By Dr. Anton Anderssen
John Ffrench was born in Corah, Ireland, between Ballycarney and Ferns, in 1870 to James and Ellen Ffrench (née Whelan), who raised five children on their two-acre farm. They both died at the end of 1906, within two months of one another. James was 81 years old, and his wife was 75 years old. Their children fought to keep the farm going until their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, died in 1911 at the age of 35. In 1913, the tiny holding was sold and the earnings shared among the surviving four children. It was characterized as “an extraordinarily well-finished slated dwelling-home, cow house, car house, poultry house, and piggeries, etc, all slated and in fine repair” by Enniscorthy auctioneer Patrick O’Neill.
However, John relocated to Liverpool in the 1890s. He worked as a bartender at the Black Horse Hotel and also operated a horse and cab service, transporting customers to and from the docks and train stations. John was afterwards hired by Liverpool Corporation as a lamplighter (person responsible for lighting street gaslamps). He joined the Liverpool police service during WWI, rising to the rank of Special Constable, but left in 1916 to resume his job as a lamplighter.
John met 21-year-old Louise Woollam from Crosby around 1899, when he was 29 years old, and they married in about 1904, however no documentary evidence of their marriage has been discovered. Louise was baptized into the Anglican Church in 1891, when she was twelve years old. John and Louise had seven children and rented a tiny terraced house at 11 Albert Grove, Wavertree, Liverpool. All of the children were baptized in the local Catholic church, Our Lady of Good Help, reportedly in response to family pressure from Wexford. Louise was in her thirties when she became a Catholic in 1918.
Louise, their fourth child, was born in 1911. Louise worked as a grocer’s assistant as a teenager and married Protestant bus driver Harold Harrison in a civil ceremony in 1931 at the age of 19. Harold and Louise were the parents of four children: another Louise, Harry, Peter, and Beatle George, born in 1943. Later, the parents’ marriage was recognised by the Catholic Church. The family was relocated to a larger council house in the growing suburb of Speke in 1949.
George’s mother had cousins in Drumcondra, Dublin, and she frequently traveled there with her family via boat from Liverpool over the holidays. George, the youngest Beatle, made a point of visiting his Drumcondra cousins John and Doris Ffrench in Clonturk Park in 1963, when the Beatles performed at the Adelphi Cinema. Other George’s relatives have lived at Rosslare Strand for generations.
The Beatles were the 1960s’ most influential band. Between 1960 and 1970, they became the world’s best-selling musical artists.
Louise, George’s only sister, immigrated to the United States in 1956, when he was just 12 years old. In 1963, she attempted to market his band locally – to any media source that would listen – in Illinois. At the time, the Beatles were almost unknown in the United States. Following two divorces from husbands who both had alcoholism, George decided to provide Louise with a $2,000 monthly pension. However, that was canceled following his death. In 2014, she wrote My Kid Brother’s Band a.k.a. The Beatles, her memoirs.
Harry and Peter, George’s brothers, avoided the limelight entirely. They both worked as groundskeepers for George at his 120-room Oxfordshire estate Friar Park, which he purchased in 1970. In 1999, an intruder attacked George and his wife Olivia, leaving him with forty stab wounds and a punctured lung. Olivia was George’s second wife. Pattie Boyd, his first wife, later married Eric Clapton.
George Harrison died of cancer in 2001 at the age of 58 at a friend’s home in Los Angeles. He was cremated and interred in Hollywood Forever Cemetery in a cardboard coffin. According to Hindu tradition, his ashes were strewn in India’s Ganges River.