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Iris Caldwell

image of a young Iris Caldwell Iris Violet Caldwell born 1945 to Vi and Ernie Caldwell. As George Harrison recalled "Ernie was a porter in his spare time in the local hospital, Broad Green Hospital. He used to sing songs to his patients. He was a really nice fella, and a window cleaner by occupation. After we'd arrived late at night, he'd go to bed and they'd all make jokes about him, but in a nice way. He was a simple, quiet, mild-mannered bloke." According to Iris "The Beatles used to call my dad The Crusher and call my mum Violent Vi and I've no idea why."

Her brother, Alan, was a talented singer who gave up his job as a cotton salesman to start a group called the Texans. He later adopted the vibrant stage name Rory Storm to better suit his wild stage antics, and the band - who were the top Liverpool group of that era - became known as the Hurricanes, acquired a new drummer called Ringo Starr, and hang out with other up-and-coming groups such as The Beatles. Alan was so dedicated to his new image that he adopted his stage name legally by deed poll and named his home at 54 Broadgreen Road, Stormsville. The group released one single in December 1964 which failed to chart and Rory refused to take up further chances to record. Iris felt that "He was happy to be the King of Liverpool; he was never keen on touring, he didn't want to give up running for the Pembroke Harriers ... and he'd never miss a Liverpool football match!" Her first boyfriend remembers of her brother "Rory was an athlete. I remember a couple of times I came to have a date with Iris, and Rory would come running up to his front door sweating and panting, and checking his stopwatch, because he'd been training."

Iris found her first boyfriend when she was twelve, in a fourteen year old lad called George Harrison. "I met George at the ice rink when I was 12 and he was 14. Every night he would come round to our house after school. He used to play guitar and wanted to get into [my brother] Rory's band but Rory said he was a bit young. We went out for ages - but it was a totally different concept to boyfriend and girlfriend today. We'd walk down Lilly Lane which was like a lovers' lane and kiss and cuddle. George was the best kisser ever. Rory opened a skiffle club and I wasn't supposed to go because I was under 15 so I put cotton wool in my bra and blue blusher on my eyes. "At the end of the night, Rory made a joke about his little sister having cotton wool down her bra. I was so embarrassed I ran out in tears. Then I heard footsteps behind me. It was George. I ran into his arms and he gave me the best kiss ever. I can still feel it right in my tummy, even now. He was lovely." Iris says that the best kisser out of her two Beatle boyfriends was definitely George. "He gave me my first kiss. He was lovely. Paul was charming. George had something else. But we split up when I was having a party. He insulted a friend. We were playing a game where all the girls were named after fruit. The boys would come in and mum would ask if they wanted pears or apples, and whoever was that girl got a kiss. George didnít find his choice that attractive. When my mum asked do you want lemons or pears? George just said: 'I'm not hungry'. I was so upset. He had insulted my friends. I said I never wanted to speak to him again. But even when I was going out with Paul and we'd had a row, George would still phone up asking if he could take me out. I don't think there was any rivalry over me. It was all good-hearted. Things were so different then.

Her mother Vi recalled "George used to come and watch TV three times a week. He and Iris used to sit there holding hands. It was the first time either of them had ever taken any interest in someone of the opposite sex. At Iris' fourteenth birthday party, I remember George turned up in a brand new Italian-style suit covered with buttons. As in most teenage parties, they kept on playing kissing games and somehow or other, George and Iris always ended up together."

portrait of Iris George definitely saw her as his first girlfriend, but was unsure how she saw the relationship. "My first girlfriend was Rory Storm's sister, Iris Caldwell. She was really nice and had cotton wool in her bra. She probably didn't ever think she was my girlfriend. You never know when you're young; you just fancy somebody, or someone's in the same room as you, and you end up thinking they're your girlfriend. ...I'd met Iris a couple of times and went round to her house and hung out. They had a little basement that they were trying to turn into a coffee club. That seemed to be the craze in the Fifties."

George's sister Louise remembered that Iris and George were inseparable until he got into music, and then his interest in her was overtaken by his new love. He even auditioned for her brother's group, The Hurricanes, but wasn't asked to join. Despite failing to join Rory's band and no longer going out with Iris, all of the family were still very friendly with George. "They were a great family and were very friendly to all of us. Later - after we'd come back from Hamburg and done loads of gigs in Liverpool and the North of England - we used Rory's house as a place to hang out when we got back to town after shows. His mother Vi would make endless pots of tea and toast for us all."

image Iris dancing

Iris on stage (2nd from left). Close up on right.

Iris trained as a dancer and got a job performing at the Tower Ballroom in Liverpool. There in December 1961, at the age of seventeen, she met another young man named Paul McCartney who was performing on the bill with The Beatles. He couldn't keep his eyes off her as she danced The Twist, and he was so impressed by her fishnet stockinged legs and the fact that she was already working professionally in showbusiness that soon after the meeting they began dating. "Paul and I dated for a couple of years," recalled Iris, "It was never that serious. We never pretended to be true to each other. I went out with lots of people. I was working away in different theatres at the time but if I was back home then we would go out. There were never any promises made or love declared."

"It was really good, it was really good fun. When we went out initially on a Tuesday to the pictures, sometimes he'd pay and sometimes I'd pay. It was all so very different. We'd get the bus then. I was with him when he got his very first car and so it all sort of grew from there."

The couple were together for twelve months, and after six months they were considered serious enough to be "going steady". The Beatles were still using The Caldwell's family home at 54 Broad Green Road as their late-night hang-out as Paul remembered fondly. "We used to go back to Vi Caldwell's. I went out for a short time with Rory's sister Iris, a dancer. Their house was the only one open at that time of night. Vi was a night owl. It was our late-night hang-out, really, just cups of tea and card games and chatting. I remember playing a Ouija board with Cilla and her friend Pat."

image of mother Vi and brother Rory at Stromsville with a portrait of Iris on the wall behind them Iris herself also has good memories of the times when her family home, Stormsville, would be full of people at all hours of the night. "Of a night, whatever groups had been on in The Cavern, they all used to come back to our house. It was called Stormsville. They called my mum and dad "Ma and Pa Storm". ...but everybody used to come back to our house, mum used to make chip butties or cheese barn cakes and pots and pots of tea and we just used to laugh all night and people used to be strumming guitars and my dad'd be in bed shouting who's using my electricity and who's in there and next door'd bang on the wall but it was absoloutely fantastic. Anyone who went to Stormsville, ask them and they'll say there wasn't a house like it."

The relationship with Paul started to get difficult when The Beatles' new manager started issuing rules about girlfriends. "Epstein was not very pleased that I was going out with Paul and I wasn't allowed to go anywhere with the group in case any of their fans saw me. But every night after they'd appeared at The Cavern, Paul would come round to our house - and when they went away to Hamburg he used to write me the most fantastic letters." The secrecy surrounding The Beatles and their girlfriends was now so intense that he signed these letters "Paul McCoombie" so that no-one who saw them would guess they were from him.

It is said that The Beatles song I Saw Her Standing There was written about Iris but although the song began it's creation around the time the couple had begun dating, Paul says that he began writing about a seventeen year old girl dancing in order to have something that the groups's female audience could relate to. Iris does think that Paul intended the song eventually for her brother Rory to record. "He thought it would be a good song for him but it wasn't dealt out that way. Brian Epstein didn't want Rory to have it."

Iris settled the rumours about another song, Love Me Do, when interviewed by the BBC in 2012. "Some people have asked me about Love Me Do, saying it was written about me. It wasn't. It was written before I was going out with him, and it might have been written about his girlfriend before, but it was definitely not written about me. I remember him coming and saying ,oh listen to this. He said, what d'you think, and I said awful, it's dreadful. So I'm not the best music judge in the world, but I used to love going to see them before they wrote all that 'cause I used to love Paul singing Til There Was You and Besame Mucho, and George singing I'm henry the Eighth I Am 'cause he was a great George Formby fan, and it was very different then, very different."

"Paul was very hard to dislike. Even in his teens there was something about him, a sort of charisma that used to strike people when they met him for the first time. And he always knew exactly where he was going, even though people often used to tell him they (The Beatles) would never make it"

"In those days I was the one doing well in showbiz. I was dancing in theatres all over the country and he was just another lad in another group. ...Then one day Paul phoned me in a tremendous state of excitement. Love Me Do had just been released and Paul wrote to me: 'Wow cor jeez it's number 26 in the New Musical Express top 50.' He was so thrilled. Like a little boy. It was their first hit. When Paul was on tour he would write me lovely love letters and sign them Pool McCoobie and he would call me Harris because it was like Iris. Paul was going up and down to London and one night he and Ringo came to the house at two in the morning. Ringo said they had driven through the night and were so exhausted they had run over a dog. I said 'did you hurt it?' and Ringo said 'I don't know, we didnít stop'. I was so angry, I threw them out and wouldn't speak to Paul again because I thought he was heartless. It was one of their jokes but I didn't know it back then."

Iris used to encourage Paul to go out with other girls, while she stayed faithful to him. Despite never seeing him with anyone else she was sure there were others. "I'm quite sure there were many girls around at that time ... and then when he came back from London once and he said that he had met Jane Asher I didn't want to go out with him anymore, though we remained good friends and kept a good relationship."

image of Iris and her husband When Paul and Jane first met at the Royal Albert Hall, Shane Fenton who was appearing with his group The Fentones offered to drive The Beatles and Miss Asher over to his friend Brian Hutchins' flat in Chelsea. They all set off, and while there, Jane and Paul talked and ended up realising there was something between them. The Fentones were due to play a gig at Liverpool's Tower Ballroom, and while there, Shane met Iris and they began going out. They married in 1964 (Iris becoming Mrs. Bernard William Jewry, Shane's real name) and she ended up touring with him as a double act. They also sang together as session singers during a recording session in 1964. Brian Epstein had decided to record her brother Rory's group The Hurricanes and arranged a recording session in London at IBC Studios. The session lasted for 15 hours while they recorded a single of West Side Story's "America", a b-side of The Everly brothers' "Since You Broke My Heart" and a few other songs including "Ubangi Stomp" and "I'll Be There". The groups' former drummer Ringo Starr also attended the session.

The couple had two children together called Sean (a headteacher) and Adam (a DJ) and moved to Oakhill Park where they were often visited by her family. Sheila Connor who used to babysit Sean and Adam for Iris remembers the family fondly: "In the early Seventies my sisters and myself used to baby-sit for Iris Fenton, Rory's sister, who was then married to Shane Fenton. We looked after Rory's nephews Sean and Adam. Iris and Shane lived in Oakhill Park and we attended St. Agnes' School, which was in Oakhill Park. Rory and Ma Storm, his mother, then lived in Broadgreen Road. They were more often than not round at Iris's. Their house on Broadgreen Road was called Hurricanesville [Stormsville] and was directly opposite Winnie Mac's tap dancing school. Iris sometimes helped out there with the classes. Rory's dad Ernie used to visit St. Vincent's Hospice on Broadgreen Road. This was a geriatric home for old ladies. He used to bring them books, magazines, sweets etc. He did this a lot in his spare time. I don't recall ever having a sad time when we were at Iris's as there was always something to do. Rory didn't have long conversations as he had a slight stutter, and tended to sing. I remember one night my sister and myself were sitting watching TV and in came Rory singing 'would you like a cup of tea?' We continued to babysit and help out at Iris' until Rory and Ma Storm's tragic death."

image of Iris in 2012 In 1972 when her brother Rory was working as a disc jockey in Amsterdam, brother and sister were called back home after news that their father died. The whole family became deeply distressed but more troubles were round the corner. While Rory was at Stormsville comforting his mother Vi, he overdosed on a mixture of sleeping pills and alcohol. he died on 28th September 1972, and his mother committed suicide upon finding him. Iris' husband was convinced Rory's death was not intentional. "Rory became very ill. He had a chest condition which meant he couldn't breathe properly. He found it difficult to sleep. so he'd take his pills with a drop of Scotch which doped him completely. At the post-mortem it was established that he hadn't taken enough pills to kill himself ... It had been nothing more than a case of trying to get some kip, but because he was so weak, his body couldn't handle it. He died in the night and his mother found him. She must have felt that she'd lost everything. I think she took an overdose, but I'm convinced that Rory didn't. When you've known somebody long enough, you know whether they're going to do it or not. The whole thing was an accident."

Iris's husband changed his name to Alvin Stardust during the 1970s glam-rock period and finally achieved his real fame, but they divorced shortly after that. She remarried in 1983, and has since stepped out of the music scene. Today she lives in Leighton Buzzard and works as a dance and drama teacher.

To this day, Iris still struggles to understand the way people think about Paul and George since their fame. "It always amuses me when people talk about SIR Paul McCartney. To me he is our Paul who used to come round to the back door and ask if Iris was in. That's how he will always be to me. That's how I remember him. It was a wonderful time but we didn't know The Beatles were going to become this great big thing."

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SOURCES: Inteviews with Iris in 2012 by the BBC and The Mirror, interviews from the 1960s and 1970s, various Beatles and McCartney biographies and the invaluable Merseybeat website.

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