Life with Lennon
By Jennifer Hawley
Julia Baird talks about growing up as John Lennon's half sister in 1950's Liverpool and the story of their mother Julia Lennon.
The book redresses the balance of your mother who has been painted dreadfully by other authors
“She has... people who haven’t spoken to me. Haven’t spoken to my sisiter, haven’t spoken to the people where we lived and therefore they’ve written things and other researchers go to their research... which wasn’t researched and they start from there – so how can they be right?
She had a baby to a seaman and while he was away she had an affair with somebody and had an illegitimate child and then went to live somewhere else and had more children.
She started seeing Alf Lennon at 14 and he was at sea from basically two years after that, and between 14 and 24 I think it was she remained totally and utterly faithful to him.
“It was the old fashioned courtship”
And he was never home. So she must have had opportunities galore because she was a very attractive woman?
“And she didn’t”
It took 10 years of a lot of ups and downs. She had John and she fell for this guy and they had a brief affair and she had a child she was forced to have adopted?
“Absolutely forced, and Alf had only come back three times in that five years since John was born. John was born in October 1940, he wasn’t there. It wasn’t his fault he was at sea, but he wasn’t there when John was born. And my mother met a Welsh soldier, we think, to the best of my knowledge towards the end of 1944 and Victoria was born in June 1945. It was a very, very brief fling with tragic consequences”.
And the baby had to be adopted because your grandparents, they were typical of 1950’s mentality, because you were a middle class family?
And the shame as far as they were concerned was dreadful?
“It was the curse of the middle classes wasn’t it. Kate Adie has written a book about this and she said that one in something like seven or nine children born in 1945 were out of wedlock and that the middle classes had them adopted on the whole and the working classes brought the children in as siblings. Well I know what I’d rather have had, and my mother.
“My grandmother had died in 1941 and my aunt that talked to me all the time said if ‘Mama’, they called her, had been alive the baby would never had gone. Never.”
When John was first born he lived at home in Newcastle Road with your grandparents and then Alf came home. He didn’t see John until he was three did he?
“I think 18 months old was his first visit and then he went back to sea. What happened in that time was that my mother had seen Alf obviously nine months before John was born, then the next time was when he was 18 months old. Within that time when John was about one, her money stopped. She used to go down to the seaman’s mission at the bottom of James Street and collect eight shillings a fortnight
But he got reported as having jumped ship?
"He’d gone AWOL and there’d been no explanation and they were looking for him so the first thing they did back in England is stop any money. So she just went down one day and it was ‘there is no money for you’. So she was living with her father who was on a pension and with herself and John, with no money, so my mother had to go out and get a job, and she did in the Abbey Cinema as an usherette”
To listen to Julia Baird talk more about growing up John Lennon's sister click on the audio and video links.
last updated: 21/05/2008 at 16:04