Skeleton in Lennon’s cupboard
Feb 5 2007
Chief feature writer Paddy Shennan talks to John Lennon’s half-sister, Julia Baird who has unearthed an incredible family secret about their Aunt Mimi
by Paddy Shennan, Liverpool Echo
http://icliverpool.icnetwork.co.uk/0800 ... _page.html
IT’S tempting to groan very loudly, mourn the waste of so much paper – and say: “Oh flip, not another Beatles book.”
But, apart from the fact she’s family, there are two good reasons why we should indulge John Lennon’s half-sister, Julia Baird:
Her main aim is to speak up for, and set the record straight about, their late mother, Julia.
She reveals that Aunt Mimi, who began bringing up John in her so-called “House of Correction” from the age of five, after he had been removed from his mother’s so-called “House of Sin” ... had a secret toy boy lover!
It’s a bit like being told Emily Bishop had a passionate fling with Jason Grimshaw.
“I haven’t done it to be horrible to Mimi, but to exonerate my mother,” says Julia, who was six years John’s junior. She was 11 in 1958, when Julia snr was knocked down and killed close to Mimi’s home, Mendips, in Woolton.
Of one of the ultimate family skeletons, she adds: “No one knew. She was living a completely secret life.”
Julia and her sister, Jackie, two years her junior, who grew up in Allerton, were the two daughters born to Julia and her partner, John Albert Dykins (known as Bobby). John’s father, Alfred, was a ship’s waiter who went AWOL, leaving Julia and 18-month-old John penniless.
Julia was forced to give up another – secret – daughter for adoption, following her affair with a Welsh soldier. Victoria Elizabeth was born in 1945, two years before Julia, and renamed Ingrid by her adoptive parents ... Julia only learned about her existence, during an interview with a Daily Post and ECHO journalist, when she was 38.
She says: “I decided to write the book because I was sick of hearing my mother being blamed for things and being called irresponsible and flippant.”
The journey of amazing discovery regarding Aunt Mimi began in 1997, when Julia visted her Aunt Anne, one of her mother’s five sisters, whom she and John called Nanny. Anne, then 84 and nearing the end of her life, suggested that “Something was going on” and Mimi had been planning to move to New Zealand.
Mimi’s husband, George, died in 1955 and, during her research, Julia found herself sharing a coffee in an Albert Dock cafe with the man who lodged at Mendips between 1951 and 1960 – the man who became Mimi’s lover in 1956. And yes, there had been talk about them moving to New Zealand.
Bio-cohemistry student Michael Fishwick, now in his 70s, was 24 when the affair began – Mimi was 50 (although she told Michael she was 46). Added to this, Mimi, for some reason, apparently remained a virgin throughout her married life – a situation which changed in her 50s.
“I was asking him about ordinary, everyday life at Mendips – I didn’t suspect for a single second,” says Julia.
But had Nanny been onto something – and would Michael know? She took a chance and asked him: “Who was Mimi’s boyfriend?” Though she stresses: “If he had said ‘Don’t be silly’ I would have simply thought Nanny had got it wrong. I don’t know why he told me, but I’m glad he did. It unravelled so much.
“I think he realised my distress about my mother. I think he did it for me. He’s a very honourable man.”
Julia was flabbergasted. But what about John – who was 16 in 1956 and eager to spend as much time as possible with his mum and two half-sisters in the so-called “House of Sin”?
“He would have walked out straight away, wouldn’t he?” says Julia. “I can’t put words in his mouth, but he would have left. Mimi had John there under false pretences. She had stolen him from his mother for moralistic reasons, because she was living in a common-law marriage – and then she’s sleeping with a 24-year-old student! All our lives could have been so different.
“I think Mimi was envious of my mother, who was the favourite of my grandfather. She was bubbly, beautiful and talented.”
Julia also describes her musical mother, who taught John how to play the banjo, as being the seed for the birth of The Beatles: “Absolutely! The original Beatles were Julia and John.”
Much of the 1960s, of course, were a blur of Beatlemania, while her world-famous brother marked the 1970s by setting up home in New York, with second wife Yoko Ono.
Keeping in contact wasn’t easy – at one point in the book, Julia describes how she was sent packing from the Apple offices by a receptionist who didn’t believe she was John’s sister.
But she especially treasures a series of phone conversations with John, circa 1975: “They were special times; absolutely lovely. And all our talk was focused on our mother.”
Then, not long after John and Yoko’s son, Sean, was born, in the October of that year, the calls and letters from John stopped. And it seemed impossible to get hold of him: “I think they had waited long and hard for Sean and I think he became the primary carer – and we all know that’s totally engrossing.”
But Julia has her priceless memories – and now the chance to tell it like it was.
“This book has been the most cathartic thing I’ve ever done,” she says. “And now it’s finished and I have credited my mother’s account. I feel I have done my mother justice.”
Indeed. And Mimi, ‘eh! Who’d have thought it?