A Faithful Heart – The Story Of George Harrison’s Grandfather

This is the time of year when the UK remembers the soldiers that gave their lives for our freedom. Remembrance Day has been observed throughout the Commonwealth since the end of the First World War to remember the members of the armed forces who have died in the line of duty. In a previous article, I wrote about the brother of John Lennon’s Uncle George, who died during The Great War, but George Harrison also had a heroic relative – his grandfather – Private Henry Harrison. George told Beatles’ biographer, Hunter Davies – albeit inaccurately – that he believed his paternal had died in the Battle of Mons, in Belgium, the first major action of the war by the British Expeditionary Force, in August 1914. However, in recent years, many more details of Henry Harrison have emerged, including the actual battle he died in, the location of his grave, and even some of his personal possessions.

George’s father, Harold Hargreaves Harrison, was born 28 May, 1909 to Henry Harrison and Jane Tompson. Henry was born on 21st January 1882 at 12 Queen Street, West Derby, Liverpool. Due to the obvious fact that, at that time, the Harrisons were just another anonymous Liverpool family, little is known about his early life, but what is known is that he was builder involved in the construction of the grand houses on Princes Road in Liverpool, close to where The Quarrymen (before George joined them) would play one of their first major gigs to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the city. George once ascribed his love of architecture to the genetic influence of the grandfather he never knew.

Henry and Jane were married on 17 August, 1902 in Holy Trinity Church, Wavertree, and in the thirteen years before his untimely death, Henry became the father of seven children, including a daughter, Jane, whom he never knew, as she was born in April 1915, while he was on active service. He left Liverpool docks in November 1914, joining the 1st Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

Report of Private Harrison’s Death

The Battle of Loos, in France, took place from 25 September – 8 October 1915, the biggest British attack of 1915. The French and British tried to break through the German defences in Artois and Champagne, but were contained by the enemy armies. 8500 soldiers were killed at Loos and it was, in fact, this battle where Henry Harrison died, on the very first day of action. He was 33 years old. Henry, and a friend, Alf Berry, were escorting German prisoners on war when they became separated, and Harry was never seen again. His widow, Jane had to wait for two more months to receive news of her husbands heroic death. The local newspaper, the Wavertree Times reported:

“Official notification has been received by his wife at 24 Abyssinia Street, Wavertree, Liverpool of the death of Private Harry Harrison, 1st Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment who was killed in action in France on September 25. Before joining the army he was in the employ of a Liverpool firm of builders. He joined the service in November last and was drafted to the front in the spring. He leaves a widow and seven children.”

It isn’t known whether Private Henry Harrison, Service Number 18190, was ever found, but it is probable that his tombstone, like so many, commemorates an absent soldier. The grave is in St Mary’s Advanced Dressing Station (ADS) Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery, north of Lens in the Pas de Calais – Plot 5, Row F, Grave 10 of the cemetery. It bears the inscription, “A Faithful Heart”. Of the 2,000 or so men buried there, only 218 are in named graves – including that of Private Harrison.

The War Penny, given to the next-of-kin of the war dead

Further information came to light during the Liverpool Family History Regiment day on 28th September 2013. A relative of Henry Harrison – his identity is unknown – went to the Family History Stall seeking information. There was an entry for Henry in the newspaper index so arrangements were made for him to go to the Liverpool Archives the following Tuesday. Before he left he emptied a bag onto the table. The bag contained letters, Henry’s army pay book, and inside it, the ribbons from Henry’s three medals. Also, there was the memorial plaque, known as the ‘War Penny’ or the ‘Dead Man’s Penny’, a bronze coin issued to the next-of-kin of fallen servicemen. The archivist receiving the find noted:

“Jane, Henry’s wife, kept all correspondence regarding her husband right up to the 1920s, so I can only assume she may have pawned the medals as she was left a widow with seven children and two of them, I think, were disabled.”

John Kipling’s grave

A couple of interesting, and slightly connected, facts also come out of this story. The 2007 TV movie, My Boy Jack, documents the story of John “Jack” Kipling (played by Daniel Radcliffe, better known as Harry Potter), the son of Rudyard Kipling (best known as the writer of ‘The Jungle Book’ and the poem ‘If’). Jack also died in the Battle of Loos as a lieutenant serving in the Irish Guards, but his family waited for two years for news of his death, and never knew where he was buried. His grave is close to that of Private Harrison. It wasn’t conclusively identified until 1991, when it was given the inscription, “Their name liveth for evermore”. According to French historian – and Beatles fan – Jean Claude Hocquet:

It was Rudyard Kipling, ravaged by the fact of not knowing where his son had been buried, who campaigned for this inscription to appear in all British cemeteries.”

In my last article, I included a photo of The Beatles, en route to Hamburg, resting at the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery in the Netherlands – which bears the same inscription.

Given that many of the facts about the death of Henry Harrison have emerged in recent years, it is quite probable that his grandson, George, never knew the whole story of his grandfather, and whether, given his pacifist views, he’d have been terribly impressed, but thanks to efforts of a few determined historians and Beatles fans, we now have another interesting story to add to the history of members of the Beatles’ families … and the real heroes in those families.

© Copyright 2017 Philip Kirkland. No original part of this work may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.

Woodbine’s Boys – The Beatles And Their Unassuming Mentor

When we think of the 1950s, and the music that influenced the young Beatles, we think first of skiffle – a music with its roots in American jazz of the 1920s, but adapted and popularized in Britain by Lonnie Donegan. Next, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and above all, Elvis Presley, awoke the boys to the excitement and sheer energy of Rock & Roll, and we may think that the next stage, adding the influence of music hall and the American crooners, was The Beatles themselves, but this would overlook another influence on the unique sound that was to emerge in the early sixties, and which came from a very different source.

For a very brief period during 1957-58, calypso almost overtook Rock & Roll in popularity in the United States, finding its way to the other side of the pond. The young Beatles took notice, and John Lennon in particular absorbed the black influence in general. So much so that The Beatles’ debut album, Please Please Me, was as much a tribute to black American singers as it was a showcase for the emerging songwriting talent of Lennon and McCartney. Of the fourteen tracks on the disk, six were originally recorded by black artists, and a seventh, Ask Me Why, was Lennon’s attempt to emulate the sound of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

Calypso had been around in the USA for many years before – Hubert ‘The Lion’ Charles’s 1934 record, “Ugly Women” is often cited as the starting point, as it was the first recording in New York by a Trinidadian calypso singer, but during that brief period in the 1950s, the success of such songs as Harry Belafonte’s rendition of the traditional Jamaican song, ‘The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)’, and Norman Luboff’s calypso adaptation of “Yellow Bird”, led to artists as diverse as Rosemary Clooney, Hank Snow, Louis Armstrong and Chubby Checker jumping on the bandwagon.

The Empire Windrush, bring Lord Woodbine to the UK in 1948.

Lennon and McCartney’s first-hand introduction to this Caribbean music came a few years later through an older Trinidadian musician named Harold Adolphus Phillips. Phillips was was born on the 15th January 1929 as the fifth child of seven to a women from the island of Grenada and a Venezuelan father. Having ambitions to explore the world outside the Caribbean, Harold managed to sign up to serve in the British Royal Air Force during World War II. He was, in fact, only 14 years old but incredibly was able blag his way in by using his older brother’s passport. He remained in Britain for two years after the war before returning to Trinidad, where he started to sing calypso on the street. The following year, he returned to Britain on the SS Empire Windrush, among the first West Indian immigrants taking advantage of the British Nationality Act of 1948, which allowed citizens of British colonies free movement to the ‘motherland’. After spending some time with the other new arrivals at a shelter in London, Phillips moved to Shropshire where he had found work as a machine operator. He continued performing his calypso songs full of social commentary, gaining a reputation as an able songwriter. One of his popular creations was a song where he named characters after cigarette brands. The choice of working-class smokers of that time was the ‘Woodbine’ brand, to which his followers appended the faux-ennoblement beloved of many West Indian performers, and he became known as ‘Lord Woodbine’.

Lord Woodbine

Things happened quickly once Woodbine was back in England. He met and married, on 19th November 1948, his British-Nigerian wife, Helen Agoro (known as Ena), a jazz singer, whom he met at a talent contest. They went on to have eight children together, and moved to Liverpool, settling in the Toxteth area. The same year, he formed a group known as ‘Lord Woodbine and the Trinidadians’, later morphing into ‘The Cream of Trinidad’ with Ena on vocals. During the next few years he doubled up, playing his music in the evenings, and working during the day, variously as a truck driver, decorator, builder, clock repairer and carpentry teacher, among other jobs, until he branched out on his own in 1955, opening the ‘The New Colony Club’ in Berkeley Street. At the same time he formed the ‘All Caribbean Steel Band’ as resident group for his new club.

It was not long after this that Lord Woodbine’s influence on the fledgling Beatles began. In 1958, the ‘All Caribbean Steel Band’ started a residency at Allan Williams’ Jacaranda Club. Williams and Woodbine started working together, and noticed Lennon and McCartney hanging around both the New Colony Club and the Jacaranda, trying to see what they could learn from the black musicians, and Woodbine was happy to take them under his wing, leading to them being known by those same musicians as ‘Woodbine’s Boys’. Other black musicians from Toxteth had similar memories. An Irish guitarist originally from Somalia, Vinnie Tow attempted to teach Lennon how to play seventh chords like Chuck Berry, and Lennon was always pestering him to teach him other tricks he knew. The Guyanese guitarist, Zancs Logie, was another willing teacher, and in later life was proud of how he taught John Lennon to play guitar.

In 1960, Woodbine again changed clubs and band. Together with Williams, he started a strip joint called the ‘New Cabaret Artists Club’, and invited the Silver Beetles to back a stripper called Janice. He also created the ‘Rhythm Calypso Boys’, possibly the first electric calypso band in the country. Despite this, he embarked on a new venture as a promoter, and continued to work with the ‘All Caribbean Steel Band’, renamed the ‘Royal Caribbean Steel Band’. As well as Liverpool gigs, German promoters found them work in continental Europe, including Hamburg, thus planting the seed which would be the making of The Beatles. When Williams and Woodbine followed the band to Hamburg, they met Reeperbahn promoter, Bruno Koschmider, who asked them if they knew any other bands in Liverpool that could come to his clubs. The first was another black performer, Derry Wilkie, with his group, The Seniors. Their success started the ball rolling, and the newly named ‘Beatles’ came into consideration. The Seniors’ saxophonist, Howie Casey, was appalled at the idea, knowing the group as an amateurish ensemble that would ruin the reputation of Liverpool musicians in Hamburg. Williams and Woodbine, however, were convinced they were ready, with the proviso from Woodbine that they found a solution to their perennial drummer problem. Pete Best was hired, and the rest is history. Lord Woodbine travelled with John, Paul, George, Stuart Sutcliffe, Pete Best, Williams, and his wife, Beryl, and is pictured sitting between Beryl and Sutcliffe in the main photo of this article during a stop-off at the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery in the Netherlands.

After the success of The Beatles in Hamburg, and the rupture of their relationship with Williams due to them accepting another residency without involving him, the relationship with Lord Woodbine also largely came to an end and, according to many accounts, his part in the Beatles’ story was erased from history, not only by the public and Beatles’ writers, but also by the group themselves. Evidently this is not true, as during the Anthology project, McCartney commented about his influence on them, and remember him affectionately. Back in Livepool, Woodbine became manager of Williams’ ‘Blue Angel’ club and also started a second-hand shop. He also taught carpentry up until the 1990s. In 1965, he also had his own stab at finding national fame, appearing on the BBC talent show, ‘Opportunity Knocks’ with the ‘Royal Caribbean Steel Band’. In 1969, as a curious diversion from his artistic endeavours, he was the model for the Liverpool artist,  Arthur Dooley,  for The Resurrection of Christ sculpture at the Princes Park Methodist church in Toxteth. He also continued to play gigs in Liverpool with his band up until the 1980s.

On 5th July 2000, Lord Woodbine’s house at 3 Carlingford Close, Toxteth, caught fire, and both he and his wife perished. He was buried at Allerton Cemetry. The history books often talk of him as a peripheral figure in the Beatles’ story, but when we consider the musical and professional development of the group, we can see that he earned his right to take his place among, and possibly, above the dozens of figures that regularly feature in that story.

© Copyright 2017 Philip Kirkland. No original part of this work may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.

The Intriguing History Of Lennon’s Other Half-Sister, Ingrid Pedersen

John Lennon, of course, grew up as an only child with his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George, but in fact had five half-siblings at various stages of his life. It is well known that his mother, Julia, had two daughters with her, effectively, common-law husband, John ‘Bobby’ Dykins (she never divorced John’s father, Alf.) – Julia, born in 1947, and Jacqueline, born in 1949. Much later, he gained two half-brothers when his father had two boys with his second wife, Pauline Jones – David (1969), and Robin (1973). The story of the first of Lennon’s siblings, however, is surrounded in confusion, and conflicting facts.

As a merchant seaman, Alfred Lennon was absent for long periods during his marriage to Julia, and during the early childhood of John. One of Alf’s longest stints as sea began when he set sail in July 1943. Julia had been living for a short time with John and Alf before this at the ‘Dairy Cottage’ at 120a Allerton Road, property of Uncle George and close to his home in Menlove Avenue, and stayed there for much of 1943 with John, but eventually returned to the family home in Newcastle Road, close to Penny Lane, where she lived with her sister Annie – known as ‘Nanny’ – and their father, George ‘Pop’ Stanley. Julia had been living on money sent home by Alf, but this sustenance suddenly stopped when Alf was involved in a plot to steal some of the merchandise on board one of the vessels he was working on with a view to selling it on the black market, and was imprisoned.

Forced to find a way to make some money, Julia found work as a barmaid in a pub near Penny Lane, where she met, and started an affair with a soldier who was stationed in Liverpool, ‘Taffy’ Williams (his real first name has never been revealed to my knowledge). When, shortly after, Julia found herself pregnant, she initially claimed she had been raped by an unknown soldier, but eventually named Williams as the father. We shall later see that this leads to the first confusion in the story, but the conventional version cites Williams. He was willing to live with Julia and raise the child on the condition that John was found another home, something Julia was unwilling to do. Given the morals of the day, it would have brought shame on the family that an unmarried woman, or this case, a woman married to someone else, raise a child on her own, so George Stanley made other plans. Alf, too, offered to raise the child as his own, but Julia wanted him to take a conventional job that meant he’d be home like a normal father, which Alf didn’t want to do, so ‘Pop’ Stanley’s plan it had to be.

Julia would spend her pregnancy hidden away at Elmswood, a Salvation Army home in North Mossley Hill Road until the child was born, and the adoption of the baby would also be handled by the home, allowing Julia to return to everyday life ‘unsullied’. Elmswood had a normal private maternity unit, whose fees allowed poorer ‘fallen women’ to use the same facilities free of charge. In return, they were expected to act as unpaid servants doing a whole range of menial tasks – not far removed from the Victorian workhouses. It is clear from subsequent events that the four-year-old John knew nothing of the truth of what was happening to his mother. He was sent to live with his Uncle Sydney, Alf’s brother, in Maghull during this period, and we can only speculate about what he was told about the situation – most likely that his mother had an ‘illness’ and had to spend some time away from home. Given that John was an adult by the time he found out about his half-sister, it is also clear that he didn’t return to live with his mother until the baby had been adopted.

Julia gave birth to a daughter on 19th June 1945, whom she named Victoria Elizabeth (Lennon), not even including the father, whoever he was, on the birth certificate.

Copy of Birth Certificate of Victoria Elizabeth Lennon

A few short weeks after the birth, the adoption was arranged, to Margaret Pedersen, who was a friend of Julia’s and had been a bridesmaid at her wedding, and her Norwegian husband, Peder. The adoptive couple named her Lilian Ingrid Marie (or Maria) Pedersen – known as Ingrid. Julia wasn’t allowed to see the child, and was led to believe that the couple had returned to Norway to raise her. This is the story that is commonly told on various websites, but is not in fact true. Julia was probably told this version to prevent her from making any effort to contact Ingrid. The situation of living in the Salvation Army home, the degrading treatment, and having to give up her own flesh and blood, left Julia in a depressed state. Despite her sister Annie looking after her when she returned to the Stanley household, she refused to eat and began to look very thin and gaunt. As far as the Stanley family was concerned, however, this was the end of the matter, and Victoria/Ingrid was consigned to history. It is unlikely that Julia felt the same, and probably took her sadness over the loss of her daughter to her untimely grave in 1958.

Ingrid As a Child

Neither of Julia’s other children were told about their older half-sister, and in fact Julia Jr. was 38 years old when she found out – in an unfortunate way. During an interview with the Liverpool Echo’s Bill Smithies in the 1980s, Smithies made reference to her mother’s four children, which came as a surprise to her, thinking there were only three – John, Jackie, and herself. She eventually squeezed a confession out of her Aunt Annie, but was told to guard the Stanley family’s shameful secret.

As for John, most sources point to the fact that he was finally told he had another sister in 1964 by his Aunt Harriet, his mother’s sister, before Ingrid had found out that the now-famous Beatle was her half-brother. It is also said that John was keen to meet Ingrid, and hired private detectives to find her. Such was the covering up of events by the Stanley family, that John was obviously told the Norway story by his aunt, and the search was concentrated there, and according to Ingrid herself, for some inexplicable reason in Germany. In fact, they should have been looking much closer to home. Ingrid lived with her adoptive parents at 88 The Northern Road, Crosby, Liverpool 23 until the mid-fifties, when they moved south to Hampshire. John died in 1980 without knowing Ingrid.

Two years later, in 1966, Ingrid finally found out about her famous half-brother. She had been curious about her lack of resemblance to either of her parents in any case as a teenager, but wanting to marry her boyfriend, David Dennis, she needed her birth certificate. By her own account:

“I knew Mum kept a tin box in her wardrobe that contained family papers. When no one was around I opened it, trembling. I found a yellowing, dog-eared adoption paper that had been issued by Liverpool County Court. Then I saw my full name: Lillian Ingrid Maria Pedersen, and my birth date. Above that were the three words I had been looking for: Victoria Elizabeth Lennon – the name I was born with. My real mother’s name, Julia Lennon, was also there. I burst into tears.” 

Much as she wanted to contact John, a feeling that appears to have been mutual, out of loyalty to the people that had raised her, she vowed to hold her peace until her mother had passed away. Unfortunately for both parties – though obviously not for Margaret Pedersen! – her mother survived until 1998, and given that John had died 18 years previously, such a meeting never took place.

In Ingrid’s own words:

“As soon as I became aware that John was my brother I started to collect every cutting on him I could find and hid them in a drawer in my bedroom. I was terrified in case my parents found out. It would have been a betrayal of them.”

Curiously, she went on to say:

I felt I couldn’t contact John when my adoptive mother was still alive. I felt an incredible loyalty to her because I believe she knew I was dad’s real daughter and she took me in as her own daughter with no obvious resentment about his affair with Julia.

This leads to the possibility that Peder Pedersen was in fact Ingrid’s real father, and not Taffy Williams. This seems unlikely, given that Williams had offered, with conditions, to raise the child – unless Julia had lied to him to protect her friend, Margaret. Then, who had told Ingrid that Peder was her biological father? Indeed a web of ifs and buts that will probably never be resolved!
After unexpected finding out the truth in the 1980s, Julia Baird resisted looking for Ingrid out of respect for the Pedersens and Lennons, but did manage to speak to her by phone once Ingrid’s mother had died, and she had gone public. On 8th December 2000, a blue plaque was unveiled on the front of Mendips, John’s childhood home at 251 Menlove Avenue. Many members of the Lennon family attended the ceremony, and unexpectedly found that Ingrid had turned up as a member of the general public. According to Julia:

My cousin, Stanley Parkes, pointed out to me that Ingrid was hovering outside the house. We spoke to her and I walked up the road with her for a few minutes to talk. After the ceremony there was a reception at Liverpool Town Hall and I asked her to go with us. The cars were waiting and we had to go, but Ingrid and her companion didn’t come and sadly we haven’t seen her since”

Ingrid had spoken to the press in 1998 with the sole purpose, according to her, of contacting Yoko Ono and her nephews, Julian and Sean. Yoko did call her and they met a couple of times: once in London and once in New York. Ingrid has since written a book about her life entitled ‘My brother’s name is John’. She explained:

“I didn’t do it for the money, I just wanted to make adoptive families understand that a child has the right to know its origins.”

Ingrid Pedersen eventually retired from her job in a hospital and retired to France where she said, “There are fewer ghosts.”

A more recent picture of Ingrid in France

© Copyright 2017 Philip Kirkland. No original part of this work may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.