Edinburgh's links to The Beatles legend John Lennon to be celebrated with plaque at family home in Murrayfield
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Much has been written about John Lennon’s links to Edinburgh over the years – and now a plan is afoot to have a plaque erected on a residential street in Murrayfield, where The Beatles legend spent many summers.
As a youngster, the Liverpudlian made frequent trips to the city to stay with his aunt and cousin in their terraced house on Ormidale Terrace, before heading up north to the family croft in Durness.
Murrayfield Community Council (MCC) have been running a programme of erecting plaques in their area to celebrate features and celebrities associated with their area, and over the past year, Community Councillor Pete Gregson has been working on a Lennon plaque.
Mr Gregson has recently secured the backing of the Abinger Gardens Residents Association to have the plaque attached to the wall on Ormidale Terrace, and it is currently in production with Capital Trophies, the local trophy engraver at Roseburn Terrace.
The proposed wording on the plaque is as follows: ‘John Lennon visited Ormidale Terrace regularly until the age of 17 in 1957 to visit his aunt and cousin; he often performed for the family on his aunt's piano. The cupboard under the stairs was where he penned Beatles song Rain, the 1966 B-side to Paperback Writer.
‘His long summers here ranked among his happiest childhood memories, describing Edinburgh as one of his favourite cities, enjoying the Festival, the Tattoo and the rugby at Murrayfield. He even brought Yoko Ono here in 1969.’
The unveiling of the plaque will involve The Beatles’ music in Roseburn Park – either a DJ playing the oldies or a Beatles tribute band.
Lennon’s visits to Edinburgh
Even at the height of his fame, when Beatlemania was in full bloom, Lennon continued to visit the Capital, and after a famous Beatles show at Edinburgh’s ABC cinema in 1964 he spent some time at his cousin Stan Parke’s house.
Parkes was a good seven years older than Lennon and more of a big brother than a cousin to the future Beatle. He had swapped Liverpool for Edinburgh in 1949, when his mother (Lennon’s Aunt Mater) married local dentist, Burt Sutherland. The family lived at 15 Ormidale Terrace – a fairly typical-looking two-storey Edwardian house which still stands today. Lennon visited Ormidale Terrace regularly until the age of 17 in 1957.
Parkes would travel down to Liverpool to accompany Lennon until he was deemed old enough by his Aunt Mimi to take the bus up on his own. Lennon’s raw musical talent was evident even then, and he would often perform for the family on Aunt Mater’s piano.
Parkes would later recall: “One time he got off at St Andrew Square, he had been playing a harmonica and driving everyone mad, but the bus driver had enjoyed it and told him to come back the next day as he had a top-of-the-range mouth organ which had been left on the bus. John couldn’t believe it; he played it all the time.”
Legend has it that this very same mouth organ was played by Lennon to sound out the famous bluesy riff which practically defines the Beatles’ first hit, Love Me Do.
In 1969, Lennon is also said to have taken his new wife Yoko to Ormidale Terrace, in an attempt to ingratiate her with his family. It didn’t quite work – least of all, it is said, with his Uncle Burt.
However, the pair did end up enjoying a memorable visit to the Scottish capital, and were snapped several times on a stroll through the city centre with their children, Lennon famously purchasing a pair of binoculars from Lizars on Shandwick Place.
Buying Ormidale Terrace House
In the late 1970s, Lennon, now living in New York, wrote to his cousin Stan to express his desire to one day purchase 15 Ormidale Terrace – the place which spurred so many fond memories for him from almost a quarter of a century before. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, as on December 8, 1980, Lennon’s life came to an abrupt and tragic end.