Tuesday, 12 January 2021

72 Western Avenue, Speke, L24 3US



The McCartneys moved to Speke in August 1947 the first time anyone in the family had lived outside of the Everton / Kensington area in the north of the city.

Paul had just turned five and the move south arose when his mother Mary was appointed as resident Municipal Midwife on the new, still expanding housing estate.

Western Avenue at the time the McCartneys moved in. Today those same saplings are substantially taller!





The house at 72 Western Avenue came with the job, rent free which was undoubtedly a relief for the family after the years of hardship experienced during the war. After a short term job at the Cotton Exchange Jim had been able to return to his pre-war job at Hannay's but the market was no longer stable. Sometimes he was lucky to bring home £10 a week (£6 after deductions) and seeing himself as the breadwinner in the family Jim was said to have been embarrassed that Mary was earning more than he was. In reality her salary wasn't much better than his, a basic £6 8s a week with the maximum being in the region of £8 8s.   

Paul McCartney: Whilst we weren't a poor family, we weren't rich by any means, so we never had a car, or a television till the coronation in 1953. I was the first one in the family to buy a car with my Beatle earnings. My mum, as a nurse, rode a bike. 

In the post-war baby boom Mary was certainly kept busy day and night and for this reason the house had a telephone but it was strictly off limits to the boys. The midwife's house was identifiable by the brass plaque on the gate reading Mrs M.P. McCartney SRN, SCM and Paul would later remember many occasions when a member of the community knocked at the house to give her gifts in thanks for the babies she'd helped to deliver. 

Paul: I have a crystal-clear memory of one snow-laden night when I was young at 72 Western Avenue. The streets were thick with snow, it was about three in the morning, and she got up and went out on her bike with the little brown wicker basket on the front, into the dark, just with her little light, in her navy-blue uniform and hat, cycling off down the estate to deliver a baby somewhere.

The move to Speke deliberately coincided with the start of Paul's schooling. Stockton Wood was only one street away, just behind the McCartney's house, but as more and more houses on the estate were built and Speke's population continued to expand the school which had been built to accommodate 1000 eventually had a roll-call of 1500, which reportedly made the infants school the largest in Britain (1).   




Many of the new families on the estate had been moved from underprivileged slum areas of the city where high unemployment was only one of the hardships they faced.  Inevitably many (but not all) of the children from these families had grown up tough and mixing with them on a daily basis both Paul and his brother Michael found out quickly that the only way to survive in school was to fight.

Paul: I started off going to school in a dead rough area of Liverpool. I used to have just as many fights as anyone else. I remember one day getting hold of this fellow and clubbing him with a big bar. I was only about five.

For this misdemeanor Paul received a telling off from the Headteacher during an assembly in front of the whole school, and a more severe rebuke when he got home. 

Paul: We used to have fights regularly around Speke. I used to have fights all the time, and I wasn't doing too bad - I was winning a few and losing a few. I did it because I was in that environment. Everyone was fighting and everyone believed in fighting.    

You can read more about his time at Stockton Wood School here.

Of course it wasn't all bad times. One of the best things about living in Speke was the proximity of the countryside.

In a couple of minutes they could be in Dungeon Lane, which led through the fields to the banks of the Mersey. The river is very wide at this point, with the lights of Ellesmere Port visible on the far side across enormous shifting banks of mud and sand pecked over by gulls. On a clear day you could see beyond the Wirral all the way to Wales.(2)

Paul: This is where my love of the country came from, I was always able to take my bike and in five minutes I’d be in quite deep countryside. I remember the Dam woods, which had millions of rhododendron bushes. We used to have dens in the middle of them because they get quite bare in the middle so you could squeeze in. I’ve never seen that many rhododendrons since.

Jim McCartney took great pleasure in gardening, an interest which led to him become the secretary of the Speke Horticultural Society. He also kept his eye out for horse manure, and it was his sons' job to collect it. 

Paul: Talk about peer pressure, you would hope your friends didn't catch you shovelling the sh*t in the bucket. Then you'd have to carry it around to the garden.


Paul and Mike with the neighbours in the back garden of 72 Western Avenue with the rear of the houses on Goldfinch Farm Road behind them (notice the unaltered arrangement of the windows on the rear of the houses as viewed from the back garden in 2015)  


Mike McCartney: There was a girl, whose name I can’t remember – she was our next door neighbour in Western Avenue, Speke (we were number 72, so she would have been 70 or 74). She was more our kid’s age. (I've) got a picture of her.  (see below)(3). 

She looks to be the same girl who appears in the middle of the group photo above.
 










'Wishing to take up employment that [would] not entail absence from her home and family at night and weekends' Mary gave notice to terminate her employment on 30th September 1950. She wanted to spend more time with the boys. 

Her replacement midwife was the confusingly similarly named Mrs H. E. Carney and it is my belief that this is why there are so many former residents of Speke who claim to have been delivered by Paul McCartney's Mum even though they were born after she gave up her midwifery role.  

Mary knew that by leaving her job she would lose the house that came with it. In accordance with the terms of their tenancy agreement the McCartneys were given one week's notice to vacate 72 Western Avenue. 



Rupert Bear annual, property of Paul and Michael McCartney , 72 Western Avenue

A privately recorded cassette of George Harrison surfaces

Clatterbridge Hospital
Clatterbridge Health Park
Clatterbridge Road
Bebington
Wirral, CH63 4JY

Clatterbridge Cancer Center had its origins in the accommodation provided for the treatment of infectious diseases for the Wirral Poor Law Union Workhouse in 1888. A purpose built infirmary block was erected in 1899. 

In the aerial photograph above the original workhouse buildings can be seen in the foreground.

In 1930, with the end of the workhouse system, the site became the responsibility of Cheshire County Council who renamed the facility Clatterbridge General Hospital. After it joined the National Health Service in 1948, it became simply Clatterbridge Hospital. 

In the early 1950s, Liverpool was struggling to re-build after the war in a climate of fear about radiation and atomic war and the decision was made to take radiotherapy away from built up areas. 

The green spaces of Clatterbridge adjacent to the general hospital, were the preferred site and the Regional Radiotherapy Centre, now known as the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, was established on the site and opened by Lord Cohen in 1958. 

There were various extensions and name changes over the subsequent decades before the hospital became known as The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust in 2012.

In 1969 George Harrison' Mum Louise was diagnosed with cancer and as her condition worsened George made frequent trips up to his parents home in Warrington, and later to the specialist cancer centre at Clatterbridge on the Wirral. 

He was on one such visit on 20 September 1969, missing a business meeting at Apple where John Lennon suddenly announced that he was leaving the Beatles.  



On 4 January 2021 somebody called Beatles Leaks posted a 12 minute audio sampler tape on YouTube of a previously unheard cassette of George Harrison performing around a dozen songs on acoustic guitar.

Internal evidence on the tape - which I'll cover in this post - indicates that the recording was made in Clatterbridge during a visit to see his parents Harold and Louise, circa May 1970. 

As this is a sampler tape only excerpts of the songs are heard. Accompanying the post on YouTube is information about the length of each track on the original cassette:

1 Dera Duhn (George Harrison) 01:23

2 'Welcome to 'Top of the Spots'' (chat) 00:22

3 See Yourself (George Harrison) 01:49

4  .....(dead air) 00:18

5 Going Down to Golders Green (George Harrison) 02:17

6 '..here's another one' (chat) 00:03

7 Everybody, Nobody (George Harrison) 02:25

8 '...better sing you this one then' (chat) 00:34

9 Here Comes the Sun (George Harrison) 03:24

10 chat with Louise (dialogue) 00:39

11 Behind That Locked Door (George Harrison) 03:16

12 chat about doing his own LP 00:34

13 All Things Must Pass (George Harrison) 05:18

14 Let It Down (George Harrison) 00:11

15 discussion about Badfinger 00:47

16 Come and Get It (Paul McCartney) 00:27

17 dialogue 00:41

18 Five Year Slog (Son of Taxman) (George Harrison) 02:32

19 inaudible chat 00:32

20 Window, Window (George Harrison) 03:20

21 chat 00:14

22 Lay, Lady, Lay (Bob Dylan) 03:30

23 Mother Divine (George Harrison) 04:31

24 Get Outta Bed You Lazy Bugger 01:01

25 background noise 00:22

26 We’re Gonna Move (Vera Matson/Elvis Presley) 02:13

27 Hey Mr. Tambourine Man (Bob Dylan) 03:04

28 Long, Long, Long (George Harrison)

The sampler tape starts with George midway through 'Dehra Dhun', a song written in India in 1968 and recorded but not released during the 'All Things Must Pass' sessions. George performs a snippet for Paul and Ringo in the 'Threetles on the lawn' section of the Beatles Anthology.

After announcing 'welcome to Top of the Spots' George, thinking about what to play next says 'I wrote this one ages ago but never finished it' before giving what to date is the earliest performance of 'See Yourself', written in 1967 in response to how the press treated Paul McCartney's LSD admission but not released until the album 'Thirty Three and 1/3' in 1976. 

Following some dead air (papers rustling) we get a performance of 'Going Down To Golders Green', another candidate for 'All Things Must Pass'. A rough version has appeared on bootleg sounding very like something from Elvis Presley's Sun era if he'd been backed by the Plastic Ono Band. Golders Green was where the Apple group Badfinger resided.  

Parts of 'Everybody, Nobody' were used in 'Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)' on 'All Things Must Pass'. After some more dead air while George must be thinking what to play next he says 'I'd better play you this one then' and launches into 'Here Comes The Sun'.      

He plays the wrong chord on the bridge and apologises 'sorry about that Mother' to Louise's audible amusement. Still thinking of what other songs he might play her he says 'oh, there's one, I don't know if I've got the words, but there's one I wrote the other night....this one is country and western'. 'Behind That Locked Door' follows.

 

Why are you still crying?*
Your pain is now through
Please forget those teardrops
Let me take them for you

The song is said to have been inspired by the disappearance of Bob Dylan in 1966 after his motorcycle accident accident and subsequent re-emergence at the August 1969 Isle of Wight festival, but in the context of Louise's illness the lyrics take on a new poignancy.  

Louise asks him if the song will be on the new LP and George says 'I don't know, I may make an LP on my own, just to do all me songs, because once you've done 'em you want it out so you can stop thinking about them, and go on to the new one. There's another one that is quite nice (clears throat) it's a bit high though'. 

He then performs 'All Things Must Pass' with a false start before the tape cuts into a brief performance of 'Let It Down' which quickly edits into a conversation George is having with his Dad, Harold about the group Badfinger. 

George:'...some songs in Ringo's film 'Magic Christian'  

Harold: I was wondering after that single ('Come and Get It') nobody even heard of them did they? It was good I thought. It was great that single, and then they disappeared. 

G: They did an album which wasn't all that good. (inaudible) .... just did this thing which is probably gonna be out.

Badfinger's next single, 'No Matter What' was recorded in May but not released until November 1970.

George then attempts a version of the Paul McCartney composed 'Come And Get It' but struggles with the words...and the chords...

As the tape cuts back in George seems to be talking about the premise of the 'Magic Christian': '.....money all the time to do things and they don't believe it, it's like if you stand on the street and try and give ten bob notes away they all go what's this, they don't believe it, so he's always doing that'.

Following an inaudible question from Harry, George replies 'oh that's one I've got, this is funny, erm. yeah I've seen that, yeah what was that one I was trying to remember'.  He then sings:

 
I'm telling you for 29 years now,
I've been slogging like a dog...

He stops playing and comments: I'll start again. This was about Harold Wilson again, 'Taxman'...  'Son of Taxman'. 

Harold and Louise make a comment about Wilson being glad about something inaudible as George agrees and starts tuning his guitar.

He plays 'Window, Window' familiar to scholars of the Beatles January 1969 sessions. It sounds very close to the demo recorded with Phil Spector at the end of May 1970.

After another inaudible question from Louise, George performs Bob Dylan's 'Lady Lady Lay', the tape cutting into 'Mother Divine', another unreleased Harrison composition.

IF the tape was recorded in Clatterbridge Hospital then the surroundings may be subconsciously influencing George's choice of songs. You can almost picture him and his Dad sat at the side of a big brass (hospital) bed** on which his divine Mother lies, especially when his next, clearly improvised song seems to be offering Louise some words of encouragement to get out of there: 

Get off your bed pan, you lazy bugger,

Get off your bed pan, and get home,
Get off your bed pan, you lazy bugg-er
'cause there's cookin' and cleanin' at home
 
Get out of Clatterbrige, you lazy bugger...

... and then the tape cuts into some dead air before we return to George, now performing Elvis Presley's 'We're Gonna Move' which again has lyrics indicating he wants his Mum out of there ('there's a crack in this old ceiling, we're gonna move to a better home'). Perhaps they're in a part of the hospital that was formerly one of the old workhouse buildings.

We then hear what might be one of the highlights of the tape if it's ever released in full, a well sung and played version of Bob Dylan's 'Mr Tambourine Man'. I would have liked to hear more to see whether he's performing Dylan or the Byrds' arrangement.       

Finally we have another edit and George is performing 'Long Long Long' before the tape cuts for the last time.

Sadly Louise was unable to beat this terrible disease and passed away on 7 July 1970 aged 59 years old.***

The 50th anniversary edition of George's triple album was due to get the deluxe reissue at the end of 2020 but like so many projects planned for last year it was delayed, presumably due to the current pandemic. The cassette of George singing to his parents was described on YouTube as a leak from the All Things Must Pass 2021 Box set. But was this particular tape ever under consideration? I'd be surprised.

I'm one of those fans who likes to hear new tapes of George singing anything, and especially songs I've never heard which is why I enjoyed the Early Takes: Volume 1 album in 2012. IF the performances on this cassette tape are as complete as the person behind Beatles Leaks says they are then I'm sure some of the songs could be cleaned up and released in some form, and I'd certainly enjoy listening to them. 

However, the circumstances behind the existence of this tape trouble me. This is clearly NOT a tape that was intended for public consumption when was recorded. 

In it's current, unedited form this is a highly personal tape recording during of one of George's private visits to see his ailing mother and listening to it with the dialogue intact between the songs I can't help but feel like I'm eavesdropping on what was undoubtedly an emotional time for the Harrison family.

I am surprised that such a personal tape would be handed over to those responsible for compiling new material for release. I had reasoned that it was more likely the cassette was stolen from the Harrison's at some point and found its way to bootleggers who are using the delayed 'All Things Must Pass' box set to drum up interest but other scholars and collectors have been in touch to advise that this tape first appeared on the legitimate allmusic site where there was a recent copyright dump of around 100 'All Things Must Pass' tracks which we must assume were put there to secure their legal ownership ahead of their appearance on the now delayed box set. I have been informed in the comments below that the cassette audio has been registered with the YouTube copyright ID, suggesting that the Harrison family have the tape under consideration for release, or are aware that the tape has fallen into the wrong hands and simply want to infer their own legal rights to the material.    

When I Iast checked YouTube today the link to the audio had already been removed.


Notes:

* Behind That Locked Door (c) George Harrison

** a lyric from Lay Lady Lay (Dylan)
*** Ringo's 30th birthday, Jim McCartney's 68th birthday

Thanks to Dan Matovina for suggesting the conversation George was having about giving away money tied in with the themes of the film 'The Magic Christian'. In the context of the preceding discussion that suggestion makes perfect sense. 

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

The Inner Light

 



 
'Mendips', 251 Menlove Avenue on the evening of 8 December 2020.

Since 2006 the National Trust's custodians Sylvia and Colin Hall have marked the anniversary by leaving the light on in John's bedroom all night.

A lovely, simple gesture.

Friday, 4 December 2020

Buddies, Pals and Mates

19 December 1965 - Sunday Mirror - London, London, England

The Beatles talk about their bezzie mates from Liverpool, with a young Annie Nightingale





Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Brother Michael, Auntie Jin

147 Dinas Lane,
Huyton, Liverpool,
L36 2JZ


'John, Paul, George, and Dennis' (Mike McCartney)

‘I find lost photos and drawings all the time. This will be my definitive statement of a magic era.’ – Mike McCartney 

Genesis publications has today announced the April 2021 publication of Mike McCartney's Early Liverpool which brings together  all of his finest work including a wealth of previously unseen photographs and treasured drawings. Examples of both can be viewed on the Genesis website here.  

Most astonishing of all is this one, a second colour photograph of the Quarrymen on Saturday 8 March 1958.

 

The photos were taken in the rear parlour of 147 Dinas Road at the wedding reception for Ian Harris and his new bride Jackie.

Ian was Paul McCartney's cousin, the son of Harry Harris and his wife Jinny, known the world over as Auntie Jin after Paul namechecked her in his 1976 hit 'Let 'Em In'. 

(Left) Jin and Harry Harris

(Above) Harry and Ian Harris
As Ian was 19 and Jackie only 16 they naturally wanted some musical entertainment at the reception suitable for their own age group. Ian asked cousin Paul and his mates to provide it. 

While it's highly unlikely that drummer Colin Hanton would have attended - he's certainly never mentioned it - it has been suggested in some books that on the original, uncropped version of the first colour photo the headstock of an acoustic  guitar is visible to the extreme left of George leading some experts and historians to ponder who it might be, and reasoning that at the time the photo was taken the Quarry Men's other guitarist, Eric Griffiths, had already left the band.

Personally I'm not convinced it is another guitar. Would Mike have deliberately excluded a member of the group when framing his photograph, or twice if you count the new one?

I suspect the group on this day were just the core members, John, Paul and George. If it had been a year later the trio would have been using the name the Japage 3, but for now they were still the Quarry Men.


There are arguments that this may have been George's first 'public' appearance, only 11 days after his 15th birthday. He may not have been in the group for very long but with a guitar which is a clearly superior instrument to those held by his bandmates he already looks very much like the star musician, despite looking about ten years younger than his companions.

The well known photograph outside his home at 25 Upton Green may well have been taken on this same Saturday, his proud Mum capturing him setting off for his first 'booking'.        

Earlier this year we were thrilled when the previously unseen photo of John, Paul and George at the Casbah surfaced. The release of McCartney's super-deluxe version of the 'Flaming Pie' album included a hitherto unknown image of  Paul, George and Ivan Vaughan in the accompanying book which delighted Beatles scholars and historians.

And now, at the end of what has been a pretty miserable year in nearly every other aspect we suddenly have another Quarry Men-era photograph, in colour (!) thanks to Mike McCartney, whose 14 year old self was on hand to capture the moment with the family camera and share it with us 62 years later. 

Incidentally, the fourth person in the top photo is Dennis Littler, a friend of Ian Harris. When asked about the wedding in later years he admitted he didn't remember much about the day, perhaps because of the Guinness which was flowing freely. This being a Liverpool knees up there was plenty of drink on hand. Certainly John Lennon's rosy cheeks indicate that he was well on his way to being 'bevvied' by the time Mike photographed him. 



Mike McCartney and Dennis Littler in 2012

Forty two years later Paul played a hands-on role in another Harris family wedding, as reported in the Daily Mail:

You can usually find one at most family weddings. 

The jolly older relative who seems to pop up everywhere, keeps things running smoothly - and leaves bemused guests wondering whether he belongs to the bride or groom. But there was no mistaking the identity of this well-wisher at a wedding in Merseyside last week.

Sir Paul McCartney was determined to help his second cousin Sally's register office do go off without a hitch. On the way he had a starring role as chauffeur, photographer, and not surprisingly, even chipped in with some entertainment.

Paul - The ChauffeurIn a grey suit and trainers, the former Beatle was accompanied by his girlfriend Heather Mills for a family day to remember.

First on his list of responsibilities was hiring a black Jaguar to ferry his cousin from her home to the wedding and later, with her groom Kevin Murphy, to the reception at her father's home nearby. Sir Paul is said to have taken it through an automatic car wash before the ceremony. Because it was the first time he had used one, he had to wait for the attendant to show him what to do
!

Then during the ceremony, there was the traditional duty of making some sort of noise at the vital moment. "When it came to the part about knowing any reason why they should not be married, Paul began clearing his throat as if he was going to say something" said the bride's father, Ian Harris. "Sally's heart was in her mouth and Paul had a big grin on his face."

After that, Sir Paul and Miss Mills joined the throng outside Wallasey Town Hall to congratulate the newlyweds. He snapped away with a camera he had snatched off his brother.

Paul - The PhotographerLater, Mike McCartney said with "our kid" as chauffeur the day had been a "total family affair".

"Paul hired a nice car for the day and decorated it with wedding flowers," he said. "I did complain that he did not have a chauffeur's cap, though. At least he kept his fun sense of dress with a pair of pumps like those he wore to my wedding 18 years ago."

At the reception, Sir Paul was centre stage again, grabbing a guitar for a rendition of "Fly Me To The Moon". Miss Mills, a former model, displayed another of her talents, accompanying him on saxophone. 

Paul - The Entertainer
Despite such a hectic schedule, there was time for a little romance as well. Immediately after the wedding Sir Paul was spotted kissing Miss Mills as they stood on the register office stairs.
"It was a nice kiss - pretty passionate," said an onlooker. "He seems very fond of her and they seem to be in love. Weddings bring out the romantic in people."

(Daily Mail, 26 July 2000, by Kate Hurry)

Monday, 16 November 2020

A Crackerbox Palace

Gwrych Castle
A547
Abergele
LL22 8EU 


One of the most rewarding parts of researching and blogging about the early Beatles is dating a photograph and identifying where it was taken, especially when it has previously only appeared in a book or on-line captioned "Paul as a child". See my blog on Stanley Park for a previous example.


For this blog I want to examine the photo above. George Harrison, his older brother Peter and his parents Louise and Harold.

George was born in 1943 and he looks about 5 or 6 years old here so I'd estimate it was taken circa 1948-1949 while the Harrisons were still living in Wavertree. Presumably George's sister Louise or eldest brother Harry took the picture.

I've never seen the photo with a date or location whenever it turns up on line.

So what else can we see in the picture? A castle obviously, but one that from the small part of it we can see doesn't appear to be in ruins. 

That rules out Conwy Castle, the go-to destination for many Liverpudlian on a day out in North Wales. I discounted the fortress-like Caernarfon Castle(see my recent post on Welsh Wales) which  includes a Harrison family photo that was taken there, possibly around the same time. Neither is it Harlech, Cardiff, Powis, Chirk or Rhuddlan. 

In the end I bought a little guidebook on Welsh Castles. Disappointingly I couldn't find a picture that matched the Harrison photo. It should be noted that most of the big and famous castles in North Wales were built by King Edward I to subdue the Welsh. From a defensive point of view would it have made sense to put windows in the walls so close to the ground?

Aware that the Harrison's also liked to holiday in Devon I started looking at castles there. I didn't find what I was looking for but I did see a few I'm going to make a point of visiting in the future (Dartmouth Castle for one).   

In the end I found the Harrison's castle by pure chance while watching an episode of BBC's Great British Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo in 2018 and saw this near identical shot. In the production photo below y ou can see the camera crew bottom left which should help visualise how the interview was framed on the TV.  Admittedly I do have a bit of a photographic memory when it comes to the Beatles but in most other aspects of life I'll often struggle to tell you what day it is, especially this year! 

"The most romantic ruin" (Michael Portillo)

Bingo! 

During his railway journey Portillo got off the train at Abergele and visited Gwrych Castlea Grade 1 listed 19th century country-house**overlooking Abergele in North Wales.

It was built between 1810 and 1825 by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh (1781-1861) and incorporates an earlier house that had been in his family since 1485, the late medieval period.  

As mentioned, it's not a real castle. It's what we term a folly which is a word often applied to a property privately built, seemingly with the intention of showing poor people how extravagantly the people richer than them can waste money.

From 1894 until 1924 Gwrych  (pronounced Goo-rreech) was owned by the Countess of Dundonald and her family. Upon her death it was left in her will to King George V and the then Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII). However, they refused to accept the gift and the castle passed to the Venerable Order of St. John.  

In 1928 the 12 Earl of Dundonald purchased Gwyrch for £78,000* but had to sell the contents to meet the cost.  

Since then the castle has had a variety of uses.

During the Second World War Gwyrch was used by the government to house around 200 young Jewish refugees under the Kindertransport programme.  

After the war the castle left the Dundonald family for the last time and was opened to the public as a visitor attraction.  

Gwrych Castle became known as "The Showpiece of Wales" and attracted many visitors including the Harrisons and another Liverpool lad who befriended the future Beatle.

Tony Bramwell: I used to play there 70 years ago. As a child I spent a lot of time in Rhyl. I met Randolph Turpin and Buck Jones there (you'll have to look them up). 

So I did. The brilliantly named Randolph Adolphus Turpin was an English boxer in the 1940s and 1950s who famously beat the great Sugar Ray Robinson in 1951 and became middleweight champion. Turpin was famously short of money and was using Gwrych as his sparring camp to bring in the punters at the time Tony met him. Reportedly the venture was set up by Leslie Salts, Turpin's business partner with Salts making all the money. This must have been considerable with as many as 10,000 people showing up at Gwrych on a single day during the summer of 1951 to watch Turpin fight. Turpin died in 1966, apparently by his own hand. 


As for Buck Jones..... I drew a blank.

In the sixties it was a camp site and occasional venue for the Dragon motorcycle rally. In the seventies Gwrych brought in the tourists by hosting medieval re-enactments of jousting tournaments and period themed banquets. 

During the eighties the castle attracted scooter clubs from all over Britain and unfortunately fell victim to the anti-social acts of a minority who stole alcohol from the bar, swung from the chandeliers and damaged the furniture. One on occasion someone drove their scooter through a stained glass window.  

Sadly Gwrych closed to the public in 1987 and appears to have fallen into decline quite rapidly. In 1989 an American businessman bought the property for £750,000 with grand renovation plans that never materialised. The castle was looted and vandalised until little more than the derelict shell remained.   


Unfortunately little had changed when we visited in September 2018. The interior today is quite unlike how it would have been in the 1950s when the Harrisons visited.



Hopefully there is some hope on the horizon.

The castle is now under the control of the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust formed by historian Mark Baker, a local who has campaigned for the castle to be brought back to its days of glory since he was only twelve years old. The Trust is now a registered charity, enabled by a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Due to the large cost of repairs and restoring lost content, the trust relies on volunteers or/and philanthropists who are able to contribute their time, experiences, knowledge and skills.


The impetus for this particular blog was this evening's season premiere of ITV's I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!, a British survival reality show now on its 20th series.

The show is usually filmed in New South Wales, Australia, but due to the current COVID-19 pandemic this year the series has moved to North Wales in... erm... Wales, with Gwrych being used as the stunning backdrop for the celebrities' base camp.

This will bring a huge amount of revenue in for the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust. In addition to donating £300,000 to the Trust for the use of the site for four months reports state that as part of the agreement ITV will also support the ongoing restoration project of the site. Some renovation has already taken place to fix walls, floors and stairways to make the building safe for the filming. If this series is successful, and as one of the most popular programmes of the year there's no indication that it won't be, I suspect ITV may use it again next year, especially given their investment.  

With Gwrych getting nightly exposure on UK TV for the next three weeks I expect that many viewers will want to see the castle for themselves as soon as national and regional restrictions on travel ease over the next few months, fingers crossed. 

Perhaps one day in the near future Gwrych will again be able to welcome visitors in numbers not seen since the 1950s.



  

Notes:

* The equivalent of around £4,288,000.00 today.

** Seemingly the reason why Googling "castle" didn't bring it up. Pedants.

https://www.gwrychcastle.co.uk/