Wednesday 28 March 2018

Dig It!

Scarisbrick Waterworks
Mill Brow Buildings,
Southport Road
L40 8HG

'A man must break his back to earn his day of leisure'

Ever since I read about this location in Mark Lewisohn’s Tune In, it’s been on my list of places to visit. It’s certainly not somewhere the Magical Mystery Coach takes you! 

Indeed, when I finally made it there accompanied by my 15 year old son he remarked how sinister the building looked, like 'something from Chernobyl'. He is perhaps a tad overdramatic but I saw his point.

Lewisohn's book reveals that when John Lennon was 18, his art school friend Tony Carricker secured them a summer job working as general labourers on a building site in Scarisbrick, near Ormskirk.

A new waterworks was being constructed by R.J. Barton and Sons, and the job came via Tony's dad Frank, who was the site foreman.

Unsurprisingly, John’s motivation to take the job was musical. His heart was set on buying an electric guitar and after hounding his Aunt Mimi for one she'd thrown down the gauntlet - if he wanted one that much, he'd have to go out and earn the money to pay for it himself.

Tony and John outside the Art College. c 1959 

So that's what he did, and thanks to Tony got a job that paid £5 a week, which in today's money is about £109.50. Not bad at all, as Tony remembers:

We earned a lot: for a student to have a man's wage was amazing. My dad ensured we were paid well, putting things our way, like an extra penny for working in concrete. Because John wasn't a good labourer, the foreman used to send him down to the shop to buy this or that, and while the woman was off round the back getting it, John shoplifted. He was never one to miss an opportunity.

Tony and his dad didn't take John because they lived in Widnes and it was a different route - and also, as Tony admits, because me dad couldn't stand him.
As a result he had to make his own way to Scarisbrick by train. The working day began at eight which meant John had to get up around five, which for a teenager who loved sleep and hated going to bed early was a constant problem but he was determined to show Aunt Mimi that he could do it.

His 20 mile journey entailed train changes and a hike across town before he reached Ormskirk where the Carrickers would collect him. 

However, if John was late and missed them he had to make further train changes to end up at Bescar Lane station. As the map below shows, the station is in the middle of nowhere and from there John would have to trudge along country lanes to the building site in Southport Road (bottom left).

Truly the middle of Nowhere land

John and Tony began working on July 20, 1959. As the two art students weren’t skilled labourers, they were given the lighter end of the work, using  pick-axes and shovels to help ready the ground for the construction of the new water pumping station.

The summer of 1959 was a hot one. John quickly discovered he was not cut out for back breaking labour and spent the entire six weeks sweating and swearing with every strike of his pick-axe.

Tony learned to cope: Once the hands stopped bleeding, after a couple of weeks, I could enjoy it but John absolutely hated every minute of it – he had no physical reserves at all. He told me he used to pray every morning the train would crash.

The real work, the heavy labour, was performed by a group of Irish navvies who would arrive at the site still hung over from the night before, and then dig until the sweat was pouring off them. Then they'd all go off to the canteen for a steaming hot cup of tea. This routine went on week after week until one day there was suddenly no tea as Tony Carricker explains:

There was a massive big boiler which heated the hot water for the brews and John put the fire under it and didn’t put any water in. He burned the arse out of the kettle. All the navvies came trooping in, sweating like pigs, all looking for a pint of tea, and there were riots. John was sacked – which was a blessed release for him.

He'd lasted six weeks. John’s employment came to an end on Friday 28 August 1959. The reason for his departure is given on his work card as “Unsuitable”.

In an interview for the Weekly News in January 1964 John’s Aunt Mimi remembered that the moment he had earned £40 – enough for his guitar – he left the job.

Mimi may have been re-writing the facts here to save face but one wonders whether John actually told her he'd been sacked? Not that it mattered, he'd acheived his goal and proven her wrong. She could hardly object when, on that same day.  John took her to Hessys and put down a £17 deposit for a new Hofner Club 40 electric guitar.

Two days later his band the Quarry Men played on the opening night of a new club in West Derby village called the Casbah. A local newspaper reporter and his photographer were there and captured John and his new guitar in action.

This colourised photo shows John on the opening night at the Casbah, 30 August 1959, with the Hofner Club 40 he bought with the spoils of his six weeks hard labour in Scarisbrick.

Thursday 22 March 2018

Mother Mary

Stanley Park
Walton Lane
L4 2SL


Smile Will Yer?

I've previously written about my satisfaction in pinpointing the location for these two well known photographs of Paul and Michael McCartney in Stanley Park which you can read about here 

Imagine my delight the other Sunday when, out of the blue Paul McCartney posted this beautiful photo on his Facebook page for Mother's Day.

It shows himself, Mike and their mother Mary on a family day out in Stanley Park, circa 1947 and to my knowledge has never previously been published. The photo was taken on the terrace, above the wall Paul and Mike are sitting in front of in the other picture with the baby.

The 'new' photo was likely taken on the wall in the extreme left of the photo below. I'm  comparing the circular designs on the brickwork with those behind Paul and Mike's feet. Admittedly there are several similar spots further along the wall (to the left of the benches).

Aerial view of the terrace wall showing the 'turrets', one of which was the setting for the new photo.

A colour photograph of the same spot, looking towards Goodison Park.

I speculated in my earlier post and, having studied the original two photographs again, I'm now certain that they are from two different visits.

On the photo with the baby, Mike, and possibly Paul, looks to have had a short back and sides haircut.

On the photograph next to the glasshouse, with Jim McCartney's silhouette in the bottom right corner, their hair is longer and Mike is wearing a different shirt with more rounded collars. These collars, and haircuts match the new photo with Mary, as does Paul's face. To me it looks like he's got a bit of a gob-on!*

What's lovely about these photographs is the clear illustration they give that the McCartneys were a family who did things together when they had a day off, both Jim and Mary actively taking part in their sons' upbringing, which for me is the way it should be.

It also draws attention to something that hadn't occurred to me before - that Paul might be in possession of a number of childhood photographs Mike doesn't have (If we are to assume that Mike has published everything he still owns in his books).

Thank you Paul for choosing Mother's Day to share with the world what must be a very precious photograph. I hope looking at it brings back lots of happy memories for you.


* gob-on,  Scouse for being angry about something ,having a sulky face. 

The three McCartney family photographs are (c) Paul and Michael McCartney.

Friday 16 March 2018

"We are not happy with her Queen Victorious Monologue..."

Queen Victoria Monument
Derby Square

Built on the former site of the old Liverpool castle and the 18th century St. George's Church, this ambitious domed monument to Queen Victoria was intended to represent the 'spirit of patriotism of Liverpool's citizens, as well as the national self-confidence that Victoria's long reign had engendered'.

The stonework, the podium upon which the Queen stands and the columns and dome that protect her were designed by Professor F.M. Simpson of the Liverpool School of Architecture, with Willink and Thicknesse.  Their neo-Baroque monument of Portland stone provides a setting for sculptures by Charles John Allen, including a colossal 14.5 ft (4.42m) figure of the Queen, groups of figures on the enclosing walls representing Agriculture, Industry, Education and Commerce, and four allegorical figures above the columns personifying Victoria’s personal virtues of Justice, Wisdom, Charity, and Peace. A final bronze figure at the very top of the dome symbolises Fame.

The foundation stone was laid out on 11 October 1902, the year after her death, and unveiled on 27 September 1906.

By portraying the Queen in her later years the sculpture has invited comments such as ‘unflattering’, ‘unsentimental’ yet ‘instantly recognisable’.

Perhaps what is most remarkable about the Queen Victoria monument is that it still exists. As the following photograph shows, the area surrounding Derby Square was flattened in the May Blitz of 1941 and yet the monument was completely unscathed.

May 1941. Derby Square showing Lord Street (left) and South Castle Street (centre). The photo below shows rebuilding underway in the early 1950s. The buses are turning from the top of Lord Street into Derby Square.

There are, of course, several Beatle related stories here, and the earliest involves Brian Epstein. As most will know, Brian was gay at a time when it was illegal in the UK and the search for love, or something more basic, always carried the risk of discovery by the police, the possibility of physical violence or being taken advantage of. On the evening of 19 May 1958 Brian encountered all three.

He had been cruising along the Strand in his car when he spotted a 23 year old man near the Royal Liver Building and stopped to pick him up. Brian drove to the comparative privacy of Sefton Park whereupon the man suddenly demanded £20 and beat him up when he refused. Taking what little money Brian had, the man told him to bring the £20 to the Queen Victoria monument the following day or he would expose him as a ‘queer’. After visiting the Royal Infirmary for treatment Epstein returned home to 197 Queens Drive where he had no choice but to tell his parents the whole sorry story. Following the inevitable tears and soul searching his parents agreed that Brian had no alternative but to report the attempted blackmail to the police.

The following morning Brian gave a statement and after questioning him over every detail the police provided him with an envelope full of dummy money and told him to meet the man at the monument as arranged while they lay in wait. When the envelope was seen to exchange hands the police revealed themselves, chasing the man through the streets until they caught and arrested him. The blackmailer was subsequently jailed for two years. To spare him any embarrassment Brian was referred to throughout the trial as Mr ‘X’.

The first girl John Lennon allowed himself to be close to following the death of his mother Julia in July 1958 was Thelma Pickles, a new student who he met when he returned to Art College that Autumn: My first impression of John was that he was a smartarse. I was 16; a friend introduced us at Liverpool College of Art when we were waiting to register. There was a radio host at the time called Wilfred Pickles whose catchphrase was 'Give them the money, Mabel!'. When John heard my name he asked 'Any relation to Wilfred?', which I was sick of hearing. Then a girl breezed in and said, 'Hey John, I hear your mother's dead', and I felt absolutely sick. He didn't flinch, he simply replied, 'Yeah'. 'It was a policeman that knocked her down, wasn't it?' Again he didn't react, he just said, 'That's right, yeah.' His mother had been killed two months earlier. I was stunned by his detachment, and impressed that he was brave enough to not break down or show any emotion.

Their relationship blossomed one day when they sat together chatting on the steps of the Victoria monument. Thelma discovered they shared a common bond – the feeling of being deserted by their dad. John's admission that 'My dad pissed off when I was a baby' wasn't entirely accurate though it was probably what he had been brought up to believe.

Thelma: Mine had too. I wasn't a baby – I was ten. It had such a profound effect on me that I would never discuss it with anyone. Nowadays one–parent families are common but then it was something shameful. After that it was like we were two against the world.

Thelma was impressed by how remarkably impassive he remained when discussing the subject,  something she struggled to do, and even more so by the matter of fact way he dealt with questions from his fellow students about his recently deceased Mum. As they became closer Thelma realised,  Of course, it was all a front.

What brought John and Thelma to Derby Square? They might have come on an art class assignment or simply to catch a bus home but I like to think John brought her here during some free-time because he wanted to try and amuse (or shock) her by revealing one of Queen Victoria’s most unfortunate features. Whether by accident or design, from a certain angle the scroll the Queen holds in her right hand resembles a penis emerging from her stately robes. I always delight in pointing out ‘Vicky’s Willy’ to those not in the know, and I can imagine John doing the same. Perhaps I should grow up!

"We are not amused"

At some point in 1961 Paul McCartney was the first Beatle to be photographed here. Why these pictures exist and who took them is a bit of a mystery but there might be a clue in a third photograph which shows Paul at a different location but wearing the same clothes, this time accompanied by John Lennon and Bob Wooler. Of course there’s no guarantee this was taken on the same day as the two on the monument but it’s not a great stretch to imagine Paul was being encouraged by someone else to, well, act a bit weird.

Paul McCartney on the monument, circa 1961 and with Bob Wooler and John (below)

Some of the best known photographs of the Beatles in Liverpool were taken here two years later when the group were on the cusp of fame.

The date was Tuesday, February 19, 1963, eight days after the 13 hour studio session at EMI which saw them record ten numbers for their first album 'Please Please Me'.

They were photographed by Michael Ward for the pop magazine ‘Honey’ at several locations between the Pier Head and the Nems office on Whitechapel, including numerous shots taken on and around the monument. 

Ward would later admit: I’d never heard of them, and they weren’t remotely interested in me. I met them in a pub and then we went around the town together.

They were reasonably easy to photograph – although they were already a bit blasé about it. Paul was very helpful, but John Lennon would insist on ruining a picture. Of course, he thought it was extremely funny. John just wanted to get it over with. He’s chatting to the girls while the other three are looking straight at me.

I was trying to make them laugh and look at the camera – or past the camera. It wasn’t easy because they were all chatting among themselves, and the fans had started to come along.

In early 1963 Liverpool, like the rest of Britain was two months into the coldest winter in 200 years, and both photographer and subjects shivered in sub-zero temperatures. By mid-afternoon, the Beatles had had enough.

Paul McCartney is obscured behind Ringo Starr (above)

Ward wanted to re-shoot, but the band were tiring on account of the freezing weather, and refused to pose for further pictures outside. Ward remembers:

They got fed up, and the final shot, on the zebra crossing, was ruined because Paul disappeared behind Ringo. They couldn’t be bothered to do it again, and nor could I.

It would not be the last time the group was photographed on a zebra crossing...

By chance Ward had arrived in Liverpool on the day when the Beatles' lives would change.

After taking photographs of the group in rehearsal at the Cavern and in Brian Epstein's office in Whitechapel, Ward returned to the Cavern to capture the Beatles' evening session.

Also on the bill that night were Lee Curtis and the All Stars, The Pathfinders, and Freddie Starr and the Midnighters. Watching the Beatles' set from the audience was Pete Best, their former drummer and at that time a member of the All Stars.

Reportedly it was the last time the Beatles set eyes on Best.

It must have been an emotional night for Pete. Before the Beatles took to the stage Bob Wooler read out a telegram from Brian Epstein announcing that 'Please Please Me' had just made it to number one in the coming Friday’s NME chart. The news was met with mixed reactions from the audience, some of whom went quiet. They sensed that The Beatles were no longer their secret and to a large extent they were right.The Beatles only played the Cavern on two further occasions before fame took them elsewhere.

The Beatles went to bed that night as pop-stars.

Details from the Queen Victoria Monument


The title of this blog comes from a passage in John Lennon's book 'In His Own Write', and is a pun on the 'We Are Not Amused" phrase, commonly attributed to Queen Victoria.

Michael Ward's 1963 photographs of the Beatles - read more here: 

'Tune In' by Mark Lewisohn.

Friday 9 March 2018

The Penultimate Liverpool Appearance

Empire Theatre
Lime Street
Liverpool 1

In 1964 the Beatles conquered the world.

In January they visited Paris, in February America and through the remainder of that month and into March and April they made their first movie 'A Hard Day's Night' and recorded the soundtrack album.  After a brief spring tour of the UK and a couple of weeks holiday they were off again playing in Denmark, Holland, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. Then came the big one, an exhausting month long tour of North America and Canada taking in 24 cities. Their final date was on 20 September after which they returned to the UK and began recording what would become the 'Beatles For Sale' album. They had to work fast and grab studio sessions where they could because within a fortnight they were back out on the road again.

The Fabs' Autumn 1964 UK tour was a joint production by their manager, Brian Epstein and Arthur Howes, the promoter who had been early to spot the Beatles’ potential. After watching them on stage at the Embassy Theatre in Peterborough on 2 December 1962 he quickly added them to his package tours in the early months of 1963 and, as a thank you, Epstein granted him first option on each successive UK tour.

The Beatles played two 'houses' at 5.40pm and 8.00 pm and received around £850 a night (about £13,000 today), considerably more than the supporting acts on the tour who included Motown star Mary Wells backed by Sounds Incorportated, Tommy Quickly backed by the Remo Four, The Rustiks (from Paignton, Devon) and Michael Haslam (from Bolton). With the exception of Wells, all of the acts were part of Brian Epstein’s stable.

Starting in Bradford on 9 October and taking in towns and cities throughout the UK including Exeter, Leeds, Glasgow and Belfast, the 25th date of  tour was a return to their hometown, Liverpool, their first concert appearance in the city since 22 December 1963. A new chauffeur – Alf Bicknell – had been hired to drive the Beatles in their Austin Princess between engagements and they arrived late at the Empire, thick fog delaying their journey up from Cardiff, the scene of the previous evening’s outbreak of British Beatlemania.

The fans were out in force, approximately 1000 gathering on the St George’s Hall side of Lime Street bringing traffic outside the Empire to a halt when they charged across to get a better look when the Beatles walked out on to the balcony to wave at the crowd. The police soon ordered them inside save any of the fans below be hit by a car.

In between the two shows the Beatles ate their dinner (reportedly steak, chips and peas) in the Empire’s dressing room, met the press, posed for photographs and socialised with old friends and family.

At the press reception the group was asked how often they had the opportunity to return to Liverpool and Paul, ever the diplomat admitted that it was more often than people thought.

Backstage the Beatles posed for photos messing about with fire buckets, and pretending to douse George. 

The Beatles also met with two fans who'd travelled up from Leicester....

.. and had time to draw out the lucky winner's ticket from a policeman’s helmet.

Backstage they met with Bill and Virginia Harry, the Cavern owner Ray McFall and DJ Bob Wooler, Paul’s dad Jim and one of John’s cousins. John and Paul reportedly spent time with Harry Walley, the intimidating policeman father of John's childhood mate (and first manager of the Quarry Men) Nigel, who was charged with getting the Beatles in and out of the Empire safely. While fans congregated around the stage door at the rear of the theatre the Beatles snuck in through a side door, almost unrecognised.

There had been some reports in the press during this tour that audiences in certain parts of the UK had not been as hysterical as they had in 1963. However, there was no sign that Beatlemania was on the wane in their hometown, the 65 strong St John’s ambulance team later commenting that while they only had to deal with two fainters in the first house, there were 22 in the later one.

The standard set-list for the tour, performed at both houses in Liverpool contained 10 songs, most taken from that summer's LP and film 'A Hard Day's Night': Twist and Shout, Money (That's What I Want), Can't Buy Me Love, Things We Said Today, I'm Happy Just To Dance With You, I Should Have Known Better, If I Fell, I Wanna Be Your Man, A Hard Day's Night and Long Tall Sally. Not that anyone could hear them....

Mike Gerrard and his friend Bill Morton attended: We had seats a few rows from the back in the stalls. It was a good show, especially seeing someone like Mary Wells. Seeing an American singer live on stage was quite something. But when the Beatles were introduced it was mayhem. The vast majority of the audience were teenage and pre-teen girls, there weren’t many boys like us, and not many adults either. The noise was deafening, this really loud screaming an shrieking. It was loud all the way, but when the Beatles did something like shake their heads, it was absolutely deafening. You could hear their instruments but you couldn’t hear the voices at all. It was hard to tell what number they were doing, but I do remember ‘Twist and Shout’. You couldn’t mistake the intro to that.

As did Anne Marshall:  There was a big queue outside and up Lord Nelson Street. (Due to may age) I missed the Cavern days so they were already famous. I just remember the excitement, but screaming spoilt it for me (not my screaming). My brother knew lots about them. Older than me and went to the Cavern. I was at the age I would rather have danced to the music.

After the two houses, John and Bill Harry, accompanied by Pete Shotton went to visit Stuart Sutcliffe’s family. Bill Harry recalls: Virginia and I went to the Empire and joined the Beatles in their dressing room. I told John that he hadn't seen Millie Sutcliffe since Stuart had died. Virginia and I dragged him – along with Pete Shotton - to Millie's house in Sefton Park after the gig and she was delighted. So was John. Millie returned a 'How To Draw Horses' book he'd lent Stu, a clipping from a Birkenhead paper when they were first named the Beatles in an advert and she also invited John and I to pick any of Stuart's works we wished. She took us round the halls and bedrooms of the flat showing us the work. John picked a blue abstract oil painting and I picked a collage Stuart had done in Hamburg - and it has always remained on display in a room in our home, reminding me almost every day of my lost friend Stu.

The Beatles stayed with their respective parents that night – John with Mimi at Mendips, Paul in Forthlin Road, George in Mackets Lane and Ringo in Admiral Grove.

They would play in Liverpool one final time on 5 December 1965.

The following two photographs turned up on Sara Schmidt's wonderful blog 'Meet The Beatles For Real' ( In trying to identify the policeman I made an interesting connection:

8 November 1964: Paul chats with Joseph Wright Teesdale Smith, the Chief constable of Liverpool before the Beatles' performance at the Liverpool Empire during the 1964 UK Autumn Tour.

Joseph Wright Teesdale Smith was appointed Chief Constable of Liverpool City Police in 1958.

During the Police Strike of 1919 Smith served as a Constable in Liverpool City Police and was one of the many Officers who went on strike, including George Harrison's maternal grandfather John French.

The Head Constable (Chief Constable) during the strike was Francis Caldwell and he issued the following order:

Central Police Office
1st August 1919

The Watch Committee at their meeting unaminously decided that any member of the Force now absent without leave who fails to return to duty immediately or fails to parade at his Divisional Station for orders before 8 p.m. this first day of August, 1919, is dismissed and will not be permitted to rejoin the Force.

Francis Caldwell
Head Constable

Smith was one of the officers who did report for duty and was not dismissed.

John French did not, and was.

George Harrison's grandfather John French before he was sacked during the Police Strike in 1919. As somebody once said, 'the resemblance is truly striking'.



Beatlemania! The Real Story of The Beatles UK Tours 1963-1965 by Martin Creasy

As noted, the photos of Paul and Joseph Wright Teesdale Smith were pinched from Sara Schmidt's blog (

More info regarding Smith's part in the 1919 Police strike was found here:

Bill Harry's recollection of taking John to see Millie Sutcliffe is a compilation of comments made on his Facebook page.

The composite photo of the Beatles on the stairs in the Empire is from the Liverpool Echo