In 1962 four Liverpool musicians came together and formed what we now know as The Beatles…the most successful musical act in history. Liverpool is known for its large Irish population, and three of the Beatles had solid Irish links.
John Lennon had Irish ancestry through his father’s family the Lennons. John’s grandparents were both born in Dublin, Ireland: John (Jack) Lennon and Mary Anne “Polly” Maguire. Previous Lennon ancestry goes back to Co. Down, Northern Ireland.
(photo from John Lennon FB. John recording during the sessions for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album at Abbey Road Studios in 1967.)
Paul McCartney had Irish ancestry on both his mother and father’s side. His maternal grandfather, Owen Mohan, was born in Tullynamalrow, Co. Monaghan. It’s not known where in Ireland the McCartneys came from but either his grandfather or great grandfather emigrated to Scotland from Ireland before settling in Liverpool.
(photo taken by Henry Grossman. Paul recording during the sessions for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album at Abbey Road Studios in 1967.)
George Harrison also had a solid connection to Ireland through his grandparents the French’s who lived in County Wexford, Ireland.
(photo taken by Henry Grossman. George Harrison recording during the sessions for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album at Abbey Road Studios in 1967.)
The four Beatles as we know them, George, Ringo, Paul & John all were born within 3 years of each other in Liverpool, England. Liverpool is sometimes referred to as the “real capitol of Ireland” with a large portion of its population claiming some Irish ancestry; the city even had Irish speaking districts. Besides having some Irish connections in their own families, it would be hard to come from Liverpool in those days without some sense of Irish identity.
The Beatles played Ireland for the first time on November 7, 1963 with two shows at the Adelphi in Dublin. The next night they played Belfast, Northern Ireland at the Ritz. They returned to Belfast for two shows on November 2, 1964 at King’s Hall. In 1966 John & Cynthia Lennon, his first wife and George Harrison and Pattie Boyd, George’s future wife spent the Easter weekend at Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland.
John Lennon actually purchased an island, Dorinish, in Clew Bay, County Mayo in 1967. He had always planned to build a home there and was investigating that process when he died in 1980. Locals in Ireland call the place Beatle Island.
During the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland John Lennon took a strong stance against England’s involvement in Northern Ireland. In his 1972 solo LP “Some Time in New York City” he wrote two songs about Northern Ireland, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” and “the Plight of the Irish”. The songs were banned in Britain by the BBC and were made popular by Irish Republicans. This is interesting in the fact that John Lennon’s own mother survived an IRA bombing in England. Julia Lennon was working in the Trocadero Cinema on May 3, 1939 when an IRA bomb went off.
Paul McCartney (and the Wings) had his own hit with “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” which was written the day after the Bloody Sunday event on January 30, 1972. It included Irish guitar player Henry McCullough who was from Northern Ireland. The song reached number 1 in Ireland and in Spain but was banned by the BBC and Radio Luxemburg. Despite being banned it reached #16 in the UK charts and #21 in the U.S. Billboard Top 100.
2017 marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. This psychedelic masterpiece took rock music to a whole new level, by combining pieces from several genres such as classical, big band and Indian music and adding experimental sounds, which created a new and revoluntionary listening experience. The innovative album spent 15 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts and went on to sell moer than 11 million copies in the U.S. and over 5 million in the U.K.
The Beatles music will be celebrated at a show at Milwaukee Irish Fest through collaboration between We Banjo 3 and Skerryvore, two very successful touring bands from Ireland & Scotland respectively. They will be joined on stage by musical friends in a celebration of The Beatles – Celtic Style!