Welcome back to episode 20 of I Saw The Beatles. This week is part 2 of our conversation with Ruth McCartney…step-sister to Sir Paul McCartney. Ruth talks about growing up within the McCartney family and how she adapted. For more information about Ruth McCartney, go to: www.McCartney.com
Arthur John Maundy Gregory
Some may say that before the Beatles walked through the door of Abbey Road Studios, this man, Arthur John Maundy Gregory was the most famous person to ever walk the halls of 3 Abbey Road. But for all the wrong reasons. There have been at least 5 books written about ‘Maundy Gregory’. There have also been episodes of TV crime shows about the two murders he is suspected of committing and audio books that discuss his shady dealings.
Maundy Gregory was the owner of 3 Abbey Road from 1922 – June 1929, but in order to understand the man, you have to go back a little further into his past. The stories are amazing, but here a a brief synopsis.
Arthur John Maundy Gregory was born on July 1, 1877, to Elizabeth and Reverend Francis Maundy Gregory – the Vicar of St. Michael’s Church in Southampton. He was the fourth born out of six children and the third of five sons. By the age of 5, three of his siblings passed away. Maundy would go on to college, but upon the death of his father in 1899, he would drop out pursue an unsuccessful career in theater. During this time, he developed a deep and lasting friendship with an actress by the name of Edith Marion Davies (her stage name was Vivienne Peirrepont) and her husband Frederick Rosse. In the summer of 1922, Maudy and Edith moved into 3 Abbey Road while her husband was on tour. The Rosses would occupy the downstairs portion and Maundy the upstairs portion of the house. There were frequent parties at the house.
At one point in time, Edith would become her teenage niece’s unofficial guardian and Ethel would move into the home. Even though the relationship between Edith and the troubled, rebellious teen would eventually become strained, Ethel remained the sole beneficiary in Edith’s will.
In 1923, the Rosses would separate but never divorce and Fred would promise to give half his generous income to her for the rest of his life. This would suit Maundy Gregory just fine since he like to lead an extravagant lifestyle on his minimal income. Maundy and Edith would continue to through extravagant parties and be sure to make appearances at others. Some people would believe they were a married couple upon meeting them, but they generally referred to each other as brother and sister.
At this time in British history, politics were taking a turn for the worse. It was becoming quite common for some members of the Parliament to pack the House of Lords but offering ‘honours’ to friends who had the same political leanings. This eventually became known as Cash for Honours. Members of Parliament would find someone who would do the dirty work themselves in order to avoid being tied to such dealings. And so it was, that Maundy Gregory would become a dealer of titles. (For about $10k, anyone could become a Lord.) He would be arrest in 1933 and told he could leave the country for a light sentence.
But…What about the accusations of murder against Maundy? It’s been said that he was responsible for the disappearance and presumed murder of a man who tried to extort money from Maundy in exchange for keeping secret about his selling of Lordships. It’s also believed the Maundy manipulated Edith Rosse into changing her will on her death bed to make him the sole beneficiary of her estate. It’s believed by many that he poisoned her. Her niece would eventually contest the will, but when the body was exhumed for further examination, Maundy had conveniently had Edith buried on the rivers edge of an island so that the casket had filled with water and washed away any evidence of poisoning.
There is so many more details to the life of Arthur John Maundy Gregory that there just isn’t enough room in my blog, but I would suggest my readers to pick up a copy of Cash for Honours: The Story of Maundy Gregory by Andrew Cook to learn more about Maundy and his life at 3 Abbey Road.
When I put out a request earlier this month for guests for my podcast, I Saw The Beatles, I got an email from Kathy Bushnell, the author of the recently published book – Em & Moo: Legacy of a ’60s Female Rock Duo. After recording a show with her, I was anxious to read her book!
Kathy calls her book a memoir and talks about her exciting life growing up in New York City and how a series of events, including seeing the Beatles play at Shea Stadium in August of 1965 inspired her to become a musician. But she didn’t just become a multi-instrumental talent, she went on to form her own female rock duo that toured Europe. Not just any rock duo, but the FIRST female rock duo in Britain. Their band, Emily Muff, went on to open for such bands as Yes, Family, Steppenwolf and America and eventually played the Royal Albert Hall in London.
You would think this would be exciting enough to read about, but no. It’s her encounters with the Glimmer Twins – Mick Jagger and Keith Richards that makes her story even more dynamic. She first met Keith, Brian Jones and Bill Wyman when her brother helped sneak her into a bar in NYC when she was just 16. She would have run ins with the Rolling Stones several more times after she moved to London after she dropped out of college. And still, the stories don’t stop there…like when one of her flat mates in London tells her he just joined a new band and they’re going to call themselves…Yes!
The great stories never seem to end in this book. I couldn’t put it down. And I doubt too many other readers won’t have the same reaction. And for that reason…
I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!
Welcome back to episode 19 of I Saw The Beatles. This week is part 1 of our 2 part conversation with Ruth McCartney…step-sister to Sir Paul McCartney. Ruth talks about growing up within the McCartney family and the hysteria surrounding The Beatles. For more information about Ruth McCartney, go to: http://www.McCartney.com
John Henry Cordner-James
John Henry was born in 1858, eleven years senior to his wife Marie. They were 33 and 22 when they were married on December 10, 1889 and according to the marriage record, they were already living at the same address. Six days later there was an announcement in the Times of London saying that as of December 11, 1889, John Henry James officially changed his name to John Henry Cordner-James. John’s reasons were that he did this to differentiate himself from all the other John Henry James. Marie would also hyphenate their two surnames.
Prior to moving into 3 Abbey Road, John Henry and Marie had six children: John “Denis”, Philip, Norah, Frank, Michael “Desmond”, and Joan Cordner-James. The oldest son, Denis would pass away from tuberculosis in June 1903 at the age of 12 before the family moved into the estate on Abbey Road in 1912. From the 1901 and 1911 London census, and Norah’s biography, we know they kept at least four servants on staff at the former residences.
John Henry Cordner-James was a mining engineer, consultant and expert that traveled the world for business. In the early 1890’s, John and his brother William started their own firm called James Brothers – Consulting and Mining Engineers. At the same time that the brothers were setting up shop together, another up and coming gold mining engineer began working for Bewick, Moreing & Co., a London based company operating mines in Australia. His name was Herbert Hoover and John Coldner-James and he would become friends, and prior to Hoover becoming the 31st president of the United States.
One of the drawbacks of the mining industry, would be the necessary traveling. Commercial airline travel was still decades away, so they would travel by ship to Australia, South Africa, India and South America. A one-way trip to Sydney, Australia from England would take 54 days, making it seem as if he spent just enough time at home to get his wife pregnant again before leaving on another voyage. According to Norah’s book, John and Marie were very fond of each other.
While preparing to move his family into their 84 year old Abbey Road abode in July 1912, John Henry got into a long exchange of letters with the Trustees to the Eyre Estate and their lawyers over the cost of repairs and his annual lease terms. He had already paid £300 to buy out the existing lease from the Todd estate and requested that if he forfeit that lease, that he be given a new 21 year lease at the rate of £5 per year (£566 in 2019) for the first seven years and £110 for the remainder (£12,460 in 2019). His request was due to the “dilapidation” of the premises. The house at this time was in need of repairs and upgrades such as changing the gas lights to electrical lighting, changing the pull bells to electric bells, new floors, a lift from the basement to first floor, a new bath and drains. Cordner-James was also one of the first people to own a car in England, so he wished to build a garage. All in all, it would cost him over £700 (approximately £79,292 in 2019). By August, the Trustees were suggesting a 14 year lease with £50 for the first seven years and £180 for the remaining. John Henry called in the services of New & Sons – Architects & Surveyors to look over the property and give their assessment. In a letter the lawyers of the Trustees, they wrote:
“We do not think this house will ever let at the rental you mention, it has good reception rooms, but very poor Hall and the approach to the Drawing Room speaks for itself as a makeshift, the Bedroom accommodation is small in number of rooms, with cramped Staircase and passages – we think anyone willing to pay £250 for a house in St. John’s Wood would require a much better planned house than the one in question.”
The letters would continue to be exchanged, sometimes daily, through September, but there is no record of how it was resolved, but the Cordner-James family would only stay 10 years. And this would not be the last conflict that John Henry would have concerning the trustees and the house.
In 1914, the Ladies Workers’ Homes, Limited bought the property 1 Abbey Road “as part of a scheme for providing women workers with small flats. They proposed to build a seven story building with 120 bedrooms and 26 individual flats (apartments) that would tower over the south side of 3 Abbey Road. Obviously, this wasn’t to the liking of John Henry and there was a contract drawn up in 1915 that would limit the height and placement of the new building and also call for glazing on all windows facing the Cordner-James property.
In 1916, advertisements were published saying rooms were now available for let – One of these unusually well-planned FLATS consisting of five rooms, kitchen and usual conveniences, now available. Handsomely furnished. Constant Hot Water and Electric Light throughout. Inclusive rent Four Guineas Weekly. Today, a two bedroom flat in Abbey House costs £675,000 ($814,769).
By 1919, the London Building Company plan update the wall between 1 and 3 Abbey Road with a new 10’ party wall. Again, weeks would pass with multiple letters being exchanged between John Henry, the Trustees to the Eyre Estate, surveyors and lawyers over the height, placement and lighting of the wall. The wall is still standing today, but not without becoming an issue with some of later owners of 1 and 3 Abbey Road.
Norah Margaret Ruth Cordner-James was born in September 1895 in Hampstead, Middlesex, England. She would grow up to be a writer. Her first book, Sleeveless Errand, would be deemed indecent and banned, throwing her and her writing into the public eye. In 1939 Norah wrote her autobiography which gives a glimpse into the inner workings of the Cordner-James family up until she moved out on her own in 1924. She talks about the tension in the house, her father being very strict and her mother being very sweet and loving. John Henry’s temper was blamed for the trouble in keeping maids and governesses on staff. Multiple ads were placed in the local newspapers over the years to hire new maids. Norah also talks quite a bit about a cane that was kept in the nursery that their father would use to give them lashings when were bad.
By the summer of 1922, the Cordner-James family moved out of 3 Abbey Road and into 41 Park Road, Hampton Hill. At some point, John Henry had an affair with a woman by the name of Edith Emily Osman that produced a daughter in 1924. But despite the rumors that he abandoned his family, in 1934, John Henry and his family moved into a home he had custom built in Aldeburgh called Pinehurst and all phone and voting records show Marie still living with him up until his death at Pinehurst in 1946.
In his will, John Henry Cordner-James left his estate valued at £14,414 in 1946 (£598,673 in 2019) to his mistress Edith Emily Osman, his nephew Alec James and solicitor Kenneth Leslie Titmuss.
Welcome back to episode 18 of I Saw The Beatles. This week I’m talking with Angie McCartney…step-mum to Sir Paul McCartney. Angie talks about marrying into the McCartney family and what that entailed for her and her 5 year old daughter Ruth. For more information about Angie McCartney or to order a copy of one of her books, go to: http://www.MrsMcCartneysTeas.com.
William Todd, Esq. (the younger)
The 4th owner of 3 Abbey Road was William Todd and his wife Caroline (nee Grange). They were the parents to twelve children. At the time of their arrival at their new home on Abbey Road in 1889, William, a retired architect, and Caroline were 65 and 60 years old (respectively) and at least six of their children were still living at home. In 1890, one of their daughters, Constance Honor Todd, married Charles Percy Wilcox, leaving grown siblings Stephen (29) – a wine merchant, Emily (28), Reginald (22) – an electrical engineer, and Harry (19), all living at home. According to the 1891 census, also living in the house were a 49 year old niece and 4 year old granddaughter, along with five servants…13 in all!
William Todd was the son of William Todd. They didn’t use the term ‘Jr.’ in England in those days. Instead, they were referred to as William Todd the younger, and William Todd the elder. Both of them were architects/builders in St. John’s Wood and it’s believed that the elder Todd was a cousin of Robert Todd, the builder who was besties with Walpole Eyre and the brother in law to Martha Charman, the woman that originally built 3 Abbey Road. Despite Robert Todd’s mention of a nephew named William Todd in his will, there is no evidence that he was the same William Todd (elder or younger) who purchased 3 Abbey Road in 1889. Robert only mentions in his will that in 1836 a building that he owns is being rented to his cousin William Todd. At that time, there were at least three other men named William Todd living in the Middlesex/Marylebone/St. John’s Wood area. Both William Todd the elder and the young were builders and acquired many houses of their own in the St. John’s Wood area, so it’s doubtful that they would have needed to rent a house from their “uncle” Robert Todd.
Unlike Robert Todd and his great relationship with Walpole Eyre, it’s said that William Todd the elder did not get along with the heir to the Eyre estate. A lot of the records and letters concerning anything going in relationship to the estate, especially real estate transactions, have been preserved at the Westminster archives, including some very harsh letters that were exchanged between Walpole Eyre and William Todd the elder. By 1865, William Todd the elder started transferring his leasehold properties to his son.
William Todd the younger passed away at 3 Abbey Road on February 19, 1899 from pneumonia that he developed after a bout with the flu. At the time, his estate was worth £23,817. In today’s market (2019) that translates to approximately £3,035,103 or $3,699,183. He named his wife Caroline Todd and his son Stephen Turner Todd, who was 38, single and still living at home, as co-executers of his will. Also still living at home was Caroline and William’s unmarried daughter Emily Lucy Todd, age 35. Stephen and Emily remained in the house for a couple more years after their mother’s death on December 17, 1911.
According to Brian Southall’s book, Abbey Road, Stephen Todd turned over 3 Abbey Road to his cousin Olive Westbrook Todd (daughter of Harold Cameron Todd) to manage as a rental property. This probably never happened since in 1916 when Olive was just 15 years old (4 years after Caroline Todd’s death), her parents moved the family to Quebec, Canada. Olive eventually became a buyer for the T. Easton department store chain in Canada and did return to England several times on business before eventually becoming a fashion designer herself and opening her own store in London in the 1920s.
On March 14, 1912, the contents of 3 Abbey Road was auctioned off at 12 pm.
An adorable 10 minute film….
Welcome back to Episode 17 of I Saw The Beatles! At the tender age of just 12 years old, Dorrit Takach and her sixteen year old sister ventured into Baltimore, MD to see The Beatles concert on September 13, 1964.
I need to be honest, I really wasn’t expecting much when I bought a copy of My Private Lennon: Explorations from a Fan Who Never Screamed by Sibbie O’Sullivan. I believe the book came up as a recommendation on Amazon while I was perusing other books. “Another fan book…”, I thought. But, it was only 165 pages long and was published February 17, 2020, making it current. Why not…I need to start reading and reviewing more books.
Reading this wasn’t like reading just another fan book. Yes, she and her friends talked endlessly about the Beatles. Yes, she had teen magazines about the Fab Four. And yes, she did see the Beatles during a dress rehearsal at the Ed Sullivan theater in August 1965, an event she has barely any memory of except for the photo she took of John Lennon on stage. And YES, this book is so much more than just another fan book.
Sibbie O’Sullivan weaves her personal life in with the stories of the Beatles, their wives and their own personal life choices. And she does it in a brutally honest way. She tells stories of the innocence of being a teenager to becoming sexually promiscuous, a shotgun wedding, divorce, friends, family, etc. She ties her stories in with the feelings of Cynthia, John & Yoko, but in a way to show how she can relate to what they must have been feeling at the time. Her stories are told so much deeper, more emotional and grown-up than other Beatle fan books that’s I’ve read. Honestly, and maybe it’s the voyeur in me, but I couldn’t put this books down. I even believe that if she had left the Beatles out of it, it still would be a great read. By the time I finish, I thought, “I hope she feels better now”. It’s a beautifully written memoir. And for that reason…
I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!