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Barbara Baker

      As a young teenager Barbara Baker lived in Ridgetor Road in Liverpool, and spent her summertime riding her bike or playing tennis in Calderstones Park with friends. John Lennon's half sister remembers her as his "first fully-fledged fan... a strawberry blonde called Barbara. She was only a schoolgirl, but to Jaqui and me she was like a film star with lots of long, blonde hair and glamour."

      During a visit with her friend Miranda to Reynolds Park the two girls were followed across the park by two boys named Len Garry and John Lennon. The girls were often visited the park but had never seen these boys there before as they usually hung out around Calderstones Park, but had recently gone off in a boat at Calderstones without paying and daren't risk seeing the boat man or the park keeper. The boys had tried to follow the girls at a dicreet distance right through the park until they were almost at Beaconsfield Road and then lost them. "We followed them from a resonable distance." Len remembered, "Eventually we came across an area that was surrounded by a huge stone wall with an open timber gate set into the middle of it. It was a very secluded part of the park, almost as though we had wandered onto private property and the two girls had disappeared. We parked our bikes up against the wall and went through the gate." They worked out that the girls had disappered into a small tunnel at the bottom of a sloped clearing and waited around for them to re-appear. When they did, Len and John introduced themselves and persuaded Barbara to show them the tunnel.

      Barbara decided she liked Len best out of the two boys and arranged to meet him.
" 'Barbara,' I said after about ten minutes, 'tell me honestly who you like best.'
'Why you of course.'
...John and I got together and discussed the situation.
'John did you ask her who she liked best?'
'Yeah and she said she fancied you - you dirty rat!'
'Look John, I'm going to ask her out to be my steady girlfriend, if it doesn't work out you can step in.' "

They started going out frequently but mainly went off on bike rides to places such as the Mersey Estuary out at Haleshore because they couldn't afford trips to the pictures. Len was the only one out of his gang who had a steady girlfriend and used to drive the others mad about it. She always met Len at the end of Linkstor Road where he would wait with a few of his friends. She enjoyed the attention from the other boys and often John and her would catch each others eyes. After only a few weeks John started going out with her and Len didn't really object or do anything to stop them.

      Barbara first started taking notice of John one Sunday afternoon when she was walking home from Sunday School with a friend. John and his friend Pete came charging down the lane and when John spotted Barbara's hair up in a ponytail he began to shout "Oh, there's horseface! Horse's tail and horse's face!". This made Barbara think that John hadn't changed much since they were little when he was the boy who'd perch in a tree and shoot arrows at her and other girls as they walked home from school. He stopped teasing her and they had a short conversation as they walked along the road. Barbara was surprised to see that John was very smartly dressed in a white shirt, school tie and blue blazer, and after he'd managed to speak in a civilised manner to her for a few minutes she accepted his invitation to walk about a few nights later.

      Barbara and John Lennon were together for over a year, her being his first real girlfriend and reportedly the first girl he slept with when he was 16 years old. When John rushed to tell his best friend Pete Shotton about this, it wasn't just his kiss-and-tell attitude that showed his lack of care and tact towards Barbara. Pete remembered his report clearly, a report which was none too flattering towards Barbara and soon proved that John's behaviour towards her had been less than courteous at the time. A trend which continued throughout their physical relationship when a lack of privacy caused Barbara and John, along with his friend Pete and Pete's girlfriend, not only to share the same room, but also sometimes the same bed. Years later, John's recollections of his time with Barbara continued in the same trend. "I remember a night, or should I say day, in my teens when I was f***ing my girlfriend on a gravestone and my arse got covered in greenfly. This was a good lesson in karma and/or gardening."

      John left Barbara for a short while and started going out with a girl called Margaret Jones who had also gone out with Len Garry, but went back to Barbara before long and was still with her when his and Len's gang formed a music group called The Quarrymen and began playing dances and events such as the St Peter's Church Fete in 1957 where John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met.

      Barbara would call round at his house frequently to see him but nearly always got told he was out by his Auntie Mimi. John's half-sister, Julia Baird, remembers her doing the same at John's mother's house: "She ought to have taken a tent for the amount of times she was outside the house, just watching the house, gardens, windows and door... She hung about outside our house for hours at a time, waiting to see John. When it first started happening, Jaqui and I couldn't make out what she was doing there. John must have suspected and our mother must have guessed, although she was much too discreet to say anything. We learned later that first she would go to Mimi's house, where John normally lived. Not finding him there, she came to our house, walking all the way to save the bus fare. John's friends always knew where to find him if he wasn't at home with Mimi. 'That poor girl,' my mother would often say, giving a tremendous sigh... She ought to have taken a tent for the number of times she was outside the house, just watching the house, gardens, windows and door."

      John's mother and her children thought that she was just a fan of John and his group The Quarrymen at first, but his two half-sisters soon discovered otherwise. "One day Barbara was hanging round as usual, standing by the lampost where we had set up a tarzan swing. When we went out to play, she called me over and asked me to get John to come outside. I raced inside with the message. John only gave a deep groan and begged our mother to please go out and send her away. Just a little annoyed by all this nonsense, my mother marched out to the front gate and called out politely but firmly, 'What is it you want, dear?' At the sight of her, the poor girl took to her heels and ran off up the road. Jaqui and I thought it was a great giggle, thoroughly enjoying the drama and Barbara's acute embarrassment. We set off after her, wanting to make the most of her discomfort, and caught up with her at the top of the road. To our amazement, instead of being further abashed by our tormenting, she turned to us like long lost friends. Please, please she begged, run home and persuade John to come and meet her. This time John's mood had miraculously changed. Casually he strode out of the front door and up the road for his encounter with Barbara. We followed them, waiting to hear John give her a good telling off. What happened next was totally unexpected. They embraced in a passionate kiss and sank down out of sight in the long willowy grass behind an old stone wall. We had another terrible fit of giggles. Sheepishly, John poked his head up over the wall and hissed at us to go away. We didn't, of course, and he had to bribe us in the end with half a crown, making us promise not to say anything to anyone. Later that evening at dinner, our mother berated John for allowing Barbara to walk all the way from Woolton, when he didn't want to see her. Only some timely kicks in the shins under the table stopped us blurting out the remarkable truth.".

      Despite John's on-off behaviour with Barbara, she has very fond recollections of him, remembering him as "A very romantic boy; extremely romantic. He wrote pages and pages of poetry to me. Love - absolute romance. 'Here,' he would say, 'I've written you a letter, a poem, read it!... When he took exams, he would put my name at the bottom of his picture. That way he felt sure he would pass."

      When Barbara met John's mother Julia properly as John's girlfriend, the two got on very well together. A situation which did not happen when she was eventually introduced to Julia's sister Mimi who was John's guardian at the time. Barbara remembers: "She was so well dressed and well spoken. I felt I better watch my P's and Q's with her. She always had to put on this image. I don't think she was popular. I never got on with Mimi. I think she thought - and she was probably right - it was getting too hot. And we were too young."

      In the second Summer of their relationship, Barbara started to feel unsure about being with John, she didn't feel as intensely about him as she had before, and decided she'd try dating a close friend of his, Bill Turner, for a while to see if she preferred being with Bill to John. "I cooled off him and started going out with his best friend behind his back. John went crazy. He nearly kicked a fence in that night. He was absolutely brokenhearted." A few weeks after that experiance Barbara decided that she preferred John after all, and after Bill had a word with John about it, Barbara and John got back together.

      During the final year of school, and the first year of art college, John and Barbara were intensely involved, but when their familes realised the state of their relationship, neither of them were pleased, and it is said that his aunt and her mother broke up the relationship in the end. Barbara remembers her mother dragging her father round to visit Mimi when she discovered her daughter was getting involved at such a young age. "Mimi and my mum had a conversation - and my father. They sort of made us give it up. Made us split up." Neither of the couple had ever been the best behaved children, and weren't about to start following their parents orders. So John continued to see Barbara secretly throughout the first year of art college. At the beginning of the second year though, the romance fizzled out when John began to take notice of a fellow student named Cynthia Powell.

      Len Garry reckons that "John thought the world of Barbara", and although they split up, he was still thinking of her in 1978: "Barbara, where are you now? Fat and ugly? Fifteen kids? Years of hell with me should have made you ready for anything. What's so sad about the past is that it's passed. I wonder who's kissing her now?"

SOURCES: John Lennon My Brother by Julia Baird, John Paul & Me: Before The Beatles by Len Garry, various Beatles and Lennon biographies and various interviews with Julia Baird.


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