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Beatles Irish Heritage


George Harrison


Georgeeorge Harrison has an amazing family tree that goes way back to the 13th century when the Harrison's ancestors, who were Norman Knights from France, settled in Southern Ireland at the time of William the Conqueror. These invaders dubbed Ffrench by their peasant subjects, owned all the land they could see from the tower of the Norman castle in County Wexford, 60 miles south of Dublin.


During the reign of Oliver Cromwell when they refused to renounce their Catholic beliefs so they were stripped of its castle and land. Thrown into poverty life of toiling on the land, which continued for 300 years.


50 years before George began a career; his Irish forebears still lived a humble peasant life on a tiny farm at Corah, County Wexford.

George’s great-grandparents, James Darby Ffrench (b.1825) and Ellen Whelan (b.1831) struggled to produce enough to feed and clothe their five children and met a rent bill of £1 4s 6d for their two acre farm. They died within two months of each other at the end of 1906. James was 81 and his wife was 75.


Their children, who by now had dropped the extra ‘f’ from their name, struggled on with the farm for four more years. Elizabeth the eldest daughter died in 1911 and they sold the smallholding and divided the proceeds between them.


One of the remaining children, George’s grandfather John French, born in 1870 immigrated over to Liverpool where he signed on with the city’s police force. He was sacked along with the entire police force during a bitter union dispute which became known as The Liverpool Lock-out in which policemen were banned from entering their own stations.


Following a brief spell as a carriage driver George’s grandfather was hired as a street-lamplighter and met his wife-to-be, local Liverpool girl, Louise Woollam.

They rent a small terraced house, 9 Albert Grove, in Wavertree. Here George’s grandma had seven kids including George’s mum, Louise.


Louise French met her husband-to-be when she was a teenager working as a grocer’s assistant. Harold Hargreaves Harrison was a steward in the Merchant Navy. He was laid off and went on the dole before he found regular work as a bus driver.


George’s parents married in 1930 and moved to a tiny two up two down, 12 Arnold Grove, and George was born there in 1943. His sister, Louise, was born in the same place in 1931 as had his brother Harold in 1934, and Peter in 1940.

When George was six his family moved from Wavertree to a spacious, modem council house, 25 Upton Green, Speke. George passed a scholarship exam to attend The Liverpool Institute, the city’s top grammar school. George didn’t make a great hit as a pupil.


He met Paul McCartney and through him joined a group, called The Quarrymen. John Lennon was already a member and the rest, as they say, is history.

Harold Hargreaves, son of master bricklayer Henry Harrison, of 26 Wellington Road, Wavertree, was born the 28th May 1909. Henry Harrison married Jane Thompson, daughter of James, an engine driver, who lived at 3 Wellington Grove. They were married in Holy Trinity church, Wavertree, on the 17th August 1902.

Henry was born at 12 Queen Street, West Derby, on the 21st January 1882, the son of Edward Harrison, a stonemason, and Elizabeth daughter of carter and carrier John Hargreaves of Pembroke Place, Liverpool.

Edward and Elizabeth were married at Liverpool parish church on the 24th May 1868 when both were under age and Edward had not learned to write his own name.


He was born on the 13th January 1848 at a quarter to one in the morning in Etna Street, West Derby, where his father Robert Harrison, a joiner, lived with Edward’s mother Jane, born Shepherd.


Harrison is one of the most common forms of ‘the son of Henry’ and is found in records from all over Britain since Henry first became a popular name in the twelfth century. Thompson is of course another name of the same type.


Henry was brought into popular use by our Norman and Plantagenet kings, whilst the Thomases remind us of Saint Thomas of Canterbury, most famous and most venerated victim of the second Henry’s wrath. Like William, John, Robert and Richard - all of them ancestors of a whole group of surnames - Henry and Thomas have retained their popularity through the centuries. 


A hundred years ago the surnames Harris, Harrison, Thomas, Thompson and their variants accounted for an estimated quarter of a million people in a population of eighteen million.


Woollam is a strange name, meaning ‘a dweller by the curved or crooked land.’ It is found in Yorkshire and East Anglia in the seventeenth century. The origins of the surnames French and Shepherd are obvious, though French is a name found largely in Ireland.


Hargreaves is the name of places in Cheshire, Northamptonshire and Suffolk meaning ‘hares’, ‘grove’ or ‘grey grove.’ James Hargreaves, inventor of the ‘spinning jenny,’ was one of those eighteenth-century inventors who paved the way for the Industrial Revolution.


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