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First Published Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The Beatles

Eleanor Rigby worked as a maid on a ward where she slowly grew old, mystery solved

Was the song’s tragic heroine based on a real person? Andy McSmith reveals a new clue to her identity

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Who was the lonely person who picked up the rice in a church where a wedding had been? It is a subject that has intrigued music fans for 42 years: did someone called Eleanor Rigby ever live, or was she non-existent, like the supposed lover for whom she was, “wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door”?

In the summer of 1966, after the England team beat West Germany to win the World Cup, the Beatles scored yet another No 1 with a double A-side single. On one side was the amiably meaningless “Yellow Submarine”, and on the other there was “Eleanor Rigby”, a sombre song with string backing about lonely people. It featured Eleanor Rigby, who sat by the window, and Father McKenzie, who may or may not have been the priest who officiated at her funeral, to which nobody came.

Eleanor Rigby statue

Mystery girl: ‘The Eleanor Rigby statue in Liverpooll

Sir Paul McCartney – who is assumed to be the song’s main author despite a late counter claim by John Lennon – originally encouraged people to believe that they would never find traces of the real Eleanor Rigby, because she was entirely fictitious. He said he had originally considered calling her Daisy Hawkins, although it is difficult to see how “Daisy” could have been made to fit the song’s meticulous scansion, in which two unstressed syllables follow each stressed syllable, except at the end of a line. But a fascinating document that is to be sold at auction this month suggests that he knew more than he was letting on. It is a page from an accounts log kept by the Corporation of Liverpool, which records the wages paid in 1911 to a scullery maid working for the City Hospital in Parkhill, who signed her name “E. Rigby”.

The document belongs to Annie Mawson, who runs a charity in Cumbria teaching music to children with learning difficulties and other disabilities. She received it from somebody working in McCartney’s office after she sent him a letter describing how she had taught a severely autistic boy to play “Yellow Submarine”. Now she hopes that the money raised from the sale will go towards paying for a permanent premises for her charity, the Sunbeam Music Trust.

Paul MacCartney, Eleanor Rigby statue

“I wrote to Paul McCartney in 1990 to tell him how I was working at a special school in Cumbria,” she said yesterday. “One of the boys was autistic – but one of his obsessions was the Beatles. I built up a very trusting relationship with him and taught him to play ‘Yellow Submarine’ on the piano, which got him his Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award.

“It was very moving to see how he came out of his very locked up and insular world. I wanted Paul McCartney to know this. I also wanted to set up a centre of my own. I asked him for half a million pounds, but by the time I’d finished my 11 pages I said, ‘Actually Paul, I don’t want any money, I want you to know what joy you brought’.

“Months later, I got a reply with a logo that meant it could only have come from Paul McCartney’s office. Inside there was this document dated 1911. Then I saw the name Rigby and I realised why I’d been sent it. I feel that when you’re holding it you’re holding a bit of history.”

When McCartney was interviewed after the release of “Eleanor Rigby” in 1966, he said: “I was sitting at the piano when I thought of it. The first few bars just came to me, and I got this name in my head – Daisy Hawkins picks up the rice in the church. I don’t know why. I couldn’t think of much more so I put it away for a day.”

He claimed that he took the name “Eleanor” from Eleanor Bron, who starred with the Beatles in the film Help!, and “Rigby” from the Bristol wine merchants, Rigby & Evens. But in the 1980s, a grave was discovered in St Peter’s Church, Woolton, Liverpool, where McCartney and Lennon went sunbathing as teenagers, bearing the name Eleanor Rigby. She died in October 1939, aged 44, but unlike the lonely people in McCartney’s song, she was married. Another gravestone had the word “McKenzie” sprawled on it. Paul McCartney has denied that that is where he got the names, though he has acknowledged that they may have registered subconsciously.

The auction is being held at the Idea Generation galley in east London, on 27 November. The organisers hope it will fetch £500,000.

Source:  http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/eleanor-rigby-worked-as-a-maid-on-a-ward-where-she-slowly-grew-old-mystery-solved-1012505.html

Eleanor Rigby record cover

Eleanor Rigby signature auctioned

Eleanor Rigby signature

The document dates back to 1911 from Liverpool City Hospital

A document with the signature of Eleanor Rigby, who inspired the Beatles’ hit of the same name, is to be auctioned to raise money for charity.

The paper, dated 30 November 1911, shows the pay received by scullery maid E Rigby from Liverpool’s City Hospital.

It surfaced in 1990 when Sir Paul McCartney sent it to Annie Mawson of Cumbrian-based Sunbeams Music Trust, when she asked for a £500,000 donation.

It will be auctioned at London’s Idea Generation Gallery on 27 November.

The signature is expected to fetch £500,000.

Two guitars – one owned by Sir Cliff Richard and one from Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock – will also be auctioned at the same time.

Miss Mawson, founder and chief executive of the Graystoke-based charity which helps children with special needs, said she believed the document was the inspiration behind the song Eleanor Rigby.

Very little is known about the hit, except that a grave to Eleanor Rigby was found in the churchyard of St Peters Church, Woolton, in the 1980s.

It was spine-shivering really
Anne Mawson, Sunbeam Music Trust

“I wrote a letter to Paul McCartney in 1989 on a pink paper asking for £500,000 to help provide music therapy to help children with disabilities,” Miss Mawson said.

“I just wanted him to know how much joy his music had brought.”

But nine months later the document arrived with the former Beatle’s world tour stamp on.

Miss Mawson said: “I opened it and inside was this beautiful, ancient document.

“It was spine-shivering really. Partly because he had responded in such a personal way.”

Miss Mawson had kept the document ever since.

The Sunbeam Music Trust was set up in 1992 to provide music therapy for children with special needs and disabilities, adults with Alzheimer’s and people with dementia.

The funds generated from the auction will go toward the charity’s new centre expected to be build near Penrith, Cumbria.

Source:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/merseyside/7723003.stm

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