A maritime welfare charity that helped The Beatles when they fell on hard times has released a new book, which includes how it fed George Harrison horsemeat in Hamburg.
Whenever they played Hamburg, the band visited Sailors’ Society’s seafarers’ center. John and George both had fathers who were seafarers and recognized the charity’s name from its center in Liverpool. Sailors’ Society works with seafarers and their families around the world providing practical and emotional support. It also runs centers where seafarers can take time away from busy ports.
The charity’s CEO, Stuart Rivers, said: “When we started gathering stories together for the book, we didn’t know exactly how we’d supported The Beatles. “There were rumors they composed songs on the center’s piano, but to find out we fed them horsemeat at Christmas was a bit of a surprise!”
The band, which at the time consisted of John, Paul, George, Stu (Sutcliffe) and Pete (Best), first visited the center in August 1960, two years before Love Me Do hit the U.K. charts. The center manager at the time, Jim Hawke, said they were never any trouble, were well behaved and didn’t even smoke. He remembered years later: “They never seemed to have any money – you could see them carefully counting out the coins, and they always had the cheapest food.”
Ringo Starr also stayed at the center while playing with Mersey-beat outfit Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, but it was George Harrison who possibly had the most memorable experience. He’d visited the center with another Liverpool band, The Dominoes, whose guitarist John Frankland later remembered: “When they brought out the soup the minister attached to the mission asked: ‘Would anyone like to say grace?’ And George in his wonderful deadpan way said: ‘Yes, thank Christ for the soup.’ The minister said: ‘Any more of that and you’re out.’ We ate steaks, and we found out later they were horse steaks. We’d eaten a horse for Christmas!”
Sailors’ Society has produced 200 Stories from the Sea to commemorate its bicentenary, and all profits made will go to its work. The book features 200 maritime tales from the charity’s archives.