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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005, 08:03 GMT
Lennon's cousin re-lives memories
By Mona McAlinden
BBC Scotland's news website

On the 25th anniversary of the shooting of former Beatle John Lennon, BBC Scotland's news website talks to the singer's oldest surviving relative.

Stanley Parkes and John Lennon - picture courtesy of David Birch
Stanley Parkes and John Lennon outside their aunt Mimi's home

At his home in Largs, Stanley Parkes could not be further removed from the screaming teenagers and drug-fuelled parties that came with Beatlemania.

However, more than 40 years ago, the retired Scottish tourist board worker was caught up in his cousin John Lennon's rapid rise to fame.

"When you think about it, John never did a day's work in his life," he laughed.

"He went from schoolboy to multi-millionaire in no time."

Mr Parkes - seven years older than Lennon - spent his early childhood in Liverpool before moving to Scotland in 1949.

"John always stayed with us during the summer holidays, in Edinburgh and at the family croft in Sutherland," he recalled.

In one of the last letters I got from him he said he missed Scotland more than England
Stanley Parkes,
John Lennon's cousin

"We went fishing and hunting and John loved going up into the hills to draw.

"He loved this country; in one of the last letters I got from him he said he missed Scotland more than England."

Mr Parkes remembered music being a big part of Lennon's life during his formative teenage years.

"He was always very musical, although he couldn't read or write it. I'd ask him how he could write songs and play the piano if he couldn't even read music.

"He said well, have you noticed that I can only play with my eight fingers and not my thumbs? It was amazing really."

Stanley Parkes
Mr Parkes was frightened by the fame experienced by his cousin

The 72-year-old had no inkling that his little cousin would become a world famous icon.

"I can remember the first demo he played me, Love Me Do. I thought it was great. But I'd no idea they would become so successful."

Mr Parkes said that success didn't alter family relationships.

"When we were together we didn't discuss the Beatles, we just talked about family stuff.

"We had a marvellous time; the family were backstage at the concerts, we went to film premieres and the Abbey Road studios. To see it actually happen was amazing."

Family and friends were even roped into an impromptu session at the famous studios.

"John asked a few friends and I to bang cymbals and sing la-la-la. It was all out of sequence so we didn't know which records it was going on. I still don't!

"I joked that I had to get some royalties for doing it and he said 'you'll be bloody lucky'. Typical John," he laughed.

Mr Parkes admitted being shocked by the adulation heaped on his relative.

John Lennon's family - picture courtesy of David Birch
Mr Parkes alongside cousins and aunts before the 'Help!' premiere

"He couldn't go anywhere without being mobbed; it was quite scary. The Beatles were more or less trapped in their own circle by the success.

"When he was in Scotland I had to run them to Perthshire in my little blue Austin. When I came out of the hotel, my car was covered in messages written in lipstick.

"I thought to myself 'how am I going to get home with my car in this state?' Moments like that were totally mad."

Mr Parkes described the era as "wild living" but said drugs and alcohol were not his scene.

"I didn't even smoke cigarettes, but I would still go along to the parties with John and Cynthia, his first wife," he recalled.

Be wary

"I remember on one occasion, sitting a cup of coffee beside me and seeing a hand over it from the corner of my eye.

"I put my finger in and scooped out a big lump of LSD. So you had to be quite wary."

When Lennon moved to New York he kept in touch with family back in the UK.

Mr Parkes said: "In the last letter before he was killed he quoted a famous Scottish song that says 'It's a braw, bricht moonlicht nicht'.

"He wrote 'come on man, send me a postcard. Life is short'. So it turned out to be very poignant."


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