liverpool, of which three had been claimed before 10.30am. 

As a promotional device it did its job because by the time I got to Waterstones mid-afternoon on the Sunday they only had two copies left. I didn't plan on getting my photo taken but the Waterstones assistant offered.

After trampling over several small children I managed to grab the last sheet of Grandude stickers. I think it was worth it.

On 9 October the world remembered John Lennon on what would have been his 81st birthday. It was also the 10th wedding anniversary of Paul and Nancy. McCartney posted messages and photos marking both on his official social media accounts.

Sixty years earlier John Lennon and Paul McCartney were on holiday in Paris, using the money Lennon had received for his 21st birthday from his Aunt Mater.

Paul posted a couple of remarkable photos from this period (c. 1961) as further promotion for his upcoming lyrics book.

One is a torn photo-booth image but the location of the other took a little longer to establish. But not that much longer (!) as Roger Stormo of the Daily Beatle website quickly confirmed that the photo was taken close to the Eiffel Tower on Quai Branly. He even posted a photo of how the area looks now (see below). 

I’ve also included this shot of Quai Branly, taken a little bit further back from where Paul was standing, so you can see the Eiffel Tower in the shot.

Notice the little pin holes in Paul's photo, a sign perhaps that it's a personal favourite of his which he's had out on display. A treasured memory of his holiday with John before fame beckoned. It's likely Lennon took the photo.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

What We Did On Our Holidays: Cornwall 2020-21

Operated by Cavern City Tours, the colourful Magical Mystery Tour bus is a common sight on my travels around south Liverpool, our paths crossing as it takes its latest passengers on another fun and fascinating two hour tour of the Beatles' Liverpool, which, according to their website, promises to visit all the places associated with John, Paul, George and Ringo as they grew up, met and formed the band that would take the pop world by storm. 

Well, all the places that would more than satisfy casual fans or cruise-ship tourists with a couple of hours to spend on land, and that's fair enough. But as regular readers of this blog will know, that's really only the tip of the iceberg. By my current estimation I think there's in excess of 800 places in and around the city and the Wirral with a Beatle connection. Try cramming all of those into two hours! 

The livery of the modern tour bus is of course based on the coach used by the Beatles in their 1967 television special Magical Mystery Tour which featured several scenes filmed in Cornwall, south-west England. As the pandemic has pretty much restricted any foreign travel for the last two years, Cornwall has also been the destination for my own family holidays. (I refuse to use the word 'staycation', and so should you. It will fall out of use soon with any luck).

Liverpool, Merseyside (top centre) and Newquay, Cornwall bottom left (Google Maps image)

Newquay, a town on Cornwall's north coast is one of the UK's most popular holiday destinations. I spent several summers there as a child with my family, and several more with my wife before we had children. Last year was our first time back since 2003. I love the place. It's full of happy memories, playing on the beach, swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, body-boarding, day trips to St. Ives, Land's End, the grey seal sanctuary and the Poldark mine, and in later years, drinking with friends on the beach. Away from Liverpool it's probably the place I feel most at home and certainly the most relaxed.

Newquay was (purely co-incidentally I promised my long suffering wife) where the Beatles stayed for the three days in September 1967 during filming.  And so, in a dramatic break from the usual Beatles' Liverpool Locations I bring you:  

There Are Places I Remember Holiday Edition:
Cornwall Beatles Locations 1967 and 2020/1.

Monday, 26 July 2021

Christmas with the McCartney family, 1968

Christmas 1968

'They may not look much,’ Paul would say in adult life of his Liverpool family, having been virtually everywhere and seen virtually everything there is to see in this world. ‘They’re just very ordinary people, but by God they’ve got something - common sense, in the truest sense of the word. I’ve met lots of people, [but] I have never met anyone as interesting, or as fascinating, or as wise, as my Liverpool family.’
Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney, by Howard Sounes

Saturday, 5 June 2021

The Beatles Live! (Liverpool 1961)

Following the positive reception to my recent post John Lennon: A Childhood in Photographs I thought I'd try something similar with all the photos I've collected which show the Beatles in performance at various venues in Liverpool and the Wirral.

It turns out that there are many more than I'd realised,  so many in fact that I've decided to break the post into three years - 1961, 1962 and 1963.

Of course the Beatles were also photographed in Liverpool in 1960. These images all originate from a single date, 10 May, when the group auditioned for Larry Parnes. I have already included these in an earlier post which you can view here.   

There are also a number of photographs from the Quarry Men and Japage 3 era.  No doubt there will be a post using these in the near future, but not yet, I'm still trying to create the definitive chronology of that 1956-59 period.

Monday, 10 May 2021

Photograph Smile

137 Gateacre Park Drive
L25 4UE

I've previously written about John and Yoko's visit to Liverpool in June 1969 on this blog (you can read about it here).  Another photo from the visit has just turned up. 

This is Yoko's daughter Kyoko Cox, and John's son Julian pictured on the driveway at 137 Gateacre Park Drive (see below) just before they set off on the long drive up to Scotland to see John's Aunt Mater and Uncle Bert.

Mimi Mendip

251 Menlove Avenue

Circa 5 September 1960, John Lennon sent his Aunt Mimi a postcard from Hamburg. 

Dear Mimi,

Sorry I haven't written much but we're terribly busy and don't finish playing 'till about 2 in the morning and by the time we've eaten we're "dead beats."

This is the street we playing (the little yellow bit at the end). I'll write a proper letter soon as I get time. I hope you're well and everything  and don't worry about me I'm eating and sleeping well and keeping out of trouble xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx    Ok and no trouble. I'll be home in 5 weeks I think (we might be going to Berlin).


Love John

You can just imagine Mimi simultaneously smiling and tutting as she read it. 

The postcard appears in the new book, The Beatles Mach Shau in Hamburg, by Thorsten Knublauch which looks to be the final, definitive word on the Beatles in Germany. 

The first run of 500 copies has already sold out. A reprint is currently underway and you can order a copy here

Accosted by a Rozzer

Empire Theatre
Lime Street
Liverpool 1

I previously wrote about the Beatles last but one appearance in their home city here

Here are a couple more photos taken on the day of that appearance (8 November 1964). Paul making polite conversation with Joseph Wright Teesdale Smith, the Chief Constable of Liverpool before the Beatles' performance. 

The other three were presumably as far away as they could get.  

Liverpool Airport, Speke, 10 July 1964. The Beatles arrive for the Northern Premiere of 'A Hard Day's Night'. Note the imposing figure of Chief Constable Teesdale Smith to the left of Derek Taylor.  A home visit from the Beatles demanded the presence of the top man.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

The Tram Sheds with no Trams

Former Tram Sheds adjacent to the Substation,
Now known as the Penny Lane Emporium
Smithdown Road,
L15 5AF

John Lennon: ‘In My Life’ started out as a bus journey from my house on 251 Menlove Avenue to town,  mentioning every place that I could remember. And it was ridiculous. This is before even ‘Penny Lane’ was written and I had Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, Tram Sheds – Tram Sheds are the depot just outside Penny Lane – and it was the most boring sort of ‘What I Did on my Holidays Bus Trip’ song and it wasn’’t working at all. I cannot do this! But then I laid back and these lyrics started coming to me about the places I remember. [1]  

So where exactly where these Tram Sheds that John was still thinking about in 1965? That's what fellow historian and Beatles blogger Steve Bradley wanted to know when he messaged me last week.  

The answer is that they were just around the corner from the 'Penny Lane' bus shelter familiar to Beatle fans the world over. The circular shelter can be seen bottom right in the above photo, while the tram sheds were once sited where the rectangular, overgrown area is to the left of centre.  The tram (later bus) depot is now occupied by a small retail park. 

The Smithdown Road depot was Liverpool's second electric tram depot and opened in 1899. In 1912 the depot employed 64 persons and had a capacity of 96 cars [2]  The double-arched sheds can be seen on the right of the above photo.  

According to Ron Smith's Liverpool Trams site it was in use up to around 1936 which means the depot was out of service, and presumably without its trams, even before John Lennon's birth in 1940. 

Paul McCartney: ‘Penny Lane’ was kind of nostalgic, but it was really a place that John and I knew; it was actually a bus terminus. I’d get a bus to his house and I’d have to change at Penny Lane, or the same with him to me, so we often hung out at that terminus, like a roundabout. [3] 

Trams to Woolton via Smithdown Road and 'Penny Lane' ran until 15 October 1949 when the service was replaced by buses, which is clearly how Paul McCartney remembers it. Between 1940 and 1945 John Lennon lived for a time on Newcastle Road, just around the corner and it's no stretch to imagine that he actually saw the trams still in operation passing through the depot and heading along the bottom of his road, up Church Road towards Picton Clock. 

I used quotation marks because the bus (and former tram) terminus (the "shelter in the middle of the roundabout") is not actually on Penny Lane. It sits on a triangular junction between Church Road, Allerton Road and Smithdown Road and faces one end of Penny Lane.  Depending on where you were travelling to in the city it was often necessary to change at Penny Lane and buses with 'Penny Lane' displayed were common throughout Liverpool. 

So why didn't the buses say 'Smithdown Place'? 

John Lennon: Penny Lane is a suburban district where I lived with my mother and father (although my father was a sailor, always at sea), and my grandfather. I lived on a street called Newcastle Road [ ].

So the name Penny Lane was also applied to the area surrounding the bus terminus though some locals appear to dispute this. If you visit the area today you might notice how many of the shops in that area have the words Penny Lane in their name (e.g. Penny Lane Flowers or the Penny Lane Emporium). Of course these days it's hard to tell whether the owners are aware of the area name or are simply capitalizing on the Beatles' connection.   

Trams passed through Penny Lane for the last time on 6 September 1952 but some routes continued in Liverpool for the next few years. On 14 September 1957 Liverpool's trams ran for the very last time, a parade of trams running from Bowring Park where I grew up (much later) towards the city centre.

Post card showing the last tram on 14 September 1957.

In 1946, around the time that John Lennon settled in Woolton, his Uncle George was working the night shift at the depot on Woolton High Street, cleaning the trams. While John still lived at Newcastle Road it's said he enjoyed walks with his grandfather, 'Pop' Stanley and eldest cousin Stan, to places like Wavertree Park (the 'Mystery'), Sefton Park, and even as far as the Pier Head. They would have passed the entrance to the tram depot on Church Road (later known as the Prince Alfred Road bus depot) and probably paused to watch the goings on, as they walked towards Smithdown Place.  

Replace the buses with trams and add in some tracks and overhead cables and you can visualise how the depot would have looked viewed from Church Road in the late 1940s. The rear of the two tram sheds are visible in the background of this photo taken in 1985 [4]. Contrast this with the modern image below. A public house and retail park now occupy the site.

Given these early childhood memories it's likely that the young John had more than a passing interest in the trams and carried this through to his teenage years. On his way through Penny Lane on the 5 bus into town, heading for the Art College or perhaps a Beatles' engagement, he obviously noticed that many features of the Liverpool tram system remained well beyond the final closure. 

This picture of the Smithdown Road sheds was taken by Ron Smith on 28th September 1986 and was still standing in 1989, thirty-two years after the last Liverpool tram operated! The two depot entrances that were used by trams coming off the street can clearly be seen sealed-up at the front.  

Twenty six years on from Ron's photo and the sheds have long gone as these shots taken in 2012 and 2019 attest. The entrance to the site was fenced off and displaying advertising hoardings until recently. 

But what's the shed-like structure on the left? This is what prompted Steve Bradley to message me. Obviously it's not one of the two big sheds seen on the earlier photos but, set back from the road, I think it could have been part of the depot. Certainly when it's viewed from the side there are to be a number of openings, long bricked up which look to have abutted the missing sheds. 

Today this is the Penny Lane Emporium, a mix of small retail units selling antiques, antique fireplaces, vintage furniture, art and vinyl records, but this set of photos I found on line shows what used to go inside. I'm no mechanic or tram expert but they look like generators of some sort, perhaps to power the trams?

Today there's a useful cut through from the retail park to Smithdown Road that runs along the side of the old sheds. If you felt inclined to stick your nose between the railings and look down you could see that the old tram tracks were still in place, though overgrown in places. It's hard to tell from the above photo, but they were visible, honestly (I'd taken this photo through the railings on 1 February 2020).

A week later, with lockdown finally over in England I happened to be at the retail park behind the site waiting to pick up my son and thought I'd try and get a better photo.

To my surprise I found all the trees and vegetation had been cleared. Work could only have started in the last few weeks because workmen and an excavator were still on site.

The rusted tram lines are now clearly visible, running diagonally from left to right. Furthermore, the excavations had uncovered a trench containing the remains of what looked to be a brick walled inspection pit.

I know I haven't been out much in the last twelve months but I was quite excited by the unearthed archaeology.  It must have been hidden for at least a quarter of a century. If anyone knows what this trench was used for please get in touch.

It's amazing how by digging a simple trench we can open a window on the past. Back in September 2016 resurfacing works around the junction at Smithdown Place uncovered tram tracks not seen for over 60 years. I expect I was not alone in assuming that when the trams stopped running to Penny Lane the tracks would have been lifted and removed, to be reused or sold for scrap. In fact they were simply covered over here with a layer of tarmac and this seems to be the case across most of the city. Presumably this was the cheaper option in the 1950s and it still appears to be the case today.    

Photos taken around the Smithdown Place roadworks in 2016, showing the shelter in the middle of the roundabout and St Barnabas Church (where Paul McCartney was a choir boy). Photos by Mr John Lunt and the Liverpool Echo.