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John Lennon

 

 

John Lennon

 

1940 - 1980

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Vanished World of a Woolton Childhood with John Lennon

 

by DAVID ASHTON

Page 1

 

Spring in the Woolton of my childhood was a delight. The cuckoos could be heard all around the village - across Woolton Woods, Allerton Golf Course (Fletcher's Farm as it was known to locals) or at Reynolds Park as you looked from the vantage point across to Hale and the Transporter Bridge and then across the River Mersey between Widnes in Lancashire and Runcorn in Cheshire.

 

It was not just in the walled floral gardens of Woolton Woods where you could hear the cuckoo clock and see the cuckoo come out of its boxevery fifteen minutes but you could hear real live cuckoos all around you.

 

This vanished world of my Woolton childhood was the same world I grew up in with a delightful Wooltonian childhood mate, John Lennon. Perhaps it was the cuckoos cuckooing all around us that made our childhood slightly cuckoo.

But it was far from the image that the world at large has of John Lennon's childhood - far from the image of docks, warehouses, black rats, walking along the Dock Road and dark poverty-struck satanic mills of William Blake's awe inspiring poem 'Jerusalem'.

 

But it was the village of the Woolton of my childhood that was to inspire one of the world's greatest songwriters and musicians - giving us songs like 'Imagine', 'Strawberry Fields', and 'Working Class Hero' - or the joy we all felt when we heard 'She Loves You' for the first time.

 

Even today every time I hear it my mind drifts back to my first childhood sweetheart - to Vale Road and Strawberry Fields near John's home in Menlove Avenue ... now, there's a name to savour! .... or to rafting on the pond over the sandstone wall from Vale Road at Newstead's Farm which we called Foster's Field - though it was actually owned by the Lewis family who were rope makers in Liverpool who made ropes for the great Cunard liners as well as for the humble tramp steamers and the Liverpool ferries.

 

Their ropes sailed all over the world and tied up the greatest ships and the humblest boats. I worked on the Lewis's farm as a lad and often skipped off work to sail on the pond on a raft or cross over the low red sandstone wall to talk to the girls in the Salvation Army Girls' Home at Strawberry Fields next door which was a strawberry-coloured Gothic house - a ship-owner's former mansion with sprawling grounds, full of rabbits and birds where you could be lost in a jungle of undergrowth and trees.

 

I have the rare pleasure of those childhood memories of John Lennon which precede the confusing effects of the fame which was to follow.

 

Like all childhood memories, which we all have of our exciting discoveries as a child, I have never thought it very important to 'go public' and talk about them which is how many of my childhood friends and other folk who knew Woolton at that time felt, and still feel.

 

But it was a meeting a few weeks ago with a childhood mate who I had not seen for 40 years, Rod Davis of The Quarrymen - John's first band - that set things in motion. Rod was christened in St.Peter's Church, Woolton a few weeks before me,on Sunday 7th December 1941 (the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour and so brought America into the war).

 

I was christened on Sunday January 11th 1942. We were both to have been christened on the same day by the Reverend Pryce Jones, the newly installed rector of Woolton Parish Church ('Prycee' as we called him was to introduce The Quarrymen at The Rose Queen in July 1957) but my uncle Raymond, my mum's brother , a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm had gone missing over North Africa and the rest of my Godparents were away fighting a war so our two families, the Davises and the Ashtons, both old Woolton families, never had the pleasure of seeing their newborn sons being christened together.

 

Both Rod and I were born at the height of the German Luftwaffe's devastating blitz on Liverpool. I have been told that the city took a hell of a pounding the night we were born.

 

Rod was evacuated to, I think, Southport soon after his birth. I was apparently put in the cellar while the mothers stayed upstairs in the Nursing Home in South Mosseley Hill Road - not far from Allerton where that other famous Beatle, Paul McCartney came to live.

 

I am not aware of having actually met Paul but I was there on the famous day that John met Paul so I probably did meet him - I might even have sold him one of Reece's Ice Creams from the Boy Scouts' Ice Cream Stall at The Rose Queen on the Church Field on 6th July 1957 but I did not do it knowingly because that's how it was and to me still is.... childhood memories I've never talked about and I do not even now intend to talk about because they are so personal - about our childhood, puberty, adolescence and the discovery of our sexuality which, although it happens to all of us, we tend to share only with a very few close friends.

 

In this article I will tell some of the memories of getting to know girls in their many ways. What I leave out of this article I shall leave for publication after my time.

After my discussion with Rod Davis I have decided to try if I can in some way to set the record straight about John, who cannot speak for himself, and to present a personal view of childhood in Woolton where I grew up with, and knew as a mate,one of the world's greatest and best-loved songwriters and musicians.

 

Some of you may not like what I say but, I repeat, it is my view of my childhood in Woolton. I know that if it was not for John Lennon you would not be interested in reading this but that, I feel, is the point. I want to talk of the childhood mate I knew, the John who had a normal childhood in Woolton with his wonderful Aunt Mimi. The fame and adulation that came his way was a curse which removed me from the friend I had loved as a good mate.

 

Childhood with John Lennon

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John Lennon Index

 

 

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