Monday, 26 July 2021

Christmas with the McCartney family, 1968

Merseyside,
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

In September 1968 Paul telephoned Linda Eastman and asked her to come to London to see him. She did and stayed for a few weeks while Paul was busy finishing recording sessions for 'The Beatles' (White) album. Once the album was completed in early October they flew to New York and stayed in Linda's apartment for two weeks, Paul getting to know Linda's daughter Heather and enjoying the freedom to explore the city in relative anonymity.  

The three arrived back in London on 31 October 1968, 12 years to the day that Paul's mother Mary had passed away. On 5 November they travelled up to Paul's farm in Campbeltown, Scotland, and stayed for most of the month.  

In mid-December 1968 Paul, Linda and Heather took a spur of the moment holiday in Portugal, staying with the Beatles' biographer Hunter Davies.

It's said that Paul proposed to Linda during this holiday after she revealed she was pregnant (with Mary).

Over the years numerous photographs taken during this trip have surfaced and they're notable as the first images of Paul with a beard which would seen in full bloom the following month during the filming of 'Let It Be'.

Shortly after returning from Portugal Paul, Linda and Heather travelled up to the Wirral to spend Christmas with Paul's dad Jim, his second wife Angie and her daughter Ruth, at 'Rembrandt', the house in Gayton  McCartney had bought for his father in 1964. 

It's unclear if Paul had had the opportunity to introduce Linda and Heather to any of his family prior to this Christmas visit.  It's certainly possible that they were meeting Paul's new girlfriend and her daughter for the first time while simultaneously being told that Paul was going to be a Dad.    

Before moving to London Linda had a successful career in photography, initially working for Town and Country magazine before becoming the unofficial in-house photographer at the Fillmore East rock venue in New York in 1968. She took some memorable photographs of the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, the Yardbirds, the Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Grace Slick, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin, among others.  

Of course, this sort of access to the late sixties rock scene was lost when she left the States and joined Paul, though one could argue that in exchange she suddenly had almost complete freedom to photograph the Beatles in the latter days of their career. 

However, very few of her Beatles' photographs were taken with any profit in mind, essentially her move to the UK finished Linda's career as a professional photographer.  Her passion for photography continued for the rest of her life but from late 1968 onwards her pictures captured whoever she happened to be with at that moment, rather than as the result of any planned assignment.  

Naturally, Linda brought her camera with her on the trip up to Merseyside and the following six images all originate from that Christmas 1968 break. In hindsight these photographs are among the first that show the transition in Linda's subject matter, from Rock Stars to more intimate images of family life.

 
Paul with Auntie Gin* and Uncle Harry Harris. Their house at 147 Dinas Lane, Huyton, was the largest in the McCartney family and as a result most of the parties took place there, including Paul's 21st birthday party in 1963.  

This photo was included in the first episode of the new Hulu TV Series McCartney 3,2,1 which is highly recommended viewing. It will be shown in the UK and elsewhere on the Disney + channel shortly if you don't have access to Hulu.  

With the exception of the picture of Paul with Jim the following all appeared in the superb Linda McCartney retrospective held last year at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.  Sadly the exhibition opening was delayed due to the pandemic and suffered from further disruption during the final months of its planned run due to additional lock-down restrictions put in place at the end of 2020.  I would love it to return one day.


Paul and Organ. The man looks to be giving Paul a demonstration so I wonder if this photograph was taken in one of Liverpool's music shops? Rushworths perhaps? There looks to be a second keyboard visible through the doorway on the left.  Judging by Paul's clothes this looks to have been taken on the same day as the following picture. 

The caption for this is Liverpool Pub, Christmas 1968. I've put this photo out on a few Liverpool themed Facebook and history groups but to date nobody has been able to identify which pub. 

'Rembrandt', Gayton, Wirral.  Paul and some visiting Carol singers. See my earlier blog about the amazing co-incidence in this particular photo here  


Christmas Dinner with Dad.  Paul carves. 

'Her Majesty'.  The Queen's speech on the TV at 'Rembrandt', Gayton, Wirral on 25 December 1968.


All photographs (C) Linda McCartney / Paul McCartney


Note:

Auntie Gin or Jin?

As a derivative of Jane, the obvious way of spelling it would be with a 'J' but it varies from book to book.  In Tune In, Mark Lewisohn went with Gin because this is how she herself wrote it, but as evidenced by the postcard below not all of the family followed her lead! 

A printed invitation to a party which took place at the former home of Paul McCartney’s father Rembrandt, Baskervyle Road, Heswall on 6th May 1984 that was sent to Paul’s Auntie Jin. Postmarked London 26th April 1984. Features a Linda McCartney photograph on the front. (Tracks)

Mike McCartney also uses the 'Jin' spelling in his book 'Thank U Very Much'.

 


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