The true tale of John Lennon’s mum revealed in Walton author's book
By Alistair Houghton
Aug 29, 2014
Kevin Roach says many don’t know the true story of Julia Lennon, and he hopes his new interactive book will set the record straight
Liverpool author Kevin Roach with John Lennon's half-sister Julia Baird
Most Beatles fans know stories about John Lennon’s mother Julia, whose early death in 1958 scarred him for life and inspired his music.
On his 1970 song Mother, he sang “You had me but I never had you”.
But Kevin Roach says many don’t know the true story – and he hopes his new interactive book, Julia, will set the record straight.
Walton-born Kevin, who has already written about George Harrison and Paul McCartney, wanted to tell the hidden story of John’s roots rather than repeating stories of John’s fame.
He says that the idea of Julia as an irresponsible “good-time girl” who couldn’t look after her son came from Aunt Mimi, who raised John in her house in Menlove Avenue.
But over time a more nuanced portrait of Julia has emerged, helped by John’s half-sister Julia Baird publishing her story in Imagine This in 2007.
So Kevin decided to produce a book dedicated to Julia Lennon, delving into Liverpool’s archives to learn her family history and speaking to Julia Baird and others who knew John and his mother.
And rather than confining the story to print, Kevin has brought it into the digital age by commissioning videos and even original songs to go with the book. Readers can find them by using their smartphone to scan QR codes dotted through the text.
The book has been edited and published by Kevin’s wife, Julie.
She says: “People were saying to Kevin, ‘When are you going to do a John Lennon book?’
“He said ‘I’m not doing that’. Then I said ‘let’s not do that, let’s do a Julia Lennon book’.
“A book is no good unless you have new information. All these stories get repeated with one or two words different. It needed something different.”
In Julia, Kevin goes into detail on the rows between Julia, her father George and her sister Mimi, as well as her relationships with men.
Julia Stanley’s family never approved of her relationship with Alf Lennon, and they eventually married in secret.
But merchant seaman Alf deserted her after baby John was born. As World War II continued, she had a brief affair that left her pregnant – but she was forced by her father to give up that baby for adoption.
She later met another man, John “Bobby” Dykins, but her sister Mimi disapproved. Eventually, after Mimi reported Julia to social services, Mimi won custody of John.
Julia had two children with Bobby and later became close to John again, sharing her passion for music.
But in 1958, she died after being hit by a car in Menlove Avenue.
Later in life John remarked that he had lost his mother twice – once at five, when he was sent to live with his aunt, and once at 17 when she died.
Julie says: “Julia’s been seen as a bit of a good-time girl really.”
Kevin adds: “All these stories came from Mimi. She had carte blanche to say what she wanted to say.”
Kevin has also discovered that Julia’s third child, Julia, was registered twice when she was born in 1947 – both as Julia Dykins and as Julia Lennon. As the book says, “how this can be the case is baffling”. The same happened with Julia’s fourth child, registered as both Jacqueline Dykins and Jacqueline Lennon.
Julia, now Julia Baird, helped Kevin by proof-reading the book and digging into the Stanley family archives. It was also read pre-publication by Rod Davis, John Lennon’s friend and member of The Quarrymen.
The book was launched last week at St Peter’s Church Hall in Woolton – where famously, in 1957, John and his fellow Quarrymen met Paul McCartney for the first time.
Kevin’s previous books have seen him become a regular at Beatles events, and his travelling inspired the interactive elements of his latest work.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the States promoting my books,” he says. “I was travelling around New York and kept seeing these QR codes.”
So Kevin decided to add the codes to his book. When readers scan them in, they are taken to new content online, including picture galleries and videos of two new songs by Liverpool band Phoenix of Avalon.
Kevin says one of the songs, Paradise Way, “sums up Julia’s relationship with her children, her father and the men in her life.” And the song sparked memories for Julia Baird.
Julie says: “She told us her mother often used to speak about Paradise Street. We didn’t know that story – it was pure coincidence.”
JULIA (Beatles Liverpool and More Publishing), £14.99, is on sale at Amazon and Waterstones or through www.beatlesliverpoolandmore.com