Happy Birthday John.
Oct. 9 1940
We still love and miss you.
Thanks for the joy and inspiration.
You were a rebel from the beginning and could not have been any other way. You got your survival instincts from your grandparents, who were from County Tyrone, and Dublin, Ireland. After you were born, during the second world war in Liverpool England, you lived with your Mother Julia. Irishman Alfred Lennon, your father, was a merchant seaman and was away at sea when you were born. He sent money every month for you and your Mother, but the checks stopped when he went absent without leave in 1944. When he eventually came home six months later, he offered to look after the family, but your Mother rejected the idea.
When your aunt Mimi complained to Liverpool's Social Services, your Mother handed you over to her. In July 1946 your father visited your aunt and took you on a day trip to Blackpool, secretly intending to emigrate to New Zealand. Your Mother followed and after a heated argument your father forced you to choose between them. You twice chose your father, but as your Mother walked away, you began to cry and followed her. It would be 20 years before you had contact with your father again. I believe that was the defining event in your life and set you on the road.
You were outspoken and always stood up for the underdog. You supported the Irish struggle for equality and wearing disguise, went to Ireland to take part in Civil Rights Marches. You will always be the classic Working-Class Hero, John. We go every year to the Strawberry Field in New York’s Central Park. There, we gather around the Imagine circle and remember you.
We still love and miss you John.
Thank you for the joy and inspiration.
Lennon's grandfather, John (Jack) Lennon was born in Dublin in 1858, and like so many Irish people emigrated to Liverpool to seek better prospects of employment. There Jack married an Irishwoman called Mary Maguire and started a family. Sadly, their children, including Alfred (Johns Father), were orphaned early on and grew up in Liverpool orphanages. The Irish side of Johns family came from a long line of minstrel singers and crooners. His grandfather Jack had earned his living as a minstrel singer, and his great-grandfather was also a known singer in Ireland. His father Alfred Lennon had also earned extra money singing as a young man. The Lennon family tradition of crooning, continued with John Lennon.
John & Yoko bought Dorinish Island off the coast of Co. Mayo in 1967. Lennon revealed to friends his plan to build a home and retire there. In a 1971 interview, John stated: “I told Yoko that’s where we’re going to retire, and I took her to Ireland. We went around Ireland a bit and we had a sort of second honeymoon there. So I was completely involved in Ireland.”
As biographer Jon Wiener aptly stated in ‘Come Together: John Lennon in His Time’, John “thought of himself as Irish.” His 1972 solo LP, Some Time In New York City, stepped out courageously in protest of Northern Ireland and British internment of Irish without trial (a practice begun on 9th August 1971), offering two songs – “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “The Luck of the Irish” - as Lennon’s undiluted anthems for Irish rights. In “Luck of the Irish". Lennon held nothing back in his anger and resentment. All royalties from both “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Luck of the Irish” were donated by John and Yoko to Irish civil rights organisations in both New York and Ireland.
As the years passed, his passion for Ireland only increased. On 5 February 1972, John took to the streets of New York with Jerry Rubin and 5,000 supporters protesting outside the offices of British owned airlines 'BOAC'. In protest of Britain’s practices in Ireland, John wanted to stand tall and be counted in the cause. And that Irish ardor only increased. John’s use of the term “our marches” in interviews shows his “all-in” involvement with the Irish movement at the time.
Risking his reputation by speaking out (and singing loud) for Ireland, (both “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Luck of the Irish” were banned by the BBC and John’s latter appearances were picketed by Loyalist groups), John Lennon stood his ground for Ireland, the verdant land from which his family sprang. Whether you spell his surname Ó Lionain, Ó Leannian, or Lennon, the name still comes from the Gaelic term 'leannan' meaning “lover or paramour.” And nothing could be more appropriate. John loved Ireland with a passion that only amplified as he matured and aged.
Many thanks to Rare Irish Stuff and Patrick Kavanagh for some of the info in this article.
From Liverpool he sallied forth
with a soul both free and mystified.
The wide world now to see the worth
of raw sounds from the Merseyside.
Young and brash with a poet's eye
from the heart the words soon burst.
Penny Lane and The Walrus am I,
Imagine the place where love comes first.
Hamburg town in the heat of night
honed the skills for future sound.
Cavern dark, full of magic sight,
one full hot set, for one full pound.
The sergeant smiled his cheeky grin,
Eleanor never bride fulfilled.
Get back from the land of Lenin,
Strawberry Fields, then love fulfilled.
From Tokyo a girl so fine,
Yes! Was her word when two hearts meet.
Plastic Ono, New York in true rhyme,
soon the word was out on the street.
To Belfast town and its cruel plight
Dressed in garb that hid his might
He came to march for their civil rights
Then slipped away in the Irish night.
A primal scream from deep within
White suit gave Peace a Chance.
Mind Games were the biggest sin
Power to the People the only stance.
But a Jealous Guy at the park did lay
Came all the way from Pele’s ground.
John is gone, now we all must pray,
the Dakota still echoes with the sound.
‘Mother you had me, but I never had you.’
© John A. Brennan 2021. All Rights Reserved.