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Gay Byrne
Geoff Rhind
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Allan Williams
Richard Lester
Harry Prytherch
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Rod Davis
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Beatles Irish Heritage

 

Irish Contacts

 

In light of the proximity of Liverpool to Ireland, and the fact that two of its members had Irish grandparents, it seems strange that the Beatles only played in Ireland three times. The first time was the much-remembered concert at Dublin's Adelphi Cinema on November 7, 1963; the following evening they played at the Ritz Cinema on Fisherwick Place in Belfast; they returned to Belfast a year later on November 2, 1964 to play at King's Hall.

 

However, while Lennon and McCartney may not have focused upon their Irish heritage during their years as members of the Beatles, it definitely attracted their attention after the break-up of the group.

 

The famed 1972 'Bloody Sunday' massacre in Derry City, in which British troops fired on unarmed civilian, Nationalist protesters killing 14 and injuring many others, was the impetus for both Lennon and McCartney to focus on the Irish question, while intensifying their artistic rivalry as well. Paul had recently formed Wings, his new group, and they released their song Give Ireland Back to the Irish on February 25, four weeks after the incident.

 

The BBC immediately banned the song, which was a coup for McCartney because Lennon was always the more politically motivated artist. Shortly afterwards, Lennon recorded his song about the incident, Sunday Bloody Sunday, which appeared on his Some Time in New York City album, and received little attention.

 

At the time, McCartney told journalist Tim White; 'I always vowed that I'll be the one who doesn't do political songs, but what happened over there was that they had this massacre when some people had been doing a peaceful demonstration. Our soldiers, my country's Army paratroopers, had gone in and killed some people. So we were against the Irish; it was like being at war with them. And I'd grown up with this thing that the Irish are great, they're our mates, our brothers.

 

We used to joke that Liverpool was the capital of Ireland. Suddenly we were killing our buddies and I though, wait a minute, this is not clever and I wish to protest on behalf of us people. This action of our government was over the top!' As a result of Give Ireland Back to the Irish, some Wings concerts in the UK were picketed, and the brother of Wings guitarist Henry McCullough, a native of Derry was jumped by a group of thugs in Ireland.

 

John Lennon's interest in his Irish heritage did not end with the song Sunday Bloody Sunday. During the 1970s he began to identify himself as Irish, rather than British or Welsh. For instance, in his 1974 Walls and Bridges album, Lennon included a booklet, which not only had the lyrics to the album's songs, but also sported a history of the Lennon name, in the form of the entry from Irish Families, Their Names, Arms and Origins by Edward MacLysaght.

 

The entry ends with, 'No person of the name Lennon has distinguished himself in the political, military or cultural life of Ireland (or England for that matter)', under which John wrote in this own handwriting, 'Oh yeah? John Lennon!'. The following year, 1975, saw John give the name Sean, the Gaelic version of his own name, to his newborn son.

 

Music was not the only way John involved himself in things Irish. In 1971, he and his wife Yoko Ono began to take part in street demonstrations on behalf of the IRA in New York. Lennon was in contact with the office of Irish Northern Aid, in New York, an organization that raises money for the families of IRA prisoners and supports the political agenda of Sinn Féin; in fact, he assigned all the royalties of his song Luck of the Irish to this organization.

 

In his controversial and widely criticized 1988 biography The Lives of John Lennon, author Albert Goldman claims that John's support for the IRA went beyond peaceful means. Using an unidentified source, Goldman claims that Lennon befriended an IRA operative in New York and gave him vast sums of money, in addition to introducing him to an underground network of other wealthy political activists. As Beatle fans well know, John's alleged IRA activity was only one of countless controversial allegations made in Goldman's book.

 

More Recognition

 

It would be relevant and informative to their fans world-wide if there could be some mention of the Irish heritage of the band members, as this topic has received little if any attention over the last thirty one years.

 

 

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