Interview with Julia Baird, John Lennon’s half-sister

by Shelley Germeaux

Note: This article was originally published in March 2007 on Daytrippin’s website.

[Text Copyright 2007 by Dayrippin’; Photos copyright by Julia Baird]

My discussion with Julia Baird occurred on Tuesday, March 20, 2007, just as her new book, Imagine This: Growing Up with My Brother John Lennon was released in the UK. Having gotten a copy and devouring it with rapt interest, I’m grateful at the opportunity to interview her for Daytrippin’.


Julia Baird was John Lennon’s half-sister, and her story about their childhood is riveting as she discloses for the first time, the family secrets that were kept hidden so many years. The shocking truth as to why John went to live with his Aunt Mimi instead of their mother, Julia Lennon, was never revealed until the mid-1990s. The confusion about John’s childhood caused him emotional distress throughout his life, and it was a theme in his music many times.

In recent years Julia’s tireless research and persistent questions of family members and neighbors finally began to pay off. She learned of the concocted stories that were devised by Aunt Mimi when John became famous, to sacrifice Julia Lennon’s character and conceal her own wrongdoings. These misconceptions formed the basis of public opinion and have appeared in every biography about the Beatles since then. Julia Baird sets out to reverse this deception and honor the memory of the mother that she and John shared.

Probably the biggest falsehood that has been spread is that Julia handed John over to her sister, Mimi, to raise him, in 1946 when Julia’s life was rough. She was cast as a frivolous woman who also willingly gave away her baby daughter, Victoria, in 1945 when she’d had a wartime affair with a Welsh sailor while her husband, Alf Lennon was away at sea.

However, Ms. Baird’s book reveals that Julia’s older sister, Mimi and her father, “Pop” Stanley, were outraged when Julia had gotten pregnant in late 1944 and insisted that the baby be given up for adoption because Julia was a “sinner.” Mimi took John while Julia went to a Salvation Army home until the baby was born. After returning home, she was very ill, and had post-partum depression but had to go back to work.

Mimi and Pop were irate once again when Julia moved in with a new boyfriend Bobby Dykins after it was clear that Alf would never stay home long enough to take care of his family. Divorce from Alf was impossible because in those days, he would have had to consent to it in court, and that was not happening. Julia had to carry on with her life somehow. Julia’s moving out meant that no one was home to take care of Pop, now that her mother had died.

Mimi took John away from Julia because she was “living in sin” and for not taking care of her father. Julia was devastated but could not fight Mimi or her father.

Another stunning revelation was Ms. Baird’s discovery that Mimi had had a secret affair, while John was still living with her, with a student lodger over 20 years her junior. This is particularly shocking in light of her condemnation of her sister, Julia’s situation.

Our discussion began with the subject of bad childhoods. We talked about the process of researching the truth, asking questions and finding out shocking things, eventually leading up to the idea of a book.

How this book came to be

Julia Baird: I’m not pretending for one second that our family history was unique. The problem is, like I said in the first place its been written out, across the sky, every week with a different version. That’s the problem. There are skeletons in everyone’s cupboard, but theirs aren’t being published, performed, or put into plays. “Experts” have been talking about us day and night. And we’re all looking at it thinking, that’s our family!

Shelley Germeaux: And to find out that so much of it is not even true!

Julia Baird: Oh yes; well I always knew that there were great un-truths, but I could never get to the bottom of it, cause they (the relatives) wouldn’t talk. Until at the end with Nanny (Mimi’s sister) and I couldn’t stop her. It was amazing, absolutely incredible.

In 1996 and 1997 I already had things in my mind that (Aunt) Nanny had been telling me. In the book there’s a picture of her, sitting in a chair looking out through the window, and that was Nanny talking to me, she never looked at me, she was looking through the window at the beautiful willow tree outside. But I just needed to start her off and she talked and I listened and listened, and all the bits of the story, you know when you hear bits, she was knitting it together for me. And with huge additions.

Some things she said I haven’t put in the book because I only set out to exonerate my mother. And in fact I’ve had beautiful letters from readers, but I had a beautiful one from a lady in England, miles away from here, I’ve never met her before, saying, “you have redeemed your mother’s character beautifully, well done.” That’s what I set out to do. And she sent a little card with it, saying “To the two Julias.” Its not a book about me; of course we’re in it, my sister and I, and it’s not about John; of course he’s in it– it’s a book about my mother and trying to put the record straight.

SG: I know the first question everyone is going to ask is, why didn’t all this come out in your first book [John Lennon My Brother (1988)]? I took it reading this book, that this has been a journey for you over the last, nearly twenty years‚Ķsince the last book came out, finding out all this stuff.

Julia Baird: …yes, since John died. In 1985, it was John’s five-year anniversary (of his death), and they (BBC) said we’ll do this program; we watched it on TV, and it was so… wrong. I rang the BBC the next day to complain, and they just said, “Well John didn’t have a sister.”

SG: They told you that you didn’t exist basically!

Julia Baird: Well it turns out that had come from Mimi. Phillip Norman, who wrote Shout; now I haven’t read it, but someone told me that he did an interview with Mimi and so did Hunter Davies, but she vetoed it. She cut loads of stuff out.

SG: Yes, I had read someplace, and I think it was in Hunter Davies’ revised biography just a few years ago. I haven’t actually gone to check it but I remember thinking that he had said in there that that John was one of the people that wrote to him or called him up and said, “Mimi’s worried sick about what you’re going to say, and you have to change this to fit her version.” And he did, because John was terrified of Mimi.

Julia Baird: Yes! We all were! And in the eleven years after John died she reinvented herself. And even before I found out the truth about the affair and the social services man, I was saying, “If Mimi had lived for another twenty years she would have born John by then, she would have had him by then.” (laughter) It was going in that direction, and I knew that was the way of things even before I knew the truth about the story.

Joint efforts with Cynthia Lennon

SG: So this book comes about at this time, because why? Because you’re ready, or does it fit with some timing…

JB: Because I wasn’t ready to do the big investigations before. And I was still working, I was a Special Needs teacher for the last fifteen years. Cynthia (Lennon, John’s first wife) and I had actually decided, about five or six years ago, we’ve got to put this straight… because she knew that there was a lot more obviously from her side, and we actually started to do something together.

We talked on the phone; she was living in France at the time, and I said, “I’m working but I will start gathering stuff together.” And after about three or four months of me trying to write bits on the weekend and after work I needed to go research things and I didn’t have the time to do this.

We both decided to call it off. I said, “I don’t think I can carry on like this every spare minute, looking for things,” and it wasn’t even a big computer time. I wasn’t comfortable with the Internet to look things up. I knew I needed to go speak to people. So I said to Cynthia, “I don’t think I can do this anymore,” and she said “Right, luv, I know. I’m in a mess too.” So by consent we agreed to leave it.

A call from Philip Norman

JB: And then in spring of ’04, when Mendips was about to be opened, Philip Norman, (author of Shout: The Beatles in their Generation) rung me. I was really surprised. He’s a well-respected biographer, and I got this phone call, and he said, “I’m Philip Norman,” and he explained briefly that he was doing this mega mega, another expert book, and he was taking a couple of years over it.

The first part would be John’s British life, if you like, and the second would be to do with his American life. I don’t pretend to know anything about that, because I wasn’t there. So I just said, “Mr.Norman, you wrote in one of our big tabloids, the most awful article that my mother was a fly-by-night, and gave two children away. “

And (after first denying it) he said, “I’m so sorry, I apologize deeply. Now I want you to put it straight in my book.” And I said, “Mr. Norman I would do it myself if I was going to do it,” but I was still at work. I was really upset about it thinking , right, this is the other book coming out, and he’s writing it with some backing from Yoko. Now I don’t know what, I can’t say anything, but I know that she is certainly contributing to the American side of the book. And why not? She lived with him.

What I did in the end, I thought, this book is going to be written, and I need time to do it myself. So I took time in 2004 and I was writing the book from then, with all the research that’s involved. I’ve just got myself up with a computer and gone off to interview all our old neighbors and people that would not talk to people like Philip Norman or anybody else, they are very loyal.

(Pictured: John Lennon’s Aunt Mimi. Photo courtesy Julia Baird.)

Mimi’s true colors

SG: Reading your first book (John Lennon, My Brother, 1988), and other books that have come after that, I started getting the impression, that Mimi is not the saint that everybody has said that she was. What do you want to say about what really happened with Mimi and Julia and why in the world Mimi would have taken John from Julia The story has always been, Julia gave John up willingly. But now we see that Mimi has actually forcibly taken this little boy away.

JB: With the help of the state! He (Pop) was an old “sea dog”, and he disapproved of her having another man in her life. He thought she was supposed to be taking care of John and him. There was no money coming from Alf, and there was no welfare state in those days, and my mother was going out to work, for her father who’s a pensioner, and herself and John. She was actually working for them.

SG: I can’t even believe, this day and age, if she had post-partum depression, and she’s had these terrible things happen, she’s had two children taken from her in the space of a year, and she’s depressed, and she has to go to work full time.

JB: Yep, definitely.

SG: And for her to not find someone that she could live with. That would have just been terrible.


JB: Yep. And it was. But that’s what they expected. And the thing with them having Victoria, when I first found out about Victoria it was through a journalist! Inadvertently he mentioned my mother’s four children, and when he saw my face, he said, “You don’t know, do you?” He said, “Your mother had a baby after John,” and I just sort of nearly fell over. He said, “I’m going.” [Editor’s Note: To understand the birth chronology of the four children, read Daytrippin’s Review of Imagine This at the end of this interview.]

I went down to Nanny and it took three visits before she would tell me! And she just said, “Yes, your mother did have a baby and it was given up for adoption, and I will not discuss your mother’s pain with you.” And she went upstairs crying, and I was downstairs crying. She stonewalled me, she wouldn’t speak about it.

In 1996-1997, which is 11-12 years later, I asked her and she told me everything she could think of, and I was able to question her. When my mother was pregnant, it was the only affair she’d had, and Alf had disappeared in early 1940. This was late 1944. She had a three week affair and got pregnant. And (Pop) said immediately, “You’re not keeping the baby,” because she was still living at home then. Nanny said, “Everyday, every time he saw her, he called her a sinner and that she wasn’t keeping the baby. She spent the time in tears.”

Nanny said, when she had the baby in the Salvation Army home, the Welsh soldier, who is the father of Victoria, said to my mother, even though he couldn’t marry her, obviously, because Alf was never going to give her a divorce, ever, he said, “I’ll take you and the baby, but not him,” pointing to John. So my mother threw him out! Of course.

SG: The way Alf (Lennon, John’s father) puts it in his autobiographical manuscript is that both he and Taffy (Taffy Williams, the soldier) are in the room to get her to decide, and she’s refusing both of them, and in (Alf’s wife) Pauline’s book, (Daddy Come Home, Pauline Lennon, 1987), you’re thinking, why would she do that? It doesn’t even make sense.

JB: Well, Taffy Williams, the father, said he would keep her and the baby, but not John. And Alf came back on one of the three visits, and he said, I will adopt the baby…and then he disappeared! The one time they actually did have family life together was on the second visit home, my mother had moved into a cottage owned by Mimi and George, and Alf came home and stayed with them for a while, and John, who was two and a bit. This was the only family life they ever had by themselves.

Julia wanted Alf to stay home

JB: My mother wanted Alf to get “shore job”‚ to stay at home. Alf said, “No, I’m a sailor and I’m going back to sea.” And my mother said, “I don’t want you to go back to sea. I don’t want to be on my own,” and he just said, “No, I’m a sailor; deal with it.”

She had grown up with her father being at sea, he was a sail maker in the Tall Ships. And he came home and left a baby every two years! So when he went back to sea, rather than stay in that place on her own, with John, which she had taken on to persuade him to stay at home, she went back to stay with her father (at 9 Newcastle Rd). Because he needed her! And Alf had obviously disappeared again.

She never knew where he was, she never had any money from him, he visited three times in five years. He can’t expect her to commit to that, but she did. Until she met this Taffy Williams, and sadly, desperately, she got pregnant. So she was upset through the pregnancy, of course, being told everyday, “You’re a sinner, this is a dreadful thing, you’re a married woman, you’re bringing shame on our family. “

SG: Have you read Daddy Come Home?

JB: Yes, and I felt sorry for Alf. Are you superstitious? I say I’m not (laughs) but notice that the number 5 keeps coming up. I felt bad for Alf. He was five when he went to the orphanage. John was 5 when he went to Mimi. Sean was five when John died, and Julian was five when John met (fell for)Yoko.

Alf was five when he was given to the orphanage, with his baby sister. And the damage that was done there was irreparable wasn’t it? He did not know how to be a father, or to commit. So I did say that probably when he came home after his philandering at sea he probably thought that my mother would be there and waiting. It must have been a shock to him that she had the strength to say no, because they had courted for ten years, she had not been out with anybody else.

They were married a time before they had John, it was all the normal stuff, it was very restrained really. All the family said that neither of them had a boyfriend or girlfriend since my mother was fourteen. So you can hardly call her anything, can you? It was very difficult to find out. It (Daddy Come Home) was one of the few books (about John) I ever read, I got it after I’d written the book. And obviously it paints a more rosy picture than what I would paint. Because the truth of it is, Alf did disappear when John was 5, never to be seen again until John was famous. So what did he do that for, I mean you can excuse and excuse only so far can’t you?

SG: Yeah. The way he (Alf) paints it is that he’s this terribly unlucky person that just keeps running into Arabs and jails, and keeps getting stopped from coming home, and of course there’s Mimi stopping him, and he never gets back to John again because he’s being stopped. Then after I read your book I thought, I get it, he’s just trying to vindicate himself…

JB: Right. He didn’t want to take responsibility for the fact that he’d abandoned him. Why do these men think that they can come back on the scene when their sons become famous? But I did feel sorry for Alf because of the life he’d led.

SG: You didn’t mention when John met up with his father, his reunion with him in 1964.

JB: I wasn’t there, that’s why I read Daddy Come Home, and I found out about it, and I thought, if I expand the book to include that, I am writing third party, and in the whole book I’ve tried not to do that. I’ve tried to write the book through painstaking research, from emotion, which has to be mine, and from memory, and I don’t have a memory of John meeting his father. I would be making it up wouldn’t I, I would be doing what all the other researchers do, I’d be basing my research on somebody else’s research.

SG: So he never said anything to you about it?

JB: We never talked about it, no. My father we did; but not his. He never mentioned Alf.

SG: When your father died and you made the trip down only to have everyone shut their doors to you. How did that feel?

JB: They didn’t care where we went, Jackie was sent to work, and they (her employer) said “What on earth are you doing here?” The whole village knew but not her. They (the relatives) didn’t care, and that was the truth.

(Pictured: John Lennon’s mother, Julia, holding daughter, Jackie in 1950. Photo courtesy Julia Baird)

A No-win situation for Julia

SG: What is the real reason your mother couldn’t have somehow, was it just the laws that she couldn’t divorce Alf without his consent?

JB: No, Shelley, you couldn’t. She was really in a no-win situation. When she went to have the baby (Victoria), she fed her for six weeks, and then the baby was adopted straight from the Salvation Army home. “And she came home,” Nanny said, “and we thought she’d be all right then, but she came home and cried and cried and didn’t eat.” And Nanny said, “I’d bring her hot food, go to work, come back, take the cold food away, give her more hot food.”

And then Nanny went to live over the water with my cousin and his parents, and my mother had to go and get a job, because they were still in the same situation. John was at school and my grandfather was there. So she got a job, and I think Nanny said she had post-natal depression. She was working in a cafe, (in Penny Lane), taking John to school, picking John up from school. That’s when she met my father (Dykins), and that’s when everything went wrong, because Pop and Mimi just pounced on her and said she wasn’t to have a man in her life.

SG: Why couldn’t they have just left her alone; do you think it was jealousy on Mimi’s part?

JB: Yes, I do, I think Mimi was jealous of my mother. I think in the end, Mimi hadn’t planned all of this but she was an opportunist; John had been to stay with her, here and there when my mother was depressed, and having Victoria. And when my mother met my father, Mimi and Pop together rounded her and said, “You are not to have anyone.” I called my father Sir Galahad, he was on his white charger to the rescue.

Steve Turner asks about Mimi’s religion

Julia made the point that this facade of morality, and accusations of being a sinner surprisingly had nothing to do with religion and everything about keeping Julia in her place. Steve Turner, who wrote The Gospel According to the Beatles in 2006, assumed that they must have been religious people based on what he was finding out about the family, and wrote to Julia to ask her about it.

JB: Steve Turner, who just wrote about the Beatles spirituality, emailed me to say, “Did Mimi go to church?” (I said) “No.” (Then again), “Did Mimi go to church?” “NO.” “Did Mimi go to church?” “NO!!!” He said, “Somebody in your family said she did‚” and I said, “I would like to know who, because I can tell you the answer is no.” But still we were sinners and Mendips was the House of Correction, where you go to get wrongs made right.

SG: …and what does that do to you? I’m reading this and thinking, What types of self-esteem did these girls have?

JB: We still haven’t got it, we’re still battling through. John had none!

The Secret Affair

SG: And then you found out that Mimi had had an affair with Michael Fishwick, the student lodger.

JB: YES. That came about when Nanny kept saying “Mimi had a boyfriend!” and she thought it was in New Zealand, and it didn’t make sense. So I started asking the neighbors and no one knew. Finally I thought, wait a minute, Mimi never went anywhere. Never. She was always at Mendips. So if she had a boyfriend, someone there would have had to know. The only lodger that had been there any length of time was Michael Fishwick, he was there nine years. So I found him, and he talked with me.

I asked him, “Who was Mimi’s boyfriend?” And by his response, I knew I was right. So we met for coffee down by the docks and he starts taking off his cufflinks. At first I thought he needed help with something, and finally he shows them to me and says, “Do you remember these?” I said no, and he said “These were the cufflinks Mimi tried to give to the love of her life. When he died, the family gave them back to Mimi, and this was before she met George.”

That’s when I knew it was him. I nearly fell over, saying, “No, no, oh no …not him!” But it was.

Happy Times: John as a child

SG: What would you say, as far as your happiest times playing with John, can you think of a time that would give people a notion of what he was like.

JB: Watching the Elvis films with my mother. John, my mother and I went to see “Love Me Tender”, and we’d sit and watch them three or four times; my mother was the Elvis fan before John.

SG: You talked about when John met Elvis, how you wished your mother could have been alive for that.

JB: YES!! It would have been wonderful.

SG: What was John really like as a kid, what do you remember about him?

JB: He was just great, and Jackie and I absolutely adored him, we would jump on him, there were piggy back rides and shoulder bags and swinging round; and we played in the park.

SG: He had to babysit you sometimes, you said in your earlier book, which gives people a different view of him, because Paul McCartney once said that John didn’t know how to take care of kids.

JB: Oh, no, he definitely babysat us. My father worked in a local hotel at one point and my mother sometimes went down to meet him and John would be there (with us.)

Paul McCartney and the Beatles

SG: …and what must it have been like to see Paul McCartney? Looking back on it now do you sometimes think, I saw the formation of the biggest rock band??

JB: Of the Beatles, yeah! The original Beatles were my mother and John.

SG: And then Paul comes around, and this is obviously after the Quarrymen, but you remember Paul too.

JB: I still know Paul, and I remember him well. My mother loved him, and kept bringing rounds of food because his mother died, poor thing. And he had his hair all slicked back and everything. I called John and Paul the “dream team”.

John was the genius to me, I mean you have four people– you’re only going to get one genius, and it was John. But without Paul’s organization, his determination, without him they may never have made it. Because in England at that time there were thousands of groups and they were all very good. And I think that John and Paul together, they were ONE. And my name for them was the “dream team.”

John’s missing pieces

SG: I heard that John had received Alf’s manuscript [later published in Daddy Come Home] after Alf died. And that he’d read the whole thing at the Dakota and was just torn apart. I’m thinking that even if John read that, he still doesn’t have the whole thing because he’s got Alf’s side of the story. He never sees your book.

JB: He didn’t know what I know now.

SG: John never heard what Nanny had to say, and everything else you found out, which would have made a huge difference to him. It makes me very sad for him because I think that he had a lot of unsolved emotions about his mother.

JB: Yeah, there was a talk in Liverpool last year and Pete Shotton was there. I know him well, and the other one was Tony Sheridan, you know the one who did “My Bonny” with him (John). He met John when he was 18, 19, in Hamburg and he was talking about it, and said that John had referred to himself as a psychological cripple, because he didn’t live with his mother. And I was in the back and had to leave because I was in tears, he didn’t know I was there at all. And I had just thought, Tony Sheridan, this should be interesting; I wasn’t expecting that. But I knew it was true, I absolutely knew it was true.

SG: I always felt like John wanted to know the truth. I don’t get the impression that he understood all of this by the time he died.

JB: He didn’t, I promise you! He wouldn’t have known. It was the Director of Social Services that Mimi took along (to get John from Julia.) He wouldn’t have known about that, but because I couldn’t verify a name, I just said an inspector. I know that there will be people out there who will say, “Oh no it wasn’t, or no it didn’t.” But I was told by two people that it was a Director.

SG: The song he wrote, “Gimme Some Truth” — I always felt that it was less about the political situation and more about his childhood.

JB: YES. Well it was funny because John actually said to somebody, and I found the quote but I couldn’t tell where it was from, when they said (to John), “Are you ever going to write your autobiography?” And he said, “No I’m not and I don’t think people should right now. I don’t believe in writing autobiographies, and stuff like that.”

And I thought, “John, your whole songwriting is your autobiography!” In the ’70s, on the phone, we both got really upset. I said to him, “Do you know why you went to Mimi’s?” and he said, “I don’t bloody know!” and then he said, referring to Julia, “You had her and I didn’t. It’s not fair!And this is a man, a 36-year-old man speaking like that, “It’s not fair!” you know like a child. Inside he still was, and I just didn’t know what to say. We both just cried.

SG: What did you and John talk about, when you had your reunion in 1975 and you spent all those hours on the phone?

JB: Everything. Everything under the sun.

SG: What did he really think happened?

JB: He didn’t know what happened. And then you don’t know who you are. I said, and this is in the foreword I think: “Every time you think you’re beginning to know who you are, a tail of a brush just sweeps right across the canvas, and leaves you completely bereft and you don’t know who you are all over again because you’ve found something else out.”

SG: You said he was coming home in 1981 and of course, I’ve heard that a few times.

JB: YES. Oh, yes, he said it in interviews, too.

SG: Did you say that someone actually bought that letter from Leila (where John said that he was coming home)?

Yoko intercedes

JB: There’s a few letters that have been sold. In the book I’ve put bits of the letters. After our mother died, John had said, “I want the girls living with me, but Mimi won’t have them,” and the stuff about the house. (The house John bought for Julia and sister, Jackie, after their mother died, but they never got. First an aunt and uncle lived there, and after John died, Yoko inherited it.) My other aunts were saying, “The house was for the girls!”

SG: …and that’s particularly heartbreaking. It tracks along your story about how Yoko becomes Mimi’s replacement.

JB: Yeah I know! But this time there was no escape for him.

SG: So you feel that Yoko really did intercept the calls and didn’t let you get through after a while? When did that start happening?

JB: I don’t know. We probably had a good few lengthy phone calls, and suddenly when I was ringing, Yoko would answer the phone, and I’ve quipped in the book, “Was she walking around with it in her pocket?” I don’t even think we had mobiles in that day, unless they were the size of televisions. You’ve seen it on the films, they prop it up and put it on a trolley and bring up this great big aerial– that was the beginning of the mobile phone wasn’t it? (laughs)

Certainly I was trying to ring, and Yoko would answer and say, “John is trying to sleep right now, you don’t understand his life.” And I’d say, “Wake him up then!” And she’d say, “No, you don’t understand his life. He’s awake all night at the moment.” And I said, “Wake him, he’d want to speak to me.” And I later found out she did the same to Julian, and I put that in the book. She may have been totally, dissed with the whole British family by this time, cause John had opened the gate and we were all writing, and ringing. And maybe… I have to say maybe, because I wasn’t there, she must have decided at some time that it was all too much. I don’t understand why she did it to Julian!

SG: I’ve read so much about her supposed jealousy.

JB: Well Jackie and I, maybe, but Julian? And when we were at Mimi’s funeral, we actually brought it up, and I said, “Why did you stop the phone calls?” and she didn’t deny it! “Why didn’t you put John on the phone?” I said. And she said, “I was protecting John.” And I said, “What– from his sisters?” And she just looked down and said, “Well I didn’t know.” What could she say, she was surrounded by John’s English family.

 (Pictured: Julia Baird (left) and sister, Jackie, in 1985, on Mathew Street in Liverpool in front of the Cavern Club)

Sean and Julian

SG: Do you have any contact with Sean or Julian now?

JB: Julian yes, Sean no. Not because I don’t want it, because he doesn’t want it. He knows where we are. He’s done a tour now, hasn’t he, with fantastic reviews, and he came to Liverpool. Two organizations rung me and said “Do you want tickets?” and I said “No I don’t.” Not because I didn’t want to meet Sean; I didn’t want the press there. Because you know how they are, they would be saying, “Do you know your aunt is in the front row?” I couldn’t have born it. It wasn’t right, but when he came to Liverpool, if he would have said, “Oh Julia lives here, can you get her number please?” I’d have loved to have gone and met him quietly, or brought him to my home.

SG: And he didn’t make any kind of effort like that?

JB: No–He did make a point to say Liverpool was his spiritual home, but I’m obviously not the spiritual sister.

SG: Somebody was saying to me that Sean would not give interviews in Liverpool, but he had opportunities to do more interviews and a bigger press thing in Liverpool but he didn’t for some reason.

JB: Well probably because the city’s very John based isn’t it? They might have said, “Have you met Julia” I’m not saying they would have, but I’m a Director of the Cavern and they all know I’m there. But I’m sorry that he didn’t think– all he had to do was say, Can you find her number?

When I did meet him again at Mimi’s funeral, he was delightful. He looked stunningly handsome, beautiful attired, and a delightful boy. My sister and I, we were all talking to him, and I did say, John would have been so proud of you. And he said “Thank you.” It would have been lovely to meet him. And I was pleased to see earlier this week, last week there was a picture of Julian and Sean in the paper at some point on this tour; and I thought, “Good.”

SG: Yes, it was all over the press that Julian was actually on the tour bus with him. And actually hung out with him on the bus, and Sean said in one of his blogs, “None of my friends wanted to rough it on the road with me, but Julian came with me and we’ve had a great time.”

JB: I’ve been on the tour with Julian when he’s been on tour and it really is a scruffy life I can tell you that. On the other hand it’s a contained space and nobody can get on or off unless you want them to, so they have the place probably to themselves. I wish them both well. They are both John’s sons.

SG: Julia, this has been very fascinating, and thank you for letting me talk to you

JB: I want the story out, that’s why I’m talking to you. It’s not a matter of, I’ve written a book, buy the book– it’s a matter of, read the story. And if it has to go in Rolling Stone then it has to go in Rolling Stone. And anyone in Liverpool who wants a book, I’m signing it for them.

SG: I wish you all the luck in the world!

JB: Thank you.

SG: What about a book tour?

JB: I’m more than happy to do it, and I will. I’m ready but I need an American publisher. I would love to do it.


Shelley L. Germeaux is the former John Lennon Examiner.


Imagine This: Growing up with my brother John Lennon

by Julia Baird

(published by Hodder & Stroughton 2007)

Review by Shelley Germeaux
March 13, 2007

Imagine This, by John Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird, reveals what it was like growing up with John, as well as the harsher reality behind family myths. Her memories of the fun-loving mother that John immortalized in his song, “Julia” are heartwarming, but cut short by tragedy and confusion. Julia’s long journey to discover the truth led her to an aging aunt’s bedside who began to tell her how, among many other things, little John came to live with his Aunt Mimi instead of his mother.

Ms. Baird’s previous book, John Lennon, My Brother, (Henry Holt & Co, 1988), contained some of the same stories, but the revelations in the new book are stunning. The additional research she has done is vast and includes genealogical information, as well as another 19 years of experiences with family members, many who have now passed on. This latest work by Ms. Baird renders most other biographies on John’s childhood obsolete.

Imagine This describes John’s Aunt Mimi as a bully whose constant intervention in her sister, Julia’s life had a devastating impact. Her forcible removal of John from Julia’s home when he was five years old did him irreversible emotional damage that he never recovered from. Julia was not the irresponsible waif that Mimi portrayed her to be, but a heartbroken mother steamrolled by a domineering sister. Ms. Baird asserts that Mimi went to great lengths to keep John and his mother apart throughout his childhood years, making Julia’s untimely death when he was 17 all the more tragic.

One thing that will surprise most people is that Julia Lennon, John’s mother, actually had four children, two of which were cruelly taken from her at the hands of Mimi and her father. Julia was one of five sisters. She first married Alf Lennon after a ten-year romance, in 1938. John was born October 9, 1940. When Alf seemed more married to the sea than her, the marriage fell apart, but his constant absence made it impossible to get a legal divorce.

In 1944 while Alf was at sea, during WWII, she had a brief affair with a Welsh sailor and became pregnant. Her father and sister Mimi were outraged at her behavior and insisted that the baby be given up for adoption. Victoria was born in June of 1945 and given to a Norwegian family. This fact was hidden from the other three children for many years, and Ms. Baird recounts the shock that overwhelmed her when discovering it.

Julia soon met and fell in love with a man named Bobby Dykins and she and young John moved in with him, into a tiny flat. Since they could not marry legally, Mimi and her father were once again enraged and demanded that Julia give John to Mimi, so he wouldn‚t be raised in a “house of sin”. When she refused, they got the help of social workers who finally ordered that John be given to Mimi until the situation improved.

Julia and Bobby Dykins had a happy common law marriage for the next 12 years, having two daughters, Julia (Baird) in 1947, and Jackie in 1949. The children were never recognized as “real” family by the aunts because they were “illegitimate.”

Tragedy struck in 1958 when Julia was struck by a car and killed. Her death was not revealed to her daughters, Julia and Jackie, for several months, creating a lifelong emotional struggle born of confusion and sadness. Subsequently, their father Bobby’s death, also by car accident, left daughters Julia and Jackie nowhere to turn in their grief, as the aunts in town had closed their doors to them.

Ms. Baird discovered only recently that Mimi had a long-term affair after her husband’s death with a student lodger over 20 years her junior. The relationship began while John was still living in the home, so the hypocrisy is apparent, given Mimi’s condemnation of Julia’s lifestyle. Ms. Baird met up with the man, now 72, for the complete story, which is quite fascinating.

Ms. Baird joyfully accepted a renewed relationship with John in 1975 after he tracked her down, and a series of phone calls and letters followed. But soon, wife Yoko Ono suddenly began intercepting the calls, cutting off communication with the brother she had missed throughout the busy Beatle years. She would also later discover that son Julian’s calls had also been intercepted, leaving John to believe that Julian had stopped calling. As a result, she began to see Yoko as John’s subconscious replacement for Mimi.

John’s tragic death on December 8, 1980 caused yet another devastating blow in her life, especially since he had promised he would be “coming home” to Liverpool early in 1981. Her strained communications with Yoko after his death included an argument concerning a family home in Liverpool that became Yoko’s after John died, and the awful discovery that even Mimi’s home now belonged to Yoko. The frustrating battle is recounted in detail as Ms. Baird describes her attempts to prove to Yoko that John bought the houses for the family during the Beatle years.

In 1998 the long lost sister given up for adoption, Victoria, made herself known to the family, revealing that her name was changed to Ingrid. Ms. Baird shares the family’s attempts to bring her into their lives.

Julia Baird’s journey is one of great sadness, while acknowledging the great opportunity for her own healing through the writing of this book.

Imagine This restores truth to long-standing misperceptions about John Lennon’s childhood and gives long awaited vindication to the mother that John, Julia, and Jackie adored. This should be the first book anyone reads on John Lennon’s beginnings in Liverpool.


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