I wrote to Charlie again, but didn't receive a reply. Scott Wheeler, who became a very close friend of Charlie's and videotaped him on numerous occasions over ten years, explained, "The reason you didn't receive a response to your second letter was due to the state of his eyesight. He had developed a severe case of cataracts by that time - the kind that turn blue eyes that milky blue colour that I'm sure you've seen - and he had never cared about replacing his National Health eyeglasses after they were damaged in his 1989 bus accident."
The answers to my questions are still in the air, particularly as Alfred Lennon's own notes on his life differed in some ways from both Charlie's and Julia's.
For instance, Alfred believed that his father had been born in Dublin and was actually christened John Lennon, but was more popularly known as Jack. He was to write, "The Lennon's of Dublin were Roman Catholics, and Jack's brother, having been ordained as a priest, had a ministry in Wallasey, Cheshire. He eventually left the Church for reasons which were never made public, although rumour had it that his relationship with his housekeeper may have been behind his dismissal.
"When living in the USA Jack married and had a family, but when his wife died he returned to Liverpool with his youngest daughter, Mary."
This was a further puzzle to me. If Jack Lennon had a family, what happened to them? If Mary was his 'youngest' daughter, that implies there was at least an elder daughter. Also, if he brought Mary to Liverpool, what happened to her? Other reports had said that it was in Liverpool that Jack's American wife had died. If Fred believed that his father had been born in Dublin, why did Charlie believe he had been born in Northern Ireland?
Fortunately, Scott Wheeler has come to my aid on some of the points. Much of the information will be in a forthcoming book by Scott.
Scott is from Boston, but became extremely close to Charlie on his many visits to Liverpool and spent numerous hours videotaping his story. In 2002, he told me, "In recent years the people closest to Charlie were myself and my UK tour manager, Les Evans of Wavertree, who met Charlie through his association with me. Charlie officially listed Les as his next of kin, and so it was that Les inherited Charlie's possessions and his cremation ashes earlier this year. Twelve days ago, the day before the festival, Les and I scattered the better part of Charlie's ashes into the Mersey from the stern of a Mersey Ferry, in accordance with Charlie's stated wishes. Charlie told Les, "Just make sure I have me cap on when I go to see our John."
Looking through Charlie's possessions, Scott came across the last letter I'd written to Charlie and commented, "I'm pleased to report that I can provide you with Charlie's answers to at least a few of the questions you have posed in your letters to Charlie and to me regarding the Lennon family. Unfortunately, there are still so many gaps in the story that are waiting to be filled in.
"I dearly wish Charlie had brought to my attention the letter of enquiry you wrote to him in March 2000 - had he done so I surely would have made a point of getting him to answer all of your questions on-camera, for my own archival enrichment as well as yours. He thought very highly indeed of you and your work and was grateful to you for having befriended his nephew and having done so much to boost John's career. I know he would have been so pleased to be able to make such a direct and important factual contribution to your John encyclopedia, and to do you the personal favour on John's behalf as well as his. I regret very much that it did not come to pass."
Scott also informed me that:
"John (Jack) Lennon died on 3 August 1921, when Charlie was two years nine months old.
"Charlie's eldest brother, Jack and Mary's first child, was named George. He died of tuberculosis in 1957 at the age of 50 in the family house in Copperfield Street. Both Alfred and Charlie helped care for him in his final days.
"Charlie's next eldest brother, Jack and Mary's second child, was named Herbert and called Bert. He died in 1968.
"Charlie's sister Edith married a Kenneth Jones. I believe the marriage took place before Charlie's mother's death in 1949. Edith and Kenneth had one daughter, Sandra. The family spent a significant amount of time in Stroud, Gloucestershire in the 1950s, but I don't know whether they actually made their home there. Edith died in 1980 and Sandra's married surname is Burnett.
"As of May 2002, Charlie's brother Sidney was alive and still making his home in Canada."