I have some sad news this morning as I write this. I have received word that David Ashton, close childhood friend of John Lennon’s has passed away of lung cancer, in Denmark, on September 12.
I was fortunate enough to “meet” him via email in March of this year, through John’s sister Julia Baird. Seeing my list of questions about what it was like growing up with John, David sent me his unpublished manuscript entitled “The Vanished World of a Woolton Childhood With John Lennon” which he assured me would answer a lot of my initial questions and keep me busy for awhile, promising to answer other questions as his health permitted. He said something that touched my heart, “Shelley I trust you with this.”
Over the months we exchanged many emails, which enhanced a sense of deep connection to him, and his Celtic heart. He sent me gaelic poems when he read my “Lennon Irish History” series on St. Patricks Day. He loved reading the history. His poems made me cry. There was definitely a heart connection that left an imprint on my soul.
The manuscript in question, eighteen pages long, passed through the sensation of growing up in Woolton, becoming friends with a young precocious kid who happened to be named John Lennon–and the antics they got up to. It permeated my being, and was written in such a way as to make me feel that I had lived it myself.
David, who has Irish blood as well as Scottish, proudly boasted his Scottish clan’s kilt and his Irish penny whistle in the picture included here. This penny whistle, he said, was acquired at the same time John first bought one at the same store. He said in an email to me, after reading my series of Irish family history on the Lennons, “Thanks very much for thinking about me on St. Patrick’s Day–like all Liverpool folk, just as was my childhood mate John, we are proud of our Liverpool/Irish roots.”
He signed off with: “As my Gaelic speaking Mum would say, ‘Leis na beannachdan’ (“with good wishes,”) signed “Daibhidh”, (Gaelic for David.)
In tribute to Daibhidh, as he makes his journey home: Leis na beannachdan…..Gra, dilseacht, cairdeas; Agus go gcasfar le chéile sinn arís, go gcoinní Dia i mbois a láimhe thú (with good wishes….love, loyalty and friendship; until we meet again.)
Here is part 1 of David’s memories of meeting John Lennon, based on the manuscript:
David’s memories of John Lennon
And so the story begins with the blossom of spring: “Spring in the Woolton of my childhood was a delight. The cuckoos could be heard all around the village-across Woolton Woods, Allerton Golf Course (Fletcher’s Farm as it was known to locals)…” David worked on the Lewis’s farm as a lad and remembers skipping work to jump the low sandstone wall “to talk to the girls in the Salvation Army Girls’ Home”, which of course was Strawberry Field. “I have the rare pleasure of those childhood memories of John Lennon which precede the confusing effects of the fame which was to follow.”
Next he describes the effects of WWII on Liverpool, and how he took long walks with his dad, meeting old war mates along the footpaths, taking in everything they said. “It was on such a walk”, he said, “that I first saw John Lennon. I must have been 7 or 8.” As he and his dad walked deep into a cornfield looking for a bird called a “corncrake”, they could hear kids playing on Jackson’s Pond near Childwall Abbey Church—fishing, swinging across islands on the pond on a rope. Then “like a dream”, he said, “a raft with a gang of lads came sailing by. One was a tall, lanky, dark-haired, squint-eyed lad….I was to meet the ‘lad on the raft’ later and learned that this was John Lennon.”
(to be continued…in part 2, read what it was like playing football with John Lennon, resulting in David being banned from playing with him and his friends (which didn’t work); getting his hair cut by “old man Bioletti” on Penny Lane with John, resulting in some little boys running out of the shop because of John’s bizarre tales; and John getting into trouble at Sunday School…and of course more…)