Thursday, 22 October 2020

The master of going faster

Bluebell Service Station
366 Liverpool Road
Huyton, L36


George Harrison began to take driving lessons at the beginning of 1962, passing the test on his first attempt. 

Naturally enough his next step was to buy a car.    

Brian Epstein referred George to his friend Terry Doran who worked at Hawthorne Motors, a Ford dealership in Warrington to the east of Liverpool. 

Doran offered the Beatle a second-hand, two-door blue Ford Anglia 105E Deluxe at a reduced price in exchange for some free publicity. George agreed to pose for photos with his new motor and the deal was struck - a cash deposit followed by weekly payments.   

At the end of March, he was drinking with friends, including Ringo – at that time still with Rory Storm and The Hurricanes – and mentioned that he'd found a car to buy. 

George needed a ride to Warrington to collect the Anglia and Ringo offered to take him.

On the 27 March, a day without engagements for The Beatles,  Ringo collected George in his hand painted (“painted by hand”) green and white Ford Zodiac and set off for Warrington. 


The former premises of Hawthorne Engineering Company, 6 Lovely Lane, Warrington 

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

'Ardmore'

486 Old Chester Road
Rock Ferry,
Birkenhead
Wirral
CH42 4PE


Some of you older people will remember a blog I did waaay back in 2016 about 'Ardmore' the large house on the Wirral owned by John Lennon's Aunt Anne (aka 'Nanny') and her husband Sidney Cadwallader.

As this was the largest house in the family it was common for the Stanley sisters, their husbands and children to gather here and a lovely set of photographs of one such get together dating from 1949 has been made public. They include what is believed to be the only photograph of John Lennon with his mother Julia. Here's a colorized version of that photograph for the younger people among you who can't watch black and white films. 


One of the most rewarding aspects of writing this blog is when one of my posts prompts a reader to get in touch and provide me with additional, previously unknown information, especially the sort of first-hand knowledge that no amount of research in books or on-line would ever unearth.

Here's a nice email from Pam Owen who has given me permission to reprint it here, together with her postcard:

Hi, I was reading your blog on John Lennon’s time in Rock Ferry and thought you might like to see the attached postcard showing the then front of the house ‘Ardmore’, the image dates from around 1910 I think.

'Ardmore' is the house on the left, on the right side of that first semi. It’s been taken from Egerton Park and shows the original orientation of the house.


Egerton Park circa 1910 and 2020. Part of the lengthy front garden where John and his cousins once played was later sold off by the Cadwalleders, in common with their neighbours, and bungalows were built on the site. When this occurred Ardmore lost much of its grandeur, the impressive frontage becoming the rear of the house, now virtually invisible from Egerton Park. 


I live In Egerton Park opposite to the now built bungalows which were erected in the gardens of all the houses.  I’ve been here 59 years and can remember my Mum telling me John’s relatives lived there and over the years we’ve seen a few ‘fans’ wandering round looking for the house - I’ve also seen some fab photos of John at 'Ardmore', at various times in his life, which were displayed in a photo album at the National Trust’s Menlove Avenue house.

Thanks for the article, it was a great interesting read.

Cheers. Pam Owen


Kelly's Directory for 1955 showing the Cadwalladers at no. 486 and their neighbours

Pam has also sent me a follow up email prompted by some questions I sent her: 

I’m not too sure when the houses were ‘flipped’, it seems feasible it was when the bungalows were built but, thinking about it, the orientation could of been either/or as the front (of the house) facing into Egerton Park only had a pedestrian gateway which you can see on the postcard and the photo I’ve attached of my sister Viv, (circa 1960) is taken from my house looking over to 'Ardmore'’s neighbour. You can see the gate and posts within the hedge.


I’ve also attached a historic map which I think shows each gateway with the dotted lines. 'Arundel' still has an access way into Egerton Park, for some reason they retained the strip of land.  I’ve always wondered how the builder managed to convince all the home owners to give up half their gardens!


'Ardmore' is facing the tennis courts on the above map next to the letter 'L' of Old Chester Road.


'Ardmore' today, photographed from Old Chester Road. This is now the less impressive front of the house. 

Since the 2016 blog further Lennon-related photos have been identified as coming from 'Ardmore'. 

There's a further photo from the 1949 gathering showing three of the Stanley sisters: (L-R) John's cousin Liela, Aunt Harrie, his mother Julia and Aunt Anne.


Previously I'd written that the oldest Stanley sister, John's Aunt Mimi, was 'conspicuous by her absence' in the 1949 photos but this picture has since turned up on-line. 



This photo was  reportedly taken in 1961 around the time of John's 21st birthday. I wonder if the jumper was a birthday gift?



These two photos date from a Christmas 1964 visit to see the family. That's cousin Michael Cadwallader with John and Cyn.


There's also this one, possibly from the same visit but to me John's hair looks more 1965 (possibly even early 1966) than the previous two. It could just be the poor quality of the image. Suggestions about who the man on the left is are welcome.  

On November 17 1980 John Lennon released his Double Fantasy album. That same day he received a phone call from his sister Julia Baird. They talked at length about family and his plans for 1981 which included a return to Merseyside.

Last year Julia told the Liverpool Echo* 'Obviously we were all waiting for him to come home. And John said in November 'There are so many of you (relatives) we will all have to get together at 'Ardmore'. So we were going to meet in that house.    

Sadly the reunion never took place for a reason no one could ever have imagined.


Addendum

I sent David Birch a copy of the 1910 postcard in case he hadn't seen it and he sent it on to his cousin Michael Cadwallader, who lived in 'Ardmore'. Both have kindly offered further information which I include here. 

Ardmore was originally owned by Charles and Elizabeth (Mater) Parkes, who sold it on to Sydney and Anne (Nanny) Cadwallader.

I sent a copy of your blog to Michael for comment. (He does not do Facebook). Michael has got the old photo of Egerton Park. Thinks it might have been given to him by his neighbour. Thought it was unique but now thinks it is a postcard !!

By the 1950s/60s there was a huge weeping willow in the back garden. I do not think the road was made up even in those days.

The three neighbours sold their back gardens to a builder and put pressure on Sid and Nanny (Michael's parents) who eventually succumbed. They insisted on having a driveway to Egerton Park, but I do not know if that is still there.

We both think the last photo in your blog is not at Ardmore. More likely to be Mendips with a student?

Good blog, thanks

Thank you David and Michael.

*


I've also been sent this photo by Richard Brown who emailed me to say that after reading the blog he went looking for photos of 'Ardmore' as it looks today.
This was taken from the back garden of one of the bungalows built on what was land at the front of 'Ardmore' and the adjacent houses.

What a shame such a fine house looks so boxed in these days.


Notes

* 25 November 2019 

A big thank you to Pamela Owen for contacting me and  inspiring this post.

A big thanks also to David Birch and Michael Cadwallader for their kind words and assistance.

If the third photo of John was taken at Mendips as David and Michael suggest then it must date from one of, if not the, very last visits before the house was sold in 1965. 

View the earlier 'Ardmore' blog here

Monday, 31 August 2020

The Beatles in Gwynedd (Welsh Wales) part two

Day two of my recent road trip around North West Wales, visiting some Beatles locations along the way.

After spending the night in Porthmadog we were up and out early and heading towards the west coast of North Wales. 

Originally I’d thought about driving to Pwllheli to see the site of the Butlins' holiday camp where Ringo had appeared with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes in 1960.  

However, a bit of research beforehand confirmed the site as it was back then had been obliterated by redevelopment and I thought it was unfair to drag my family to look at something that ‘used’ to be there. 

Instead we headed North to Caernarfon (or Caernarvon as the English used to call it).


Caernarfon

Like Harlech, the small town of Caernarfon is dominated by another English-built castle, this one counted amongst Wales's most prized architectural treasures. As you approach, it’s easy to imagine how formidable it must have appeared in medieval times.

In addition to being one of the largest castles Caernarfon is also one of the best preserved and much of the structure is still intact.

Unfortunately due to the current lockdown restrictions the Castle wasn’t open to the public. In fact most of Caernarfon was shut, either due to the pandemic or the earlier recession. Even the charity shops looked to have permanently closed down. The Specials should write a song about it.

So, we didn’t get to go inside the castle this time, though we have done on a previous visit. This was a little disappointing because I wanted to take a Now and Then style photo recreating the image of the Harrison family taken on the grassy central area here in the late 1940s, on pretty much the same spot where Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales in 1969.

Instead we settled for a nice pint at the Anglesey Arms, enjoying the fresh outdoor air on the harbour front and admiring the views of the Island of Anglesey just across the Menai Strait whilst sitting suitably socially distanced from other customers. 

The Harrisons: George's sister Louise, George, his father Harold and his brothers Peter and Harry snapped on the same trip to Wales.

In 1956, Ringo Starr, then plain 15 years old Richy Starkey, was hired as a bar waiter on the TS St. Tudno,  one of three pleasure steamers operated by the Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company. From the 1890s until 1963  the company would ply their main route from Liverpool and Llandudno along the Menai Strait and around Anglesey, carrying up to 2,500 passengers a day during the summer season. Richy saw it as a stepping stone towards joining the Merchant Navy, which he thought would exempt him from National Service. 

Being a sailor had a certain appeal for the ladies as well, Ringo later recalling chatting up girls using the line 'I'm in the navy. I just got back'. The suitably impressed young lady would then say 'when did you leave?' and he'd reply 'Ten o'clock this morning.'

He lasted about 5 weeks, arriving for work hung-over and insolent one morning he had words with his boss and was sacked on the spot. 

We should have ordered food at the Anglesey Arms while we had the chance. Getting something to eat would be a problem for the rest of the day as we discovered at our next destination, Bangor

Bangor

Bangor, about 10 miles north of Caernarfon is the oldest city in Wales. 

The Beatles famously stayed here over the August bank holiday weekend in 1967.   

On 24 August John, Paul, George and their partners attended a lecture by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on Transcendental Meditation held in the ballroom of the London Hilton. 

The Beatles were given front row seats and later that evening met with the Maharishi in his hotel suite. During the meeting he invited them to be his guests at the ten-day seminar in Bangor (unbeknown to the local organiser).

George: Maharishi happened to be having a seminar in Bangor and had said ‘Come tomorrow and I’ll show you how to meditate.’ So the next day we jumped on a train and went. 

Ringo wasn't present at the Hilton due to the recent birth of his and Maureen's second son, Jason. He got three late night phone calls from the other Beatles telling him to pack a suitcase. 

Ringo: We all went to Wales to meet the Maharishi. The man was so full of joy and happiness and it just blew my mind ... I thought 'I want some of that.'  

Professor Chris Collins (Bangor University): George Harrison had become very interested in what the Maharishi was teaching and he'd taken John and Paul to a session in London, which was immediately followed by the retreat here in Bangor at what was the Normal College, now part of Bangor University. They simply jumped on a train and were here within hours of deciding to do that.   

Famously Cynthia Lennon got separated from the group at Euston station and the train left without her. Neil Aspinall drove Cynthia to Bangor, in a journey lasting around six hours, so she could rejoin the Beatles’ party. 




George: Mick Jagger was also there. He was always lurking around in the background trying to find out what was happening. Mick never wanted to miss out on what the Fabs were doing.

 

In Bangor, a local Daily Post journalist called Iorwerth Roberts got wind of the story and informed Coleg Normal Bursar, Mr Gwyn Thomas, that the Beatles were on their way, accompanied by friends Marianne Faithfull and Mick Jagger. 

 

Thomas was able to make some arrangements to accommodate the new guests in the residential warden flats, and to deal with the inevitable journalists and fans, who would come in their wake.

 

Professor Chris Collins: The press were certainly very much clued into what was happening. There was a great interest in the fact that The Beatles seemed to have discovered eastern mysticism and there were suspicions around that in the press at the time. It really brought everyone to Bangor to follow them, as well as creating great interest locally.


It was not just the press who came - the fans flocked too. A large crowd had gathered at Bangor station to greet their arrival.  

Ringo: (Maharishi) didn’t know who we were then, which was really fabulous. Only when we got off the train and he saw all the kids running, I think he might have felt ‘Wow, things are looking up for me’. They ran right past him and were looking in our faces and I think he realised that these boys could get his message ‘cross real fast. 


Normal College, now part of the University Management Centre, viewed from College Road (2020) and the reverse view (1967)


Len Jones was one of the gardeners at the college at the time and remembers the Beatles causing quite a stir: I came here at eight o'clock in the morning to start work and there were hundreds of people here. They were singing and they were meditating. When the Beatles came you couldn't move with hundreds of people, especially the girls. And they were all screaming 'Beeeeatles, where are yooooooouuu'? The whole college, everybody stopped work for a day or two. It was heaven and it really put Bangor on the map.  

The Beatles and Maharishi are welcomed to Coleg Normal (Normal College), 25 August 1967

The Transcendental Meditation Movement (aka Spiritual Regeneration Movement) had held their annual conference at the college for a number of years.

Paul McCartney: The seminar was in a school, you sit around and he tells you how to meditate, then you go up to your room and try it. It was a bit funny going to those camps because it was like going back to school. Just the nature of it meant staying in a classroom and we’d been used to our nice comfortable homes or hotels so to be staying in an old school on a camp bed was a little bit disconcerting. Then trying to learn to meditate. It’s not that easy, you don’t just pick it up like that, it’s an effort and you’ve got to be involved, so it was like going back to school. And of course the food was all canteen food. But we were interested enough to learn the system, which we did. (Many Years From Now, Barry Miles)

Me outside Alun Hall, where the Maharishi stayed.

Dyfrdwy Hall, where the Beatles stayed 25-27 August 1967


Paul and Jane with fans, 25 August 1967




During their first day the Beatles were welcomed to the seminar, the Maharishi 'insisting' that they sit up on the stage with him, 
after which they gave a press conference. 

A clip of the press conference can be found below.  

Paul McCartney: There was a press conference. It was suggested that as we were going with the Maharishi, it might be a good idea to accommodate the press; it also saved them waiting around outside our windows. I don’t remember that we specifically said that we’d given up drugs – but at the time I think we probably had, anyway. 

Senior Chinese Restaurant (on the right of photo) 

On the Friday evening the group, plus partners, Mick, Marianne and Hunter Davies went to the Senior Chinese restaurant, the only such establishment open late in Bangor. At the end of the meal they realised they didn’t have enough money between them to pay the bill.  

Hunter Davies: We went out to a Chinese restaurant in Bangor and ate on our own – just the Beatles, myself, maybe one or two others. When the bill came, we couldn’t pay. The Chinese waiter amazingly didn’t recognize them, and he was afraid we were going to do a runner. Suddenly, George put his bare foot on the table and opened the sole of his sandal, where he had hidden a £20 note. The Beatles were like the royal family. They didn’t have money, didn’t use money. But George had put this £20 note there just for this sort of situation.  

The Senior, which proudly advertised itself as the first Chinese restaurant in North Wales stood in Bank Place,  Garth Road, alongside the clock tower. The site has been redeveloped as a shopping precinct.



Not far from the site of the Senior is this plaque on the High Street commemorating the Beatles' visit in 1967. Reportedly the longest High Street in Wales it meant little during our visit when everything was closed and we couldn't find anywhere to eat!

Saturday 26 August 1967



The Beatles leaving Dyfrdwy Hall on their way to see Maharishi. (L-R) Paul, still favouring yesterday's shirt and swerving the reporters, Ringo, George, Patti, Cynthia and John surrounded by the press.  











The day after their arrival in Bangor the Beatles attended another seminar given by the Maharishi once again held in the main hall of the Hugh Owen Buildings.



The Lecture hall today is known as the John Phillips Hall and can be viewed via the entrance immediately after the Management Centre on College Road. The hall is not accessible to the public and usually requires student / staff swipe card to enter the building.





26 August 1967





Sunday 27 August 1967 

On their second  full day in Bangor the Beatles were individually inducted into Transcendental Meditation by the Maharishi.



Ringo Starr: It was another point of view. For the first time we were getting into Eastern philosophies – and that was another breakthrough. 


Paul McCartney: The actual ceremony in Bangor when we got given the mantra was nice. You had to wait outside his room as he did people one by one, and then you got to go into the inner sanctum, just a room they’d put a lot of flowers in and a few drapes around, and lit a few joss sticks. You had to take some cut flowers to Maharishi as some sort of offering. It was all flowers with Maharishi, but flowers were the symbol of the period anyway so it was very easy. So you got your flowers, you took your shoes off and went into a darkened room where Maharishi was. It was quite exciting. It reminded me of Gypsy Rose Lee’s tent in Blackpool. 


Marianne Faithfull would later recall that George and Patti were the "real spiritual seekers" and Lennon also, "in his own way", but McCartney was "very cynical" about the venture. Her observation is perhaps given some weight by the final sentence in Paul's recollections above. Was he ever fully on board on the journey to spiritual enlightenment?



Marianne Faithfull: We wanted to know about other disciplines of living. What the Maharishi told us was something to do with individuality, something whereby you could live without other people.

The strangest thing about that was that at the moment they were being given a philosophy in which they could live their lives as individuals, at that very second, Brian died. The one who had wanted them to be as a group. 

While the Beatles sat at the feet of the Maharishi seeking spiritual enlightenment at his hands fate dealt them an appalling blow. It was in Bangor that they learned the shocking news of the death of their manager Brian Epstein. Tired and despondent over the weekend and unable to raise any friends Brian had retreated to his home in Chapel Street, Kingsley Hill.   

On the evening of Sunday 27 August Epstein was found dead in his locked bedroom, apparently from an accidental overdose.  

The Beatles were in the college grounds enjoying a late Sunday lunch when the pay phone in their dormitory began to ring continuously. Eventually Jane Asher answered it. Peter Brown, Brian's assistant asked to speak to Paul and gave him the shocking news. The Beatles were stunned. 

Paul McCartney: It was stunning because we were off on this ‘finding the meaning of life’ journey and there he was dead. 

George Harrison: It was very strange for it to happen at that precise moment when we’d just got involved with meditation. That may not sound like a big deal, but actually it was. It was a very big change in your life when you start making the journey inward, and for Brian to kick the bucket that particular day was pretty far out.  

Somehow news of Brian's death had already reached the reporters still gathered outside the college. 



Shortly after the phone call: A shell-shocked Paul McCartney and Jane Asher leave for London without speaking to the assembled press (including George Harrison of the Liverpool Echo - see above).






It was clear that the remaining Beatles wouldn't be left alone until one of them gave a statement.  

Cynthia Lennon: The others came to our room to talk about who should speak on their behalf. John said he’d do it. 

George Harrison: So we just packed up and went outside where the press where. There is footage of us saying we were ‘shocked and stunned’.

Ultimately all three decided to face the flashbulbs, giving an interview to Derek Bellis of Harlech Television (now part of ITN) 

John Lennon: I don’t know what to say. We’ve only just heard, and it’s hard to think of things to say. But he was just… He was one of us, you know, and it’s terrible. 

Q: What are your plans now? 

Lennon: We haven’t made any, you know. I mean, we’ve only just heard.

Ringo Starr: Yes, you know, it’s as much news to us as it is to everybody else.

Q: John, where would you be today without Mr Epstein? 

Lennon: I don’t know.

Q: Are you driving down to London tonight? 

Lennon: Yes. Somebody’s taking us down. Yeah. 

Q: You heard the news this afternoon, I believe, and Paul’s already gone down? 

Lennon: Yes. 

Q: You’ve no idea what your plans are for tomorrow? 

Lennon: No, no. We’ll just go and find out, you know. And…

George Harrison: We just have to play everything by ear. 

Q: I understand that Mr Epstein was to be initiated here tomorrow. 

Lennon: Yes. 

Q: When was he coming up? 

Harrison: Tomorrow, just Monday. That’s all we knew. 

Q: Had you told him very much about the spiritual regeneration movement? 

Harrison: Well, as much as we’d learned about spiritualism and various things of that nature, then we tried to pass on to him. And he was equally as interested as we are, as everybody should be. He wanted to know about life as much as we do. 

Q: Had you spoken to him since your, since you became interested this weekend? 

Lennon and Starr: No.

Harrison: I spoke to him Wednesday evening, the evening before we first saw Maharishi’s lecture, and he was in great spirits. 

Q: And when did he tell you that he’d like to be initiated? 

Harrison: Well, when we arrived here on Friday we got a telephone call later that day to say that Brian would follow us up and be here Monday. 

Q: Do you intend returning to Bangor before the end of this conference? 

Harrison: We probably won’t have time now, because Maharishi will only be here till about Thursday and we’ll have so much to do in London that we’ll have to meet him again some other time. 

Q: I understand that this afternoon Maharishi conferred with you all. Could I ask you what advice he offered you? 

Lennon: He told us not to get overwhelmed by grief. And whatever thoughts we have of Brian to keep them happy, because any thoughts we have of him will travel to him wherever he is. 

Q: Had he ever met Mr Epstein? 

Lennon: No, but he was looking forward to meeting him. 

Q: Have you a tribute that you would like to pay to Mr Epstein?  

Lennon: Well, you know, we don’t know what to say. We loved him and he was one of us. 

Harrison: You can’t pay tribute in words

Q: What are your plans now? 

Harrison: To return to London, and do whatever we can. 

Q: Did the Maharishi give you any words of comfort? 

Lennon: Meditation gives you confidence enough to withstand something like this, even the short amount we’ve had. 

Harrison: There’s no real such thing as death anyway. I mean, it’s death on a physical level, but life goes on everywhere… and you just keep going, really. The thing about the comfort is to know that he’s OK.

"Well, we're shocked. Yeah shocked. Shocked....and stunned. Yeah stunned. Very stunned."

*

Derek Bellis: It was a strange occasion, I suppose surreal is the word that sums it up. John did most of the talking and he said that the Maharishi had said they were to remember the happy things and the constructive things. It felt as if the Maharishi had made some quite neutral remarks, as you might describe them.


Ringo Starr: If you look at our faces in the film it was all a bit like ‘What is it? What does it mean? Our friend has gone.’ It was more ‘our friend’ than anything else. Brian was a friend of ours, and we were all left behind.


Paul McCartney: When anyone dies like that there is a huge shock of them being wrenched out of the picture, when you think ‘I’m not going to see him anymore.’ I loved the guy.  

 

After driving Cynthia up to Bangor Neil Aspinall had gone to see friends who were on holiday in a caravan nearby. He didn’t attend any of the lectures. On the Monday morning when the news about Brian broke Neil was in Bangor where by pure coincidence he met Gerry Marsden on the beach in a rubber dinghy (like a small ferry). He told Gerry ‘and it was a real shock to him.’

 

George Harrison: We got in the car and drove back to London.

 

As for us, we got in the car and drove to LLandudno Junction where we finally managed to get some fish and chips.    


Notes:

Thanks to Steve Bradley.

The Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company went into voluntary liquidation at the end of the 1962 season. St Tudno was sold for scrap in April 1963.

All Beatle quotes from The Beatles Anthology unless otherwise stated.

Marianne Faithfull quote from The Compleat Beatles.

You can watch a clip from the 26 August press conference below

You can watch a clip from the 27 August press conference below  


John Lennon on 27 August 1967, before the bombshell.