Monday, July 20, 2009

Beatle People: Julia Lennon

Julia Stanley Lennon (née Stanley) (12 March 1914 – 15 July 1958) was the mother of John Lennon. Julia was known as 'Judy,' and was the fourth of five sisters. John was her first child and was the only child of her marriage to Alf Lennon. She later had one daughter (who was given up for adoption after pressure from her family) with 'Taffy' Williams, and then had two daughters; Julia and Jacqui, with John 'Bobby' Dykins.

Julia was known as being high-spirited and impulsive, but was also musical and had a strong sense of humor. She bought Lennon his first guitar and encouraged him musically, even though her sister, Mimi Smith, strongly disapproved. She kept in almost daily contact with Lennon, and when he was in his teens he often stayed overnight at her and Bobby Dykins' house.

Julia visited Mimi almost daily (even when Lennon was staying at her house) but shortly after leaving Mimi's house one evening Julia was struck down and killed by a car driven by an off-duty policeman who was drunk at the time, on 15 July 1958. She was buried in the Allerton Cemetery, in Liverpool.

The Stanley family

According to Lennon, the Stanley family once owned the whole of Woolton village. Julia's father, George Stanley, was born in the Everton district of Liverpool in 1874. Her mother, Annie Jane Millward, was born in Chester around 1875, to Welsh parents. Annie's mother hated "the devil's English". Annie gave birth to a boy and a girl, who both died shortly after birth, and then had Mary, known as 'Mimi' (1906-1991), Elizabeth 'Mater' (1908-1976), Anne 'Nanny' (1911-1988), Julia 'Judy' (1914-1958), and Harriet 'Harrie' (1916-1972).

George retired from sailing and found a job with the Liverpool and Glasgow Tug Salvage Company as an insurance investigator. He moved his family from 8 Head Street to the Liverpool suburb of Woolton, where they lived in a small terraced house at 9 Newcastle Road in the district of Penny Lane. Lennon would later comment that the 'Stanley girls' were "five, fantastic, strong, beautiful, and intelligent women." Annie Jane Stanley died in 1945, and Julia had to take care of her father with very little help from Mimi. The Stanley family had relatives in Eketahuna, New Zealand. Julia's maternal aunt, Harriet Millward, married and moved to New Zealand, and Mimi Stanley/Smith exchanged letters with her cousins over the years.

Alf "Freddie" Lennon

Alfred 'Freddie' Lennon—always called 'Alf' by his family—was always quick with a joke or a witty line, but never held a job for very long, as he preferred to visit Liverpool's many vaudeville theatres and cinemas, where he knew the usherettes by name. It was at the 'Trocadero' club, a converted cinema on Camden Road, Liverpool, that Alf first saw an auburn-haired girl with a bright smile and high cheekbones, Julia Stanley.

Alf saw Julia again in Sefton Park, where Alf had gone with a friend to pick up girls. Alf, who was dressed in a bowler hat and holding a cigarette holder, saw "this little waif" sitting on a wrought-iron bench. Julia (who was only 14 years old) said that Freddie's hat looked "silly", to which (the 15-year-old) Alf replied that Julia looked "lovely", and sat down next to her. Julia asked Alf to take off his hat, so Alf promptly took it off and threw it straight into the Sefton Park lake. A nephew later said that Julia could also "make a joke out of nothing", saying that Aunt 'Judy' (Julia) could have "walked out of a burning house with a smile and a joke."

Julia often caught the gaze of men in the street. She was attractive and full-figured, with large brown eyes, although standing only five feet two inches tall in high heels. She was always well-dressed and even went to bed with make-up on so as to look beautiful when she woke up. She frequented Liverpool's dance halls and clubs where she was often asked to dance in Jitterbug competitions with dockers, soldiers, sailors, waiters, and "late-night sharks." It was remarked that she could be as humorous as any man, and would sing the popular songs of the day at any time of day or night. It was said that her voice sounded like Vera Lynn's, whilst Alf specialized in impersonating Satchmo and Al Jolson. Julia played the ukelele, the piano accordion and the banjo (as did Alf) although neither pursued music professionally. They spent their days together walking around Liverpool and dreaming of what they would do in the future, like opening a shop, a pub, a cafe, or a club.

On 3 December 1938, eleven years after they had first met, Julia married Alf Lennon after she proposed to him, and not the other way around, as is traditional. They were married in the Bolton Street Register Office (none of Julia's family were there) and Julia wrote 'cinema usherette' on the marriage certificate as her occupation, even though she had never been one. They spent their honeymoon eating at Reece's restaurant in Clayton Square (which is where Lennon would later celebrate after his marriage to Cynthia Powell) and then went to a cinema. Julia walked into 9 Newcastle Road waving the marriage license and said, "There!—I've married him." This was an act of defiance against her father, who had threatened to disown her if she co-habitated with a lover. On their wedding night Julia stayed at the Stanley's house and Alf went back to his rooming house. The next day Alf went back to sea for three months, on a ship headed for the West Indies.

The Stanley family completely ignored Alf at first, believing him to be of "no use to anyone—certainly not our Julia." Julia's father demanded that Alf present something concrete to show that he could financially support Julia, but Freddie's only idea was to sign on as a Merchant Navy steward on a ship bound for the Mediterranean. He arrived back in Liverpool after only a few months at sea and moved into the Stanley home in Newcastle Road. He auditioned for local theatre managers as a 'ship's entertainer', but had no success. Julia found out that she was pregnant (with Lennon) in January of 1940. As the war had started Alf was sent to work as a merchant seaman during World War II, but sent regular paychecks to Julia, who was living with Lennon at 9 Newcastle Road. The checks stopped when Alf went AWOL in 1943.


Lennon was born on 9 October 1940 in the second-floor ward of the Oxford Street Maternity Hospital in Liverpool, during the course of a German air raid in World War II. Julia's eldest sister, Mimi, phoned the hospital and was told that Julia had given birth to a boy. Mimi made her way to the hospital during the air raid—dodging in and out of doorways to avoid the shrapnel—and running "as fast as my legs could carry me". Lennon was named after his paternal grandfather and Winston Churchill. Alf was not present at Lennon's birth, as he was away at sea.

Lennon started at his first school in November 1945—Mosspits on Woolton Road—so Julia found a part-time job at a café near the school so that she could take him to school, and then pick him up afterwards. After numerous criticisms from the Stanley family about the still-married Julia 'living in sin' with Bobby Dykins, and considerable pressure from Mimi—who twice contacted Liverpool's Social Services to complain about the infant Lennon sleeping in the same bed as Julia and Dykins—Julia reluctantly handed the care of Lennon over to Mimi.

In July 1946, Alf visited Mimi's house at 251 Menlove Avenue and took Lennon to Blackpool for a long holiday—although secretly intending to emigrate to New Zealand with him. Julia and Dykins found out and followed them to Blackpool. Alf asked Julia to go with them both to New Zealand, but Julia refused. After a heated argument Alf said the five-year-old Lennon had to choose between Julia or him. Lennon chose Alf (twice) and then Julia walked away, but in the end Lennon (crying) followed her. Alf lost contact with the family until Beatlemania, when he and Lennon met again.

Julia took Lennon back to her house and enrolled him in a local school, but after few weeks she handed him back to Mimi. Lennon then lived continuously at 'Mendips,' in the smallest bedroom above the front door. Julia later bought Lennon his first guitar for £10 19/6d—after he had pestered her incessantly for weeks—but insisted that it had to be delivered to her house and not to Mimi's. As Lennon had difficulty learning chords, she taught him banjo and ukelele chords, which were simpler. She also later taught Lennon how to play the piano accordion. She also played Elvis Presley's records to Lennon, and would dance around her kitchen with him.

In 1957, when The Quarrymen (before Paul McCartney and George Harrison joined) played at St. Barnabas Hall, Penny Lane, Julia turned up to watch them. After each song Julia would clap and whistle louder than everyone else, and was seen "swaying and dancing" throughout the whole concert. Lennon frequently visited Julia's house during that period, detailing his anxieties and problems, with Julia giving Lennon encouragement to stay with music over Mimi's objections.


During 1942-1943, Julia lived with Lennon at The Dairy Cottage; 120a Allerton Road, Woolton. The cottage was owned by Mimi's husband, George Smith, and Mimi wanted Julia to live there so they would be closer to her house, and would also be out of the Stanley's house. As Alf was often away at sea, Julia started going out to dance halls. In 1942, she met a Welsh soldier named Williams who was stationed in the barracks at Mossley Hill. Alf blamed himself for this, as he had written letters telling Julia that because there was a war on, she should go out and enjoy herself. After an evening out, Julia would often give the young Lennon a piece of chocolate or shortcrust pastry the next morning for breakfast. She became pregnant by Williams in late 1944, though first claiming that she had been raped by an unknown soldier. Williams refused to live with Julia—who was still married to Alf—until she gave up Lennon, which Julia refused to do. When Alf eventually came home in 1944 he offered to look after Julia, Lennon, and the expected baby, but Julia rejected the idea.

Alf took Lennon to his brother Sydney's house, in the Liverpool suburb of Maghull, a few months before Julia came to term. Julia gave birth to a daughter, Victoria Elizabeth, in the Elmswood Nursing Home on 19 June 1945 Victoria was subsequently given up for adoption to a Norwegian Salvation Army Captain (Peder and Margaret Pedersen) after intense pressure from Julia's family. Lennon was not told about Victoria—who was later re-named Ingrid Marie—and supposedly never knew of her existence. When Victoria/Ingrid was 53-years-old, she was interviewed by a British tabloid newspaper and revealed that she found out that she was related to Lennon in 1966 (when she was a nurse) as she wanted to get married and had to produce her birth certificate.

John Albert "Bobby" Dykins

Julia started seeing Dykins a year after Victoria's birth (although they had known each other before) when she was working in the café near Lennon's primary school, Mosspits. Dykins was a good-looking, well-dressed man who was several years older than Julia and worked at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool as a wine steward. Julia later moved into a small flat in Gateacre with Dykins. He enjoyed luxuries, and had access to rationed goods like alcohol, chocolate, silks and cigarettes, which was what attracted Julia to him. The Stanley sisters called him "Spiv", because of his pencil-thin moustache, margarine-coated hair, and pork-pie hat, but the young Lennon called him "Twitchy" because of a physical tic/nervous cough that Dykins had. Julia's family and friends remembered that Dykins also had a fiery temperament, which could result in his being violent when drunk. Lennon remembered Julia once visiting Mimi's when her face was bleeding after being hit by Dykins.

Paul McCartney later admitted to being sarcastic to Lennon about Julia living in sin with Dykins while she was still married. (Although Julia never divorced Alf, she was considered to be the Common-law wife of Dykins). Julia wanted Lennon to live with them both, but he was passed between the Stanley sisters, and often ran away to Mimi's where she would open the door to find Lennon standing there, "his face covered in tears."

Julia was accused by the family of being frivolous and unreliable—she never enjoyed household chores—and was once seen sweeping the kitchen floor with a pair of knickers on her head. Her cooking methods were also haphazard; she would mix things "like a mad scientist", and even put tea "or anything else that came to hand" in a stew. A favorite joke of Julia's would be to wear a pair of spectacles that had no glass in them, and then to scratch her eye through the empty frame.

Dykins later managed several bars in Liverpool, which allowed Julia to stay at home and look after their two daughters and Lennon, who often visited and stayed overnight, at 1 Blomfield Road, Liverpool. Lennon and Paul McCartney would later rehearse in the bathroom of the house where the acoustics "sounded like a recording studio." Dykins used to give Lennon weekly pocket money (one shilling) for doing odd jobs, on top of the five shillings that Mimi gave him. In December 1965, Dykins was killed in a car crash at the bottom of Penny Lane. Lennon was not told about his death for months afterwards, as it was "not [Stanley] family business."

Julia and Jacqui

Julia later had two daughters with Dykins: Julia (b. 5 March 1947) and Jacqueline (Jacqui) Dykins (b. 26 October 1949) As Jacqui was born prematurely, Julia went to the hospital everyday to see her. When Lennon was 11-years-old, he started to visit the Dykins' house and often stayed there overnight. Julia Dykins would give up her bed to him, and share Jacqui's bed. Julia remembered that after Lennon had visited them, her mother would often play a record called, My Son John, To Me You Are So Wonderful, "by some old crooner, and sit and listen to it." (Julia probably meant "My Son John"—sung by David Whitfield—which was released in 1956). After Julia's death, the two girls (aged eleven and eight) were sent to stay in Edinburgh at Aunt Mater's, and were told two months later by Norman Birch (Lennon's uncle) that their mother had died. After the success of The Beatles Lennon bought a 4-bedroom house in Gateacre Park Drive, Liverpool, for Jacqui and Julia to live in with Lennon's Aunt Harriet and Uncle Norman, who were earlier made the legal guardians of the girls—ignoring Dykins' parentage, as he had never legally married Julia. After Lennon's death and Harriet died, Yoko wanted to sell the house—as it was still in Lennon's name—but later gave it to the Salvation Army on 2 November 1993, even though Lennon had once written a letter, saying:
“I always thought of the house he's in [Norman] as my contribution towards looking after Julia and Jacqui. I would prefer the girls to use it.”

When she was older, Jacqui moved in with Mimi for a time when Mimi was living in Poole, but left after she became pregnant. She later reappeared when she became pregnant for the second time, and asked Mimi for money. Julia and Jacqui have both publicly said that they wished Lennon had "never seen a guitar."

Julia and Jacqui later met Victoria/Ingrid when they were present at the ceremony to place a Blue Heritage plaque on Mimi's house, commemorating the fact that Lennon had lived there. Stan (Julia's cousin) was up the ladder fixing the plaque to the wall and said, "I think I can see Ingrid" (walking towards the house). This was a surprise to Julia and Jacqui, as it meant that Stan had seen Ingrid before, even though Julia and Jacqui had not. When all three finally met for the first time Julia was shocked that Ingrid did not look anything like the Stanley family, as she had pale blue eyes and fair hair.


Julia visited Mimi's house nearly every day, where they would chat over tea and cakes in the morning room or stand in the garden when it was warm. On the evening of 15 July 1958, Nigel Whalley went to visit Lennon and found Julia and Mimi talking by the front gate. Lennon was not there, as he was staying at Julia's house in Blomfield Road. Whalley accompanied Julia to the bus stop further down Menlove Avenue, with Julia cracking jokes along the way. At about 9:30, Whalley left her and she crossed the road to the central reservation between the two traffic lanes, which was lined with hedges that covered disused tram tracks. Five seconds later, Whalley heard "a loud thud," and turned to see Julia's body "flying through the air"—Julia's body landed about 100 feet from where she had been hit. He ran back to get Mimi and they waited for the ambulance, with Mimi crying hysterically.

Julia was struck and killed by a Standard Vanguard car (LKF 630) driven by an off-duty constable, PC Eric Clague, who was a learner-driver. Clague later said: "Mrs. Lennon just ran straight out in front of me. I just couldn't avoid her. I was not speeding, I swear it. It was just one of those terrible things that happen." Clague was acquitted of all charges and given a short suspension from duty. When Mimi heard the verdict she was so incensed that she shouted "Murderer!" at Clague. Clague later left the Police force and became a postman. Ironically, in 1964, part of his round was to deliver bags of fan mail to the McCartney's house at 20 Forthlin Road, after The Beatles became successful.

Lennon could not bring himself to look at Julia's corpse when he was taken to view it at the Sefton General Hospital, and was so distraught that he put his head on Mimi's lap throughout the funeral service. Lennon refused to talk to Whalley for months afterwards, and Whalley felt that Lennon somehow held him responsible. Julia's death traumatized the teenage Lennon, and contributed to the emotional difficulties that haunted him for much of his life. Julia's memory inspired songs such as "Julia," "Mother," and "My Mummy's Dead." Lennon's first son, Julian, was named after her.

Julia was buried in the Allerton Cemetery, in Liverpool. Her gravesite is unmarked, but it was recently identified as "CE (Church of England) 38-805." The graveyard's location is approx. 1.19 miles east of 1 Blomfield Road. Baird recently said that the Stanley family hopes to finally put a headstone on Julia's grave, which she said will be a private affair for the family and not for the public.


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