Sunday 28 February 2016

Finch Lane Busmen's Social Club

Liverpool Corporation Passenger Transport (LCPT) Social Club
Finch Lane / East Prescot Road
Dovecot, Huyton,

Trams and buses in Dovecot during the late 1950s

Dovecot is a small district of Liverpool situated to the east of the city and bordered by Knotty Ash, West Derby, Broad Green and Roby.  Although some distance, and several buses away from his home in Allerton, south Liverpool, the area was familiar to Paul McCartney as his Aunt Gin lived in Dinas Lane off East Prescot Road, the main thoroughfare through Dovecot.

However, it was through George Harrison that the fledgling Beatles came to appear here. Since leaving the White Star Shipping Line in 1936 George's father had worked initially as a conductor and later a bus driver, for the Liverpool Corporation Passenger Transport (known at first as "Liverpool Corporation Tramways" when it first came into being back in 1897).

As the committee chairman of the Speke Bus Depot social club Harry was responsible for arranging the entertainment. On New Years Day 1959 he organised a party at Wilson Hall in Garston for the children of LCPT employees, booking the Quarry Men to provide the musical interlude. On another occasion he arranged for them to play here in Dovecot at a dance held in the Corporation's social club where he and his wife Louise ran weekly ballroom classes. The club was situated on the corner of East Prescot Road and Finch Lane.

Dovecot in the 1950's. This photo was taken a couple of years before the Quarry Men's appearance at the Social Club which can just be seen through the trees on the left hand side of the photograph to the left of the white van.
(click to enlarge).

Dovecot parade is on the right of the photo, the Kiosk on the corner (left on photo) was where i bought my morning paper on my way to work. That bell tower in the (right) background is over the Library. This hall has been updated since the 1950s Mark. The club was pulled down during the 1980s and that and the LCPT football and cricket pitches were sold by the city council, there is a housing estate there now. (John Quinn)

The screengrab from Google Maps shows the area as it is today with the new housing estate on the left occupying the site of the former social club.

Writing in "The Beatles Live!", Mark Lewisohn infers that the engagement took place in the first half of 1959. With new information uncovered in Mark's subsequent book "Tune In" this would place the show during the period when the Quarry Men - by this time including only John, Paul and George - were temporarily calling themselves the Japage 3 (from John-PAul-GEorge-3).

At that time the club had something of a name for itself, reportedly being the place where the legendary Liverpool comedian Ken Dodd was discovered (Doddy living about a mile away from Dovecot in neighbouring Knotty Ash).  Perhaps Harry had to persuade the Japage 3 to do the gig by suggesting that somebody might discover them.

Liverpool Corporation Passenger Transport (LCPT) Social Club

Perhaps because the booking came through his Dad, George would always have some memories of the place as he recalled for the Beatles' "Anthology" book:

My father had something to do with the Liverpool Transport Club in Finch Lane and he got The Quarry Men a gig there once, on a Saturday night. It was a dance hall with a stage and tables and people dancing and drinking. My dad was pleased and proud that he'd got us to appear there. We had to play two sets.  The group were booked to play on either side of the interval, an arrangement in common with a lot of their bookings around this time.

Another unfortunate feature of several engagements during this period was the groups inability to judge how many pints of beer in the interval were TOO many:

We played the first set of fifteen or twenty minutes and then, in our break, we got really drunk on black velvet*, the craze at the time - a bottle of Guinness mixed with half a pint of cider (not champagne). I was sixteen**, John was eighteen, Paul seventeen, and we had about five pints of it. By the time we had to go on again, we were totally out of it. With the committee chairman's son probably in the worst state of all it was no doubt deeply embarrassing for all concerned. As George would recall: We embarrassed ourselves and everybody else, and my father was very pissed off: 'You've made a show of me...' and all that.  And they had...

The bar, scene of drunken debauchery

Lewisohn's early 1959 dating of the engagement is troublesome and contradicted by two other sources.

John Quinn is one of my Facebook friends. Now approaching his 80s, John worked as a bus conductor in Speke in the mid-1950s and knew George and Paul as they often got on his bus to get to Liverpool Institute (and John says he never charged them a fare if he was on board). John's sister went out with one of George's brothers - Peter - while the Harrison's were living in Upton Green.

John moved from Speke to Knotty Ash in October 1959 and, as an LCPT employee had free entry to all of their clubs. I asked him if he ever saw the group at the Finch Lane social club: Yes I saw the Quarry Men as they were known then in 1959,and yes I had free entry into the club. I was there that night as I was a bus conductor, I was with friends. What Mark Lewishon didn't include in his book is the incident that took place at the Liverpool MPTE in the November 1959 when Paul and John got a bit tipsy and wouldn't go back on stage for their second part, Colin Hanton tried to get them back on stage without success, he left the club,and later they had a bit of a fight in the toilets with members of another band, at the time George's dad was the treasurer of the club.

John also recalled that Colin Hanton was the drummer at the time. I asked him if he was sure - in my mind Colin had left the group by this point. John responded: Colin Hanton was their drummer up their appearance at the Liverpool Pavilion in the December of 1959, he had a row with Paul on the bus going home, Colin got off the bus and it was the last time he played for the Quarry Men, their next drummer under the new name of Beatles was Tommy Moore.

Colin has also commented on the above:  I left the Quarry Men after playing a booking at the Pavilion Theatre in Lodge Lane. We had drunk a few beers during the interval and an argument started on the way home on the bus. I got off to catch another bus to take me home to Woolton and somehow or other that was that, they never contacted me again to ask me to play. I saw John a few times and he told me that they had got a drummer called Pete, which must have been Pete Best. After that I lost touch completely. I put my drums away and never played them until we got together to practise for the 40th anniversary at St Peter's in 1995!

However, on another occasion Colin has recalled the above events as taking place after they played the Finch Lane social club. Due their drunken state John and Paul were doing "spastic" impressions on the bus, much to Colin's annoyance. He and Paul had words and when he reached his stop he decided enough was enough and left the band that night. 

It's not clear just when Colin did leave the Quarry Men. In "Tune In" Mark Lewisohn indicates that Colin left around mid-1958, some 6 months or so before the date he gives for the gig in Dovecot. 

So, in the words of Loyd Grossman, let's look at the evidence:

·    Mark Lewisohn dates the appearance as early 1959. He says Colin left the group at some point in 1958.

·    George Harrison had some memories of the venue but doesn't mention Colin Hanton. That doesn't eliminate the possibility that Colin was there. George can't remember the date of the booking but does remember they got drunk.

·    Colin Hanton remembers that they got drunk after a show at the "Pivvy" and this led to his subsequent decision to leave the group. Occasionally he remembers this as taking place after the Finch Lane show. No criticism can be levelled at Colin (What were YOU doing 60 years ago, and where?) but as we'll read below, sometimes he throws a THIRD venue into the mix!

·    John Quinn was an aquaintence of George and Paul and saw the group perform that night. He dates the show as 1959 but says Colin Hanton was there too. As he freely admits the problem with many of these Beatles authors is that they were not around at the time and therefore witnesses at the time will give different versions of an incident that they saw, even Colin Hanton had it wrong when he said that he was drunk at the Walton MPTE**, but there was only one MPTE and that was the Liverpool MPTE, it is very difficult for a Beatles researcher to write when all he/she has is witnesses and doing research, one really has to be there at that time...  It was the MPTE social club on the corner of Finch Lane,. The entrance to the club was on East Prescot Rd opposite the Granada cinema, (Bob Wooler was the Bingo caller there during the 1980s), the sports ground was in Finch Lane.

This is very true, certainly in the case of Mark Lewisohn who has to shift through statements from numerous witnesses and try and sort out fact from fiction. Let's face it, at this point in time (2016) most of the people who worked with the Beatles have published their memoirs and in the majority of cases they are guilty of the same trait. Undoubtedly, for many of these people working with the Beatles was probably the highlight of their lives but time and again those wishing to "cash in" on this make the mistake of over emphasising their own part in the story, some going so far as to recall conversations in their books that they couldn't possibly have been privy to. 

As a result Mark Lewisohn has taken the decision that anything a witness tells him that can't be verified with some kind of supporting evidence is left out of his books which is right and the safe thing to do in the pursuit of 100% accuracy, but it does mean some nice things get left out on occasion. Perhaps Mark should include a chapter at the back of any future books which mention all the stories he was told in the course of his research that couldn't be confirmed thus allowing the reader to decide whether they need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Taking the above into account I believe the Quarry Men - John, Paul, George and Colin most likely performed, and subsequently got drunk, at the LCPT social club in late 1958 early 1959. I suspect Colin remained with the group a bit longer than Lewisohn suggests.

Of course if you have any memories which may clear this up further please comment at the end of this post.


A map of the Dovecot area. Top right is the former site of Hambleton Hall, a venue the Beatles would become very familiar with in 1961. Bottom right is Dinas Lane where Auntin Gin lived and the LCPT site is bottom left (Click to enlarge image) 

Whilst there are plenty of photographs showing the shops facing the LCPT club (see these from 1950 above) frustratingly there don't appear to be any of the opposite side of the road.

My own personal "Dovecot" memory:  After school one afternoon during the "Jubilee celebrations" in the summer of 1977 I remember standing in a crowd outside the shops facing the social club waiting for the Queen and Prince Philip to drive up East Prescot Road towards Liverpool. She didn't have a lot to say when we eventually saw her but she looked pretty nice.

At least the Duke of Edinburgh waved.


Thanks to John Quinn and Colin Hanton for their memories

Books: "The Beatles Live" and "Tune In" by Mark Lewisohn, "Anthology" by The Beatles.


* Black Velvet - is generally a mix of stout (for example Guiness) and Champagne. As George recalls, the group were drinking a mix of Guiness and Cider known as "Poor Man's Black Velvet".

** Or possibly fifteen years old depending on when the booking took place. 

** John Quinn's reference to the MPTE  is a slip. The Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive was formed in December 1969, ending the era of the Liverpool Corporation Passenger Transport.

Please Note: (May 2020) This mystery has been cleared up with the publication of Colin Hanton's own book "Pre: Fab" published in 2018.

Sunday 7 February 2016

No match for "Mr Moonlight": Earlestown, 30 November 1962

Town Hall,
Market Street,

Earlestown from above. The Town Hall is clearly visible right of centre

Historically within Lancashire, Earlestown is named after Hardman Earle* (11 July 1792 - 25 January 1877) who was the Chairman of the London and North Western railway. The town forms the western part of Newton-le-Willows, about a 40 minutes drive from Liverpool.

Earlestown owes its location - indeed its very existence - to early transport links such as the nearby Sankey Canal and the Liverpool to Manchester railway. In July 1831, the Warrington and Newton railway was opened, less than 6 months after the Liverpool and Manchester railway began service. A railway station was built at the junction of the two railways, a mile west of the town of Newton in Makerfield (now Newton-le-Willows) and was given the name Newton Junction. A locomotive and wagon works was built just west of the station and a model town was constructed for its workers. In 1837, the name of the station was changed to Earlestown. Other industries followed and significant employers in the town included the Sankey Sugar works and T and T Vicars Ltd, who moved to Earlestown from their Liverpool premises in 1867. They made machinery for the continuous production of biscuits, bread, wafers and confectionery.

On 21 March 1921, ukulele player, singer and comedian George Formby (left) gave his first ever professional appearance (billed as George Hoy - his mother's maiden name) in a two-week run at the Earlestown Hippodrome, where he received a fee of £5 a week. John Lennon and George Harrison were both big fans, George going so far as to attending a George Formby Convention in the Imperial Hotel, Blackpool in 1991, delighting those present with a rendition of "In My Little Snapshot Album" performed on ukelele!

The town hall stands on the junction of Market, Tamworth and Stanley Streets, fronted by a war memorial.

The Beatles engagement in Earlestown occurred at the end of a hectically busy week, something which was becoming the norm at the end of 1962.

The previous Saturday (24th) the Beatles had performed at the Royal Lido Ballroom in Prestatyn, North Wales before travelling back to Liverpool on the Sunday for an evening appearance at the Cavern Club.

On Monday the group returned to EMI Studio Two in Abbey Road, London to record their second single, Please, Please Me b/w Ask Me Why.  Travelling down by train they arrived at the studio for 6pm and recording took place between 7pm and 9.45pm. 18 takes of Please, Please Me were recorded and six of Ask Me Why. The single was released on 11 January 1963.

The group stayed overnight in London, spending the afternoon of Tuesday 27th at the BBC's Paris Studio in Regent Street recording a radio session for the Light Programme show The Talent Spot . People listening to the broadcast on Tuesday 4th December heard the Beatles perform Love Me Do, PS I Love You, and Twist And Shout.

On Wednesday 28 November the Beatles were back in Liverpool with two night time engagements. After a performance at the Cavern the group made their way over to Lewis's Department Store in Ranelagh Street, providing the music for the staff's "Young Idea Dance" held on the top floor.

The day before the Earlestown show the Beatles were over on the Wirral, playing a Thursday night booking at the Majestic Ballroom in Birkenhead.

The Earlestown engagement was billed as ‘The Big Beat Show No 2’, and was presented by the football section of the T  and T Vicars Sports and Social Club.

Google "Beatles" together with the name of a UK town where they performed and more often than not you will find a blog or discussion board about that specific town where local people have shared their memories of the night they saw the Beatles.

The discussion board: has several gems worth repeating here together with a few quotes that illustrate how time can play tricks on the memory, no matter how sure of the facts some people think they are:

I am just speaking on Skype to my Dad (as I type) and he tells me that they had a "do" for Vicks football Club at Earlestown Town Hall and top of the Bill was none other than the Beatles. I wonder if anyone who went took a photo of the Beatles at the town Hall? (She, 2.2.10)

Paul at the mike, onstage in Earlestown 30 November 1962. The photo was taken by Tom Tyrrell, a press photographer and journalist working in and around the northwest. The audience seem more interested in the camera than the Beatles!

I recently read an article in the local newspaper that covered that event (at) the Boys Club, in which Frankie Vaughan opened the premises in Grafton Street in November 1960. That newspaper was the Newton and Earlestown Guardian (I think) and can be viewed at the local Library. You can also order a print off of the story if you wish.(mike 59)

Sorry you are wrong the Club opened 30 11 62 by Frankie (approx 3500 crowd) the same night the Beatles appeared at the Town Hall (approx 33 crowd). (michaelchorley, 26.10.10)

There was more than 33 there! Although the majority turned out to see Pat Phoenix I'm sure (neileen, 26.10.10)

If my memory serves me well it was on a Friday night that the 'Silver Beatles' played the town hall ' I can remember the 'day bill' (handbill) that was pasted on the brick wall of the railway bridge in 'Bridge Street', the image was 'a pen and ink' illustration of a 'beetle'!  Frankie Vaughan opened the Boys club that same evening!
(mark gardiner, 29.10.10)

The group had dropped the "Silver" prefix in 1960, long before they had a record contract.

I've seen a small advertisement for that performance at the Town Hall, it didn't mention any other acts, or even a start time, it went something like 'Why hang around outside, when you can come inside and see The Beetles'. It also mentioned something about getting the chance to either sing, or win the 'Love Me Do' record !!

My husband was hanging around outside the Town Hall with the other kids that night, but being two weeks off his thirteenth birthday, he didn't go in as dancing wasn't his thing and he was a bit young! But he's gone on ever since about how impressed he was with George Harrison's two-tone Ford Consul that night, parked near Welch's fishing tackle shop! (Colliedog, 21.10.10)

The Ford Consul Classic belonged to Paul, his first car. George had only just bought his first car, a Ford Anglia 150E, a month or so before the Earlestown show.

This was all a little before my time, but a few years ago somebody told me that after the band had played at the Town Hall John Lennon went into the Newmarket for a pint - not sure if this is true or not, the person who told me is a bit of a dreamer.
(WillieBob, 29.1.07)

Hi Earlestown, I was there, I remember walking out, they were rubbish, !!!  I think they played at the Viaduct club around that time. My wife Maria Frodsham went out with Macca for 7 weeks but luckily she married me. (Bionic, 12.12.06)

We weren't always good. You'd have these disastrous nights where you're all out of tune, you forget how to turn the amps up, you forget where your levels are and exactly how near (to) the mike it is you've got to sing (Paul McCartney in conversation with Mike Read, BBC Radio 1, 13.10.87)

I can find no record of the group ever performing at the Viaduct Club.

The Beatles did indeed appear at Earlestown Town Hall in fact my cousin danced with John Lennon the same night..A Wargrave man Jimmy Hamnett who died not very long ago used to carry the contract for that night in his wallet and would proudly show it to anyone who asked round and about in the pubs.
(Steven Dowd 13.3.05) 

I think it was Siobhan who told me her dad was in the audience that night.... and apparently, John Lennon asked him, "where does all the local crumpet hang out?" Now we know - they were all drooling over Frankie Vaughan in the Boy's Club! Gimme the moonlight.... (Vic, 5.10.12)

What's clear is that the Beatles weren't the biggest draw in the town that night. The Liverpool born singer Frankie Vaughan was opening the Newton Boys Club in nearby Grafton Street to packed out rooms with many disappointed fans outside unable to get in.

"Mr Moonlight":  Frankie Vaughan at a record signing in Liverpool.

Frank Abelson was born in Devon Street, Liverpool in 1928.  The stage name 'Vaughan' came from his grandmother who used to call him 'my number one' grandson (because he was the first one born). In her Russian accent 'one' sounded like 'Vaughan'.  His career began in the late 1940s performing song and dance routines. He was a flamboyant dresser, wearing a top hat, bow tie, tails and a cane. In the 1950s he worked for a few years with the band of  Nat Temple before making records under his own name. In 1955, he recorded what was to become his trademark song, "Give Me the Moonlight, Give Me the Girl".

In his early life, he was a member of the Lancaster Lads' Club, a member group of the National Association of Boys' Clubs in the UK. During his career he was a major contributor to different Boy's clubs - his appearance in Earlestown being one of many visits he made around the country - even going so far as donating the royalties from one of his songs to them each year in gratitude for the important part they played in his youth.

I think that the same night Frankie Vaughan played the Boy's Club in Earlestown and more people showed up there!!! (daveR, 12.11.06)

If I recall right, Pat Phoenix (Elsie Tanner in 'Coronation Street') appeared with the Beatles that night (Mike)

Pat Phoenix was an English Actress who became one of British TV's first sex symbols through her role as Elsie Tanner in Granada TV's 'Coronation Street'. She was an original cast member from 1960 to 1973 (returning in 1976 and staying until 1984). I can't uncover anything which might explain why she was there (one source says she 'opened' for the Beatles but not in what capacity, certainly I can't find any reference to her ever singing during her career. As she was two years into her role as Elsie Tanner and probably considered something of a celebrity actress perhaps she'd been invited to Earlestown simply to introduce the Beatles on stage and pull a few more punters in).

Patricia "Pat" Phoenix on the front 
of the TV Times, November 1964

Despite recollections suggesting the Beatles had a bit of an "off" night, I wonder how many of the audience of 33 or more who remember the gig today could ever have predicted that the four Liverpool lads with the funny haircuts they had been dancing to at the town hall that night would become the biggest group in history?

I wonder if "Mr Moonlight" was in the set-list that night?


* Hardman Earle lived in Allerton Tower, off Menlove Avenue, Liverpool.


The Beatles Chronicle by Mark Lewisohn.

THE BEATLES - A collection of ephemera put together by the vendor Tom Tyrrell, a press photographer and journalist working in and around the northwest from the 1960s onwards. An original black and white photograph taken by Tom Tyrrell of The Beatles at The Earlestown Hall, Newton-Le-Willows before going on stage, Friday 30th November 1962, Ringo is seen holding an advanced copy of their recently released first EMI record "Love Me Do" with letter of provenance from the vendor and photographer, also this picture comes with the publishing rights to the image. Also one other original photograph of The Beatles appearing on stage at The Earlestown Hall, Newton-Le-Willows on Friday November 30th 1962, again sold with letter of provenance by the photographer and vendor Mr Tom Tyrrell and all publishing rights to this image  (Source: F.R. Marshall and Co. / 17th March 2009)