Uncle Charlie (Lennon)

By Bill Harry  

Bill Harry and Charlie LennonThere was always the suspicion in my mind that the oft-repeated tale that Freddie Lennon had deserted his son John was a rather one-sided account. Hunter Davies admitted that although he had interviewed Freddie for the official biography, the veto conditions meant that John's aunt Mimi could intervene to prevent Freddie's side of the story being told. I had met with Charlie Lennon on a couple of occasions and after reading Julia Baird's 'John Lennon My Brother', I decided to write to Charlie and enquire about his family history.

Julia (albeit with the aid of Geoffrey Giuliano) had written about John's family tree, commenting, "Jack Lennon, his Dublin-born grandfather, was a professional entertainer and a musical all-rounder who could sing, dance and play the banjo."

"He was born in 1855 and brought up in Liverpool where his parents emigrated when he was a baby. Then he too emigrated to find his fortune in America with his Irish bride Mary Maguire. He succeeded modestly in Vaudeville and became one of the founding members of the famous Kentucky Minstrels. He retired home to Liverpool, reasonably prosperous but certainly no superstar, and in 1912, at the age of 57, helped Mary produce the son who was to become our family's greatest source of worry. He was Alfred, or 'that Alf Lennon', which is all I ever heard my aunt's call him. In fact, I have never heard a good word said about him."

"Alf's mother died during the birth of her third child."

Charlie Lennon, second from left, playing harmonica with an unidentified group of players in the early to mid-1960s. The boy in front, who may be the son of Charlie's sister, Edith Lennon Jones, is playing a 'Tommy Steele' ukulele I was puzzled by this as it differed from the researches I had made which seemed to indicate that John Lennon, a ship's cook, and his wife, Elizabeth Lennon, nee Morris, immigrated to America with their two sons, Jack (John's paternal grandfather) and his brother. For a time Jack joined Andrew Roberton's Kentucky Minstrels, touring extensively across the United States and in later years married an American girl. Jack's brother was ordained a priest and his ministry was in Wallasey, Cheshire.

Jack returned to Liverpool with his American wife, who died in childbirth. He became a shipping clerk and settled in a terraced house at 27 Copperfield Street (an area where all the streets were named after characters in Charles Dickens novels). The former minstrel also began to entertain in local pubs. He then employed Mary Maguire, known as Polly, as his housekeeper and they were later married. Jack died of a liver disease in 1921.

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