Julia Baird, 73, spoke of their childhood in Springwood in Liverpool with their mother Julia. Told that John and Paul McCartney had a ‘determination’ that other teens didn’t.
She told how their mother, who was also called Julia, always ‘encouraged’ the singer’s dreams, despite other parents they knew deterring their children from pursuing a career in music.
John’s sister told how their mum would play the ‘washboard and the banjo’ as her son practised in their Springwood home, and that her brother and pal Paul McCartney had a ‘determination’ that other young musicians didn’t.
‘We didn’t know any differently,’ said Julia. ‘John was our brother, we were always together. It was a very close knit family for the youngsters.’
When asked whether she always knew that John was special, she admitted that having a brother in a band was nothing special in their local community.
‘Everyone had a brother that was in a group,’ she told. ‘But they all dropped off as they got to 15, their parents got them out, [they] went to university, they all wanted to do different things. But John and Paul had a determination the others never had.’
Speaking of her late mother she went on: ‘In our kitchen in Springwood in Liverpool, is where our mother not just encouraged and said you can have the kitchen to rehearse, it but joined in.
‘She played the washboard and the banjo, my mother wanted to be in the group herself I think.’
Julia described her brother as ‘ a bit bossy’ but reminisced about memories of trips to the cinema and John helping her with school work.
She said: ‘He’s six and a half years older than me, very much the older brother – a bit boss. He played with us, drew with us, practised our time tables with us, took us to the cinema to see Elvis and then the little picture and then Elvis again.’
John’s family always held a place in his heart, with Julia revealing he picked them out of the crowd ahead of the Liverpool premiere of the band’s 1964 film A Hard Day’s Night.
‘The real premiere was in London with Princess Margaret,’ explained Julia. ‘But he said the real premiere was in Liverpool the next day and the whole family went and John came out and chatted and said: “Where’s my family?”.’
Following the band’s breakup in 1970, John released his debut solo effort John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band in the same year, releasing Imagine less than a year later.
Julia revealed that in 1973 John came home to Liverpool from the US looking for his family: ‘We didn’t lose John until he went to America, and it wasn’t only us that lost him then, everybody lost him physically. ‘But in 1973 when John came back he was looking for his family and we said, “We’re all here John, we haven’t moved anywhere…”. We started getting letters and phone calls and until he died we were in touch.’
Following her brother’s death, Julia was unable to listen to his songs, but over the years has managed to find comfort in the memory of her late brother.
Julia confessed: ‘It was terrible at first, none of the family could listen to anything. And even now, if an interview comes on, and it’s likely now, and I hear his voice, and it’s like “oh”.
‘I actually only watched Above Us Only Sky for the first time ever last week because of the piano at Strawberry Field. But I watched it and it was quite hard, but by the end I was enjoying it. It’s a weird thing. And that film almost felt personal.’
Julia told that the family will celebrate the birthday of John, who was shot dead aged 40 in New York in 1980, by having a meal together as a family.
Explaining more about the community project Strawberry Field, Julia said, ‘He [John] called the song Strawberry Field his only psychoanalytic poem.
‘I see John as a poet, very much so. And he said that was his favourite song. And Strawberry Field is a very special sanctuary and now it’s reopened.’