ALFRED LENNON

(14 December 1912 – 1 April 1976)

 

 

 

John Lennon’s father Alfred was born in Liverpool on December 14th 1912. Following the death of his father Jack from liver disease in 1921 the nine-year-old Alfred was placed in The Bluecoat School for orphans, where he remained until he was fifteen.

Upon leaving school Alfred took a job as an office clerk, and it was during this period that he met Julia Stanley - fourteen years old at the time - in Sefton Park. He chatted to her and asked her to sit with him, and she told him that she would on condition that he get rid of his silly bowler hat - whereupon he immediately threw it into the lake! The couple started dating and continued seeing each other over a period of ten years (in between Alfred's voyages abroad as a merchant seaman).

At the age of sixteen Alfred was drawn to the sea and he signed up as a ship's waiter. Between voyages he stayed at the Stanley household in Newcastle Road, Wavertree, during which time he taught Julia how to play the banjo.

It was Julia who finally suggested that they get married, which they did at Mount Pleasant Registry Office on December 3rd 1938. No member of either family was present, and after the ceremony the couple went to The Trocadero Cinema where they spent their ‘honeymoon’! Later that evening Julia went home to Wavertree and Fred returned to his digs. He left the next day on a three-month trip to The West Indies and was away at sea when John was born on October 9th 1940.

Whilst at sea Fred had made arrangements to have sums of money lodged to the company for which he worked, which Julia would collect from the company’s branch in Liverpool. By this time Fred had been promoted to ‘head waiter’ and during one particular New York voyage he was asked to report to a ship sailing back to Britain - in the capacity of assistant steward!

This ‘demotion’ angered him and he complained to the captain, who suggested that he ‘get drunk and miss the boat’, which is exactly what he did. For his actions he was interned on Ellis Island until another ship - this time sailing for North Africa - became available to him. It was during the ship’s stay in North Africa that Fred got arrested.

According to him one of the cooks asked him to collect a bottle of vodka from his cabin, and just as Fred was drinking from the bottle a party of police arrived to investigate reported theft on the ship - and arrested Fred for stealing the vodka!! He was jailed for three months and his money was stopped. Unable to provide financially for Julia he wrote her a letter suggesting that she enjoy herself by going out with other men! He lived to regret this suggestion because she took him up on it - and he lost her.

In 1945 Julia gave birth to another child which was adopted by a Norwegian couple. She moved in with her lover John Dykins, giving her son John into the care of her sister Mimi who lived at Menlove Avenue.

Docking at Southampton in the summer of 1946 Fred ‘phoned Aunt Mimi and asked if he could take John on a trip to Blackpool. Mimi felt that she couldn't refuse this request from the boy's father, and Fred took the five-year-old to stay in the seaside town, to a friend’s flat.

During the few weeks that they stayed in the resort Fred told John of his desire to take him to New Zealand. The idea of emigrating appealed to Fred because his friend was emigrating and because he was earning extra money through ‘black market’ deals.

When Julia arrived at the flat in Blackpool demanding that John be returned to her, Fred asked the boy whether he wanted to go to New Zealand with him or return to Liverpool with his mother. John initially opted for Fred's proposal, but when Julia left the house he changed his mind and ran after her. Fred did not see his son again for twenty years.

Upon her return to Liverpool Julia once more placed the boy into Mimi’s care.

In 1964 Fred, who had abandoned life on the ocean wave, was working as a porter in The Greyhound Hotel, Hampton, London for ten pounds a week. The Daily Express traced him and wanted to set up a meeting between him and his now-famous son John.

Fred went along to the set of ‘A Hard Day's Night’. John wouldn't talk to him, but asked him to leave his address upon his departure. John subsequently forwarded a letter to Fred at The Greyhound Hotel which began: 'Dear Alf, Fred, Dad, Pater, Father, Whatever', and enclosed £30.

John began sending Fred twelve pounds per week on a regular basis and the ex-seaman moved into a flat in Kew Gardens, basking in John’s limelight as a minor celebrity, having his life story printed in the weekly magazines and gracing the London nightspots. He even found himself a manager, Tony Cartwright, who co-wrote a song with him entitled 'That’s My Life', which was put out as a single in December 1965 by Pye Records on their Piccadilly label.

The company issued a press handout, which read:

'Fifty-three-year-old Freddie Lennon, father of John, has made his first record. It is entitled: ‘That’s My Life (My Love And My Home)’. 'Mr. Lennon has been an entertainer in an amateur capacity for most of his life.

He comes from a musical family. His father, who was one of the original Kentucky Minstrels, taught him to sing when he was young. Most of Freddie's childhood was spent in an orphanage, as he was born into a large family and in those difficult times parents could not afford to feed so many children.

At the orphanage Freddie always took a major part in concerts, played his harmonica to the other children and generally showed an inclination towards the stage. He once sang at a theatre but the orphanage authorities were dismayed at the thought of one of their boys going onto the stage, and Freddie’s early dreams were quickly dampened.

After leaving the orphanage at the age of fifteen Freddie worked in an office, but the call of the sea was strong and he joined his first ship as bell-boy at the age of sixteen. He stayed at sea for twenty-five years and travelled the world. Freddie was always connected with entertainment on board ship and has acted as compere, has produced numerous concerts, sang in New York clubs and has even conducted an orchestra in Lisbon. He has many interesting stories to relate about his adventures at sea.

At the age of twenty-five Freddie married and his son John was born three years later. John was the only child of the marriage.

When he finished working at sea twelve years ago Freddie took a job as a waiter, and he later worked in holiday camps at northern resorts. He came to live in London seven year ago. Over the years Freddie has always been interested in songwriting, but he never took it seriously. Six months ago he met Tony Cartwright who is now his manager. Together they wrote: ‘That's My Life (My Love And My Home)’ - a story about Freddie's life. The song was taken to a music publisher and was accepted, and subsequently recorded.'

By the close of 1967 father and son were reconciled and Fred often dropped around to John's house in Kenwood for a visit. A romantic relationship had begun between Fred and nineteen-year-old student Pauline Jones. (At 56 Fred was almost three times Pauline’s age).

When Fred proposed to Pauline her parents were furious and had her made a ward of court, but the pair eloped to Scotland where they married. They then went to live in Brighton in a flat for which John paid the rent. When their first son David was born they took the baby to see John at Tittenhurst Park. John threw them out, the meeting with his new half-brother evoking many painful memories for him.

Years later when Fred was dying John spoke to him by ‘phone from America on several occasions, even though his father could barely respond due to his illness. Alfred Lennon died from cancer on April 1st 1976. When John offered to pay the funeral expenses Pauline refused his help. John, tired of saying good-bye, did not attend the funeral.

Adapted from Bill Harry's 'The Beatles Encyclopedia', published by Virgin Publications.


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