Dorothy Rhone was a naïve, introspective grammar school girl, born of Jessie and Tom Rhone. She lived in a strict home in middle-class Childwall with three elder siblings, Billy, Anne and Barbara, all of whom were terrified of their father Tom - a timekeeper on the Liverpool Docks - who would come home drunk every night, ranting at them and their careworn mother. It was a tense, miserable existance and as a result she became "painfully shy and had no confidence. I’d never speak to people if I didn’t know them, especially boys, because I had no contact with boys."
She was a student at the Liverpool Institute High School for Girls where talking to boys was so expressly forbidden that they would be let out early in order to be out of the way before the boys across the road (including Paul McCartney and George Harrison) began to leave their last lessons of the day.
"I was way behind, I didn’t go to my first dance until I was maybe 15. My friends were a lot more advanced than I was. I didn’t know anything about anything." She grew up to be a very pretty young girl but was convinced that she was ugly. "I never thought I was pretty at school because my sister always said my nose would spread all over my face because it was too pudgy. One night I actually went to bed with a clothes peg on my nose to try to make it narrower, but it was too painful." She was forever worrying, and was so nervous on her first date that she was nearly physically sick.
A short while after that first date when the summer of 1959 was drawing to a close, Dot was out with her friends at the Casbah club, dancing The Shake in her modest knee length skirt and sweater while a young band called The Quarry Men played on stage. Two of their guitarists had their eye on her as she danced, and the moment their set was over they homed in and tried to work their charms. "They were so fast on their feet, sparking off each other with jokes and cracks," she remembered, "it was impossible to keep up." She immediately fell for one of them, the one named John Lennon. "I liked his face, I thought he was rugged-looking. Paul was handsome in a softer way. John was also the dominant one, a very different personality. He gave me the nickname bubbles for some reason and we got along really well. I know Paul is always painted as the nice, kind one, but to me John was more compassionate. He wasn’t as mean as they make out."
Dot soon discovered that John already had a girlfriend named Cynthia, whom she quickly became good friends with, and who remembers Dot as a "gentle soul who spoke in whispers and blushed frequently". Seeing as her favourite was already taken, she turned her attention towards Paul who was a little slow asking her out, so she worked out a way of getting him on his own. "We were sitting around talking and I said I felt a bit woozy, that I might faint, and went outside into the garden. Paul came out after me to see if I was all right and it was then that he said ‘D’you fancy going out?’ This had been my plan and it worked a treat. But although I had moments of being very bold, all the doubts then came out. Anyway, I said yes, and we agreed to meet somewhere. It could have been Penny Lane which was roughly half way between our houses. The first date was the pictures. We didn’t have any money to go anywhere else."
Dot was very nervous about the date after the way she had felt on the last one, but Paul soon put her at her ease, telling her horror stories about his recent visit to the dentist. As he saw her back to the bus he made it plain that he thought they had hit it off, and arranged to see her again at the Casbah.
The two started going out frequently and began a relationship that Paul remembered years later as being one of his few steady relationships, and one which lasted - unlike many of his others - for quite a long time: "I had a girlfriend called Dot, Dorothy Rhone, who was my steady girlfriend for quite a long time in Liverpool."
She soon found herself falling "in love or infatuation" with Paul, but her real feelings were realised when he visited her at the bank where she worked. "Everyone was giggling and joking because he had such long hair compared to the other lads, so I felt I was probably doing something rebellious. It was exciting to be going out with him; different. Whatever everyone else was doing, I always wanted to do the opposite... We got close very quickly and it was such an exciting time. We used to see different Rock ‘n’ Roll groups in the coffee bars, and I felt I was part of something new. It made me feel special because not everyone was in on that scene. The normal thing was to go to these big ballrooms, where the girls would sit at one end and the boys at the other. There would be a crowd of us. Me, John, Cyn and George - who was the youngest - always tagging along."
They hadn’t been going out for long before Paul began to show signs of being overly posessive and controling. "He was so posessive that he needed to control everything about me - my appearance, the way I dressed, even the way I thought. he was always wanting me to look better than I did and I never thought I measured up to the way he thought I should be. I feel ashamed to admit it now, but back then I went along with it. I became his puppet If I knew then what I know now, I would never have allowed it to happen. He gave me a list of rules that I had to stick to. John had the same rules for his girlfriend Cynthia." This set of rules cost Dot a lot of things, including her friends. "He told me I couldn't see my girlfriends. There was no going out except with him, and I lost touch with my friends because I was never available. When we did go out I wasn't allowed to smoke, even though he smokes; it wasn't the image he wanted I guess." Paul wanted the pair of them to always wear black and insisted that Dot had blonde hair. "It started getting darker but he said I should dye it. There was one time he paid for me to have it done like he wanted and made the appointment. When I came out it looked terrible, all teased. I hated it but Paul said it was my fault because I had let them do it that way. He just said 'Give me a call when your hair grows' and walked off. We didn't see each other for a few days after that. Things like that would happen quite often." Paul himself readily admitted his behaviour regading pressuring girlfriends into being Bardot-like. "At the time everyone was trying to turn their girlfriend into a bargain basement Bardot. We all happened to be at the age when a ravishing sex goddess taking off her clothes was the fantasy for us boys. We were all smitten. So the girls had to be blonde, look rather like Brigitte and preferably pout a lot. John and I used to have these secret talks intimating, although not actually saying it, that we could be quite happy for our girlfriends to be Liverpool's answer to Bardot. My girlfriend was called Dot and, of course, John had Cynthia. We got them both to go blonde and wear mini skirts. It's terrible really. But that's the way it was."
Paul had a furious temper that went with his possesiveness which Dot found out one day when she was dancing with someone else while Paul was rehearsing with the band. "I always used to see this guy on the way to school, standing at the bus stop, and I would spin fantasies about him. And one night there he was at the Casbah. I was giving him the eye and stuff and he asked me to dance. I was dancing away with him while Paul was upstairs rehearsing. When he came down he saw us jiving and he was furious. He came up to us with my coat in his hand, while we were still on the floor and just said ‘We’re going’ just like that. We went home and had a row, but it was very one-sided. He told me I shouldn’t be dancing and having a good time without him, but I wouldn’t fight back. Maybe I wanted to keep the peace because I had seen so much fighting at home. And, of course, inwardly it was quite flattering all this posessiveness."
He made up for his posessive streak by being very generous to his new girlfriend. Everytime the band earned a few pounds he'd spend a large amount of it on little tokens of affection for her such as expensive tight miniskirts, and a black leather coat that would have cost her several weeks wages.
Paul soon wanted to move their relationship onto another level, but Dorothy was reticent, not being as experienced in these things as him and still a virgin. "I had to fight him off - maybe that was the attraction for him. All the other girls were falling at his feet." But Paul was sweet and charming, singing romantic songs for her and making her feel part of his home life at Forthlin Road. She resisted the temptation for about four months and then finally succombed around Christmas 1959, telling her mother she was going to stay at a friend’s and then sneaking round to Paul’s house when his dad was staying with one of Paul’s Aunts. "I was terrified that someone might come back, but I couldn’t fight him off any more. Paul was kind and gentle. After that we were frequent lovers, and it just felt right."
Dorothy not only fell in love with Paul, but she also fell in love with his whole family who were so very different from her own. "I think I was probably in love with Paul because I loved his family, too. His Aunties were great. One of them always came round on a Monday night to do the washing and make supper. And I loved his dad too - he was great. At Christmas and new year I would go there and it was so different to my house. They had brilliant parties and they would play music together, Paul on guitar and his dad on piano... Paul was always writing songs and he would try them out on me. He would say that he wrote them for me. Two songs, Love Of The Loved and PS I Love You he said were definitely for me... I remember the first bit, something about ‘Each time I look into your eyes I see the love of the loved.’ but no more. It is such a long time ago... PS I Love You must have been written later, in Hamburg, because the words were about writing home to a loved one."
In Februaury 1960, when Dot was still a 16 year old bank clerk, she became pregnant by the 17 year old Paul who was still studying for his A-levels in English and Art at the Liverpool Institute. Dot’s mum was obviously shocked being "one of those women who lived and died by what the neighbours thought., so I couldn’t walk the streets appearing pregnant. Everything had to be whiter than white... She thought I should go and stay with my sister in Manchester and have the baby adopted." But Dot remembers how Paul showed loyalty and compassion for her and refused to let Mrs. Rhone have her way. He said the child had been concieved of love, and insisted that they would raise it together. Paul’s dad Jim began to make plans for a register office wedding.
"It was just going to be in a register office. It wasn’t going to be a big wedding. No one had any money. I was going to live with his dad in their house. Everything was set. My mum went to see his dad. Paul’s dad was great; my mum was awful. She said I couldn’t be wheeling a pram around because of the neighbours, but he said he’d be proud to have me wheel a pram. He was really good. He put his arm around me, made me feel looked after." Mr McCartney was a little more strict with his son however, making it clear that Paul would have to get a reliable full-time job in order to contribute to his new family’s upkeep.
About three months into the pregnancy, Dot was rushed tearfully to hospital in an ambulance, suffering a miscarriage. An earnest looking Paul soon appeared laiden with flowers to cheer her up. "He seemed a bit upset but deep down he was probably relieved. With hindsight so am I. When I look back on what happened to Paul after the Beatles became famous, I know it would never have worked between us."
A few months after her miscarriage, Paul was heading off with the band to Hamburg. Dorothy was heart broken that he was leaving her and that she had no idea when he would return, but in a way his departure was a relief. "There were so many rules, and it was so hard to meet his expectations that it was almost easier to be 'going out' with him and not have him around. I wasn't being judged."
The Beatles stayed in Hamburg for four months, returning home in November when George Harrison was discovered to be too young to have a work permit. Paul cheated on Dorothy regularly during this seperation and she gained some idea from this when she used to visit Paul's father. "I went up to Paul's bedroom and found some postcrd from a girl. She was saying that she couldn't wait for him to come back. It was from a German girl but written in English." When he returned home and she questioned him about it he dismissed her suspicions, saying that she knew all the girls were after him, and then changed the subject. Despite knowledge of his inidelity, Dot still remained totally faithful during their time apart. "I spent a lot of time with Cyn talking about them and writing letters. Sometimes we would dress ourselves up in the leather skirts and put on our make-up and take pictures of one another to send to them." Despite playing around, Paul spent a lot of time writing to his girlfriend back home, and she would recieve a letter from him nearly every day. "He sent me a hand-designed Valentines card,and there were always funny little messages". One of these read 'To Dot of English fame and great renown. This one's a quick and happy. He hasn't shaved but he still looks good all the same. All my love, Paul'." Dot's mother Jessie threw hundreds of Paul's letters away when Paul and Dot split up and she moved away.
Dorothy accepted Paul's behaviour because she had totally fallen under his spell, charmed completely by him. "Paul could charm the birds out of the trees if he wanted, but he could be pretty nasty too. Once we were going to the pictures and it was sold out so he put on the charm to the cashier. When she still said they had no tickets for us he got really mad and started calling her a bitch."
When Paul returned from Hamburg Dot began to realise how things were changing. "They were becomming more famous and all the girls were after them all the time. One day I went to his house and this girl was in the kitchen, cleaning or something. His dad said she had been hanging around outside waiting for Paul so he thought he would invite her in to make herself useful. The girls used to come round and snip bits off the hedge just because it was Paul's. And they were always coming up to me and asking what Paul was like."
In the summer of 1961 during the band's second visit to Hamburg, Dot managed to get away from the waiting around and being hassled by rivals when Paul paid for her to visit him in Germany for a fortnight. Cynthia remembered the struggle Dot had to get there in her autobiogaphy A Twist Of Lennon:
"Dot had a great deal of difficulty in persuading her parents that all would be well on the trip, but a solemn promise of good behaviour and constant pleading wore them down. Paul's dad Jim and my mother saw us off on the boat-train. We were consumed with excitement... The idyllic image of our handsome heroes waiting for us with open arms on the platform of a foreign station, all misty and romantic, kept us occupied." But as Dot remembers, the reality was quite different.
"By this time they were all drinking heavily and taking pills to keep them awake. When we arrived it was morning and they hadn't been to bed all night. They were drunk, or whatever, and their eyes were popping out of their heads." Paul had arranged for he and Dot to share a cabin on a houseboat owned by the lavatory attendant of the club he played at, and once the shock over the state of her boyfriend soon wore off she began to enjoy herself. He whisked her off on a boat trip, took her sight seeing, and bought her lots more clothes. "He was very cuddly, lovely, close" When their boyfriends were playing in the club at nights, Dot and Cynthia would sit and watch the band with Astrid Kirchherr, whom they became very good friends with. This meant all three girls would be sat very close to the stage where Paul placed Dot so he could jealously guard her all night while on stage.
Paul remembers her Hamburg trip as another time spent trying to convert her into Bardot: "She and John's girlfriend, later wife, Cynthia Powell, came over to Hamburg and I remember buying her a leather skirt and encouraging her to grow her hair long so she'd look like Brigitte. She was a blonde. Cynthia had the same thing, tight skirt, long blonde hair. Cynthia wasn't actually a blonde but John got her to dye it blonde to look a bit more like Brigitte. I remember he and I saying, 'Yeah, well, the more they look like Brigitte, the better off we are, mate!' "
The new look caused quite a stir in Liverpool as Dot's friend Sandra Hedges recalled decades later: "I remember the girl whose name was shortened to 'Dot' by Paul and for whom he wrote P.S. I Love You. The girl who hunched her black-leather-clad shoulders and hurried away in black calf-height boots from cat-calls of 'cow girl' from Scouse youths unaccustomed to the sight of such 'gear'. The blonde had bought the gear in Hamburg when visiting there with the Silver beatles. She was very much in love with Paul and he, in his turn, would jealously guard her (to her chagrin) by placing her amid the group while playing."
On returning from Hamburg, Dot found a job as a Chemist's Dispenser, and with Paul helping out with the rent, moved into a flat next door to Cynthia's on Garmoyle Road. Paul visited her occasionally but they never spen much time there together. "It was really a furnished room with a hotplate, bed and dresser. Cyn's place was nicr and we'd go sit in there."
By late 1961 Paul started visitng her less, and when he did visit there would be dreadful rows. "John was really kind to me and was always telling Paul he should be nicer." Then Brain Epstein became the Beatles manager. "He said we couldn't go to the concert's anymore. We obeyed him. We were very annoyed but we thought, if it helped their careers we would do it... I could see that Paul wa growing away from me. I knew what was coming. And all these years he had been having his bits on the side and it was getting so easy for him. he was young and he couldn't resist. That was a time of sadness but also release. I didn't keep trying so hard or worrying about trying to keep up, or saying the right things or not having my hair right or not being enough fun"
The relationship ended in the Summer of 1962 when The Beatles were weeks away from national fame. Dorothy will never forget the night Paul visited her and told her they had to break up. He called unexpectedly at her flat when she was wearing her mother's cami-knickers and a baggy old sweater, with her hair in rollers. "Paul said we'd been going out so long that it was either get married or split up. He said 'I don't want to get married, so even though I love you we'll have to finish.' He didn't cry but I knew he felt badly and he was sorry, just by the way he looked. I burst out crying. I said how can you do this? What am I going to do? I thought he might come back because it had been three years, but I suppose really I knew." Dot's friend Sandra Hedges remembers that Dot's pushing to get Paul to marry her was indeed a large factor in them splitting up: "Dot wanted them to be married as were their friends John and Cynthia who lived upstairs. In an attempt to shake Paul, she returned home to her parents. Two weeks later Paul became the love of the world; the famous ticker-tape welcome in America, his face in every newpaper, every newscast. Despair! A year later we bade farewell to Dot when she emigrated to Canada and I recall once saying to her: 'I'm fed up with those lads from the art college practicing in our front room every Sunday. You'll never get anywhere with them'."
A year earlier, ex-Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe had written a letter to his sister Pauline which suggested that Paul and Dot had split up on her insistance and at a much earlier date, "Oh yes -- Paul and Dot -- in one way I'm not surprised, but it's still rather a shock particularly as Dot was the one who finished it -- it is true I suppose." but no other information about this particular incident can be found. Mike McCartney, Paul's brother also seems to think she was the one who backed off from Paul once the Beatles started to get famous. "Dot Rhone, who was Paul's girlfriend at the sam time that John started going out with Cynthia. Nobody knows about Dot. A very nice, simple, shy girl who didn't want any of the bull**** surrounding the Beatles' stardom. As soon as they got famous, she retired from the scene."
Dorothy had to move back in with her parents now that Paul wasn't helping her with the rent for her flat, but a few weeks later when Cynthia discovered she was pregnant and move into Brian Epstein's flat, Dot moved into the same buliding so that she could take care of her. "I used to see Paul when he came with John and one tim he took me out in the car. He started out being okay, and maybe he just wanted to see if we could get back together. But he ended up being nasty again because he didn't like my nylons, which were patterned with diamonds. As I said, looks were everything, he was very superficial then, though I'm sure he's changed quite a bit. I cried and cried for weeks after paul and I split up. I didn't go out because I hardly had any friends anyway. It was probably three or four months before I got myself together."
Dot started a new career in the Civil Service and gradually began to socialise again, but it was years before she gained confidence and a sense of self worth, now that she was no longer controlled by the posessive Paul McCartney. But even though he was no longer controlling her, he was still in her life. "It was Beatles Beatles Beatles... I couldn’t escape."
In 1964 she emigrated to Canada with two friends, and within four days of her arrival she had met her future husband. He was a tall, fair haired, sporty young German called Werner Becker, and Dorothy knew she’d never loose him to the music industry because "he is even tone deaf". A year after emigrating she met Paul again briefly when the Beatles played a concert in Toronto, and then once more when his band Wings played there. That last time she was invited there by Paul who sent a Rolls Royce to pick uo Dot, her husband and their eldest daughter, and take them to Maple Leaf Gardens where they were taken backstage. Dorothy's friend Sandra believes this meeting with Paul did Dot a lot of good in that it finally laid to rest a lot of things about her relationship with Paul that had troubled her over the years. "Dot with her husband and elder daughter Astrid were Rolls-Royced some years later to meet up with the group when they played at Spring Gardens in Toronto. When she met Paul again the ghost was laid."
Dot’s first child was named Astrid after an old friend of hers from Hamburg, and she went on to have two more girls. Dot and her husband are now grandparents living in an elegant home at Mississauga, Ontario. She didn’t keep reminders of her Beatle days, throwing away all her letters, auctioning off her photos and never buying any records, but told her family the whole story.
In 1996 Dot was re-united with her friend Cynthia Lennon in Toronto. "Hey I’ve got something for you." Cyn told Dot, handing over an unembossed, plain gold ring with ridges along the edges. It was the ring Paul had brought back for her on his first trip to Hamburg a few months after her miscarriage. Dot remembered that when he gave it to her he had said that it was to mark their engagement. "I was ecstatic and I took it that we were going to get married." She had worn that ring even after they split up, but when she took it off one day to wash up at Cynthia’s flat, Cynthia tried it on and forgot to take it off.
She was upset when Paul finally acknowledged her existance in the book Many Years From Now, and stated that his abiding memory of his first steady girlfriend was that he desparately wanted to change her appearance to make her look more like Brigitte Bardot:
"When I saw him refer to me in that book it was hurtful" When you go out with someone for three years you’d think he would have something more to say than that he wanted you to look like Brigitte Bardot. Maybe I didn’t mean that much to him after all - but I don’t really believe that. I know that, for a few years at least, I did."
He continued in the book to explain how Dot and Cynthia had visited him and John in Hamburg, and soon began describing his 'sexual awakening' with strippers and hookers in the Reeperbahn. Her final injustice by Many Years From Now was that even her name was spelt wrong as 'Rohne'. She felt as though she had been fobbed off as a mere accesory on an aspiring pop star’s arm, someone of fleeting importance.
SOURCES: A Twist Of Lennon by Cynthia Lennon 1978, John Lennon My Brother by Julia Baird 1988, Dorothy Rhone interview October 1997, the authorised Paul McCartney biography by Barry Miles 1997, The Beatles And Us special by the Sunday Times, various Beatles and McCartney biographies.