As I have said before, there are a few Beatle-related stories that fascinate us. There are a few cloudy tales, and people that seem to get lost in the shuffle. It seems that John Lennon’s mother is one of those people. I know that she wasn’t around very long, but she was so influential in Lennon’s life that it is a shame that her story is not completely told.
I mean any Beatle fan worth his/her salt knows about John learning banjo chords first, and the scene that played out with John literally having to choose between his mother and father. I want to hear some of those other stories. These stories are exciting and fresh to me. It makes me realize that these giants of music were people too. I think it is too often that as fans we forget the human aspects of them. It seems that Julia (John’s half-sister) is expounding on her earlier biography, and telling her story as well as her mother’s.
We can’t wait to read it.
(To read our earlier post about this book check it out here.)
Here’s what we’ve read.
On the morning her half-brother was shot dead by a man told to carry out the killing by voices in his head, Julia Baird was getting her children ready for school.
Then came the dreadful news. Life had ended suddenly for Liverpool’s John Lennon, the musician who was short in sight but whose vision for peace inspired millions.
It is hard under any circumstances to lose a brother, but it can be tougher still when the world is mourning too.
Once again Julia, then aged 33, would have been forced to witness her family’s history laid bare for all to see had she not turned off the television news and shielded her eyes from the screaming newspaper headlines.
“I wish John had never seen a guitar,” she confesses between sips of black coffee. “He could have been an artist instead, he was a genius, he would have made it in some way.
“I wish he had never put himself in that position with all the inherent dangers involved.”
John’s violent death, following those of Julia’s father and the half-siblings’ mother, another Julia, made it even harder to bear.
It took more than two decades for her to try to come to terms with all that had happened in their shared childhood and to start asking questions about the family secrets that ultimately resulted in her new auto-biography released today.
Although Julia admits this book would not exist had her older brother not become one of the most famous faces in the world, it is their mother who is very much its central character.
“Anyone might have skeletons in their closet but that’s family business. In our case, they have been sky-written, we have always been in the public eye,” explains the mother-of-three, who feels her own mother has been badly treated in previous accounts.
We meet outside the Beatles Story at the Albert Dock, where fans who had Lennon’s poster on their bedroom walls have no idea that the unassuming woman they have just walked past without a backward glance is his sister.
Despite her petite frame, she looks incredibly strong, as you would have to be to sit down and face the traumas of the past, never mind publish them for the world to judge.
“Part of the reason for writing the book is that it will go into the British library and hopefully, 50 years down the line, the next John experts will go along the shelf and think this was by his sister so it must be closest to the truth.”
The fourth of five sisters, Julia Stanley was just 14 when she met Alf Lennon in Sefton Park. She told him to remove his “silly hat” and he obliged by throwing it in the lake.
His cheeky reaction made her laugh and they were still a couple 10 years later when they cele-brated their marriage with a trip to the cinema.
A pretty girl, with shoulder- length auburn hair that made the boys wolf-whistle as they passed her in the street, she was undoubtedly her father’s favourite daughter, something her sisters would come to resent.
Alf was away at sea with the Merchant Navy when Julia realised she was pregnant with her first child. John was about a year old when she later learned her husband had gone AWOL while his ship was docked in America.
Alf later claimed he had actually been sent to jail for theft, but denied the charge.
He returned 18 months later but soon left again, and in the meantime, lonely and broke, Julia met a young Welsh soldier who was home on leave.
Their affair was brief but it was to change her life. Pregnant with an illegitimate baby that her own father insisted would have to be adopted, she fell into depression and her sister, Mimi (also known as Mary), stepped in to help look after John.
“My mother was being told daily ‘you are not keeping this baby, you have done a dreadful thing’,” says the younger Julia, who did not find out about her sister, Victoria (later named Ingrid by her adoptive family), until she was an adult.
“She spent the entire pregnancy indoors in her room. We would see her behaviour now as depression.
“I know that my mother fed the baby for six weeks. She fed her as Victoria and she was taken away as Ingrid.”
Past accounts of Lennon’s childhood have generally described his Aunt Mimi as a caring woman who gave the boy a home when his mother was unable to look after him.
His sister believes this is far from the truth.
“Instead of helping my mother, Mimi took her son away. Nanny (another of the Stanley sisters) said the only time Pop (their father) and Mary were ever united was in getting John.”
Julia Lennon was in disgrace. She had lost a child, her father was disappointed in her behaviour, her husband was still away at sea, and she had seen him only a handful of times in five years.
In her lonely state, it was understandable that she would fall for John Albert Dykins, a dark-skinned man with deep brown eyes who was prepared to overlook her social standing and with whom she would have two daughters – Julia and Jackie.
When Alf returned in 1946, she told him that she considered their marriage to be over and moved in with Bobby, as she had begun calling her beau.
“Mimi made three visits,” reveals Julia, who now lives close to the Cheshire-Shropshire border with her partner, Roger. Her first marriage ended shortly after John’s death.
The first time my father told her to go away. She came back with a social worker who said, ‘you can’t take this woman’s child away, leave him alone’.
“When Mimi came back again, she brought the head of social services with her.
“He gave John to Pop and he handed him straight to Mimi who took him straight to Mendips (her home in Woolton now owned by the National Trust). Pop said it was just until my mother had sorted herself out, but Mimi went and changed John’s school straight away.”