John Lennon returns to Scotland [1969]

The postcard featured on SCOTBEAT was one that John and Yoko Lennon passed on to a local resident after giving them directions to a gas station during their holiday in north-west Scotland during the summer of ’69. The Scottish trip was a chance for John and Yoko to relax with their children Julian and Kyoko though it ended shortly after their car was run off the road avoiding a collision when John was driving back to Durness after a day of sightseeing before returning to London to record the Abbey Road Album.

It had been over 7 years since the Beatles achieved recognition and fame as “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me” hit the music charts making The Beatles a hot commodity. After years of busy schedules and being subjected to the hustle and bustle of metropolitan life, the solitude of the north of Scotland must have been a welcoming aspect for John who had an affinity for the area. As Scots are hospitable and less than impressed with celebrity status, it was more likely that the family could enjoy some privacy as they would be treated as anyone else by the residents in the calm of the natural surroundings.

John Lennon must have looked forward to his tours in Scotland as back-up band ‘The Silver Beetles’ [1960] as well as kicking off their first tour in January 1963 which included 5 gigs in the north of Scotland and an appearance on Scottish Television to promote their new song, “Please, Please Me”. [related posts]

John spent several summers in the north of Scotland with family and enjoyed his holidays in Durness where he wrote “In My Life”, a song that Paul McCartney considered one of John’s best compositions.

Tongue near Durness

Near Tongue, Sutherland [autographed postcard from John and Yoko Lennon]

John and Yoko Lennon autograph 1969

John and Yoko Lennon autograph 1 July 1969

After finding petrol and something to eat in a local café in Tongue, the couple were returning to Durness when they were involved in an accident later that day.

“The couple [John and Yoko Ono Lennon] were travelling from Durness, through Tongue and ran out of petrol a mile or so from the village. The first person they bumped into was my Granny, Georgina . She gave them directions to either the Post Office, or Burrs of Tongue, as both had pumps. As the card suggests, it was 1/07/69 – John or Yoko corrected the date if you look closely.

They must have had the card on them and my granny had good presence of mind to ask for the autographs. I couldn’t tell you what they were wearing, though they were described as a bit scruffy. The village of Tongue does have high standards, and anything less than a shirt and tie would fail to meet criteria for for being properly dressed.” Kevin Doonan 

“The memory of those boyhood holidays proved potent for Lennon. Some locals claim that the song ‘In My Life’ was partly inspired by his time in Durness. It is an indication of how important Durness was to Lennon that in 1969 the Beatle returned to the village, bringing with him Yoko Ono and their children Julian and Kyoko.

Alistair Morrison, who was born in Durness and has spent all his life in the village, recalls Lennon turning up in his living room. ‘I remember playing with John and his cousins when we were young boys,’ he said, ‘and then years later he came back and sat in this very room with his wife and the kids.’

Morrison said that Lennon loved Durness because even in 1969, when he was a member of the most famous band in the world, he was allowed to be a normal person there. ‘The people remembered him from when he was little,’ he said, ‘so he felt comfortable. But I have to admit it was still overwhelming for me to have a Beatle in my living room.’

Lennon’s visit with Ono turned out to be an ill-fated trip and had to be cut short after he crashed his car and was taken to hospital. ‘John had a chauffeur-driven Rolls, a Ferrari and a Porsche, but he turned up in Durness in an old Maxi,’ recalled Stan Parkes, ‘but he was a terrible driver with bad eyesight.’

Lennon was driving in dire weather when he caught sight of a foreign tourist driving towards him. He panicked and crashed the Maxi into the side of the road. He spent five days in hospital and both he and Ono needed stitches for facial injuries.

It was to be the last time that Lennon visited Durness. And yet Durness and the Highlands maintained their pull on him. ‘John used to say that he felt more Scottish than English,’ said Philip Norman, author of an acclaimed new biography, John Lennon: The Life. ‘He was always calling himself Jock and Whistling Jock Lennon, and even when he was living in New York he was always searching for a house that would remind him of the croft where he spent his childhood.'” Alistair Morrison

2002: A memorial to John Lennon was unveiled in the remote Scottish village of Durness where Lennon had spent his holidays from age seven to fifteen. The lyrics from ‘In My Life’ had been inscribed on three stones. Durness 2

“While holidaying in Scotland with Yoko Ono, her daughter Kyoko and his son Julian, John Lennon crashed his white British Leyland Austin Maxi car in Golspie in the Highlands.” Check out Joe’s blog on John’s accident on the holiday at:

“On July 1st, 1969, he was driving to visit his aunt’s croft near Durness, in the north of Scotland. On a single-track road near Loch Eriboll, John saw another vehicle approaching. Although there were passing places along the route, John panicked and drove his white Austin Maxi off the road.

Of the car’s four passengers – John, Yoko Ono, Yoko’s daughter Kyoko and John’s son Julian, only Julian escaped unhurt. On being taken to Lawson Memorial Hospital in Golspie, John needed 17 stitches on his chin, Yoko 14 in her face and Kyoko 4 in her lip. All three were detained for five days to recover and ensure they had suffered no internal bleeding or other problems. Julian was released into the care of John’s aunt until his mother Cynthia flew up to collect him.

While in the hospital the minister of the Knox Free Church in Brora visited the hospital to talk to John about his claim that The Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ. It seems the minister and the Beatle got on well together with John saying he could visit anytime.

When they were discharged from hospital on July 6th, a chartered helicopter was waiting on the hospital lawn to take them across the Moray Firth to Inverness airport. There, they boarded a private executive jet which took them back to London.

The fateful Austin Maxi was shipped back to the Lennon’s home at Tittenhurst Park near Ascot, where it was placed on a plinth in the garden to remind the couple of their mortality.”

 Stan Parkes wrote: “John… loved painting, drawing, and writing in Durness… It was often when he was at his happiest.”

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My research began in 2007 as a visitor to the north of Scotland. Growing up a few miles from San Francisco, I would frequent the active music scene on weekends besides being a fan of British BEAT music and never missing Shindig! on television. When first visiting the small community of Elgin in 2007, I was surprise to learn how the Beatles and many other vocalist and musicians came to perform during the early days of their careers. In the early 1950s, Albert Bonici began promoting dances though it had been an ambition since his teenage years. When he and Henry Robertson co-organized a string of jazz dances in the north Scotland, they could not have predicted the enormous success of the venture. Albert Bonici became one of the most respected promoters in the UK having arranged a high volumn of music venues throughout the north of Scotland which delighted music lovers during the height of the jazz and beat music era. Whilst known for booking the Beatles at the beginning of their 1963 tours, Albert Bonici brought most of the top British acts to north-east Scotland besides working with Scottish musicians to boost their careers. SCOTBEAT was created to share a bit of history about the BEAT years in Scotland and also a tribute to a man with a vision who, with the help of his family and staff, created a happening that is still fondly remembered by those who attended dances and concerts. Albert A Bonici hosted many up and coming bands who went on to gain international acclaim for their contributions. Besides other local resources and interviews, SCOTBEAT presents exclusive photos, adverts, and documents from the A Bonici Archives [circa 1960s]. Unless otherwise agreed, materials are not to be used for financial gain and ask that you respect the terms below. Materials presented are not to be used for financial gain without consent. © 2014-2019 All rights reserved. No part of this web site may be copied, redistributed, broadcast or published in any form without crediting this blog and/or copyright websites mentioned. All correspondence, flyers, programs, and photos from the Bonici Archives are not to appear in print other than through the propietor of SCOTBEAT. Use of the site signifies your agreement to all of these terms without condition. Please reference when sharing materials found here as the site is continuously updated to present the subject matter accurately and as a historical resource. Thank you.

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Posted in 1960's pop music

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