Paul McCartney: The Life - Philip Norman (2016)

Part I. Stairway to Paradise

Chapter 2. ‘Apple sandwiches with sugar’

Although surnames with the prefix Mac or Mc, meaning ‘child of’, usually denote Scots, Paul’s origins on both his father’s and mother’s side are Irish. Throughout history there has been a close relationship between the two races, forged mainly by common resentment of the English. They overlap in numerous ways, from their shared Gaelic language to their fondness for whisky and the passion and sentimentality of their native music, which both make with the aid of bagpipes. Scottish-descended families can be found all over Ireland and vice versa.

One of the most controversial songs Paul ever wrote was ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’–yet in truth his forebears were deprived of their homeland willingly enough.

His paternal great-grandfather, James McCartney, was part of the mass emigration of the late nineteenth century when Ireland’s horrific poverty drove thousands abroad in hopes of finding a better life. James was one of many who crossed the Irish Sea to Liverpool, whose teeming port and factories upheld its claim to be ‘the second city of the British Empire’. He arrived in the early 1880s, settling in the humble Everton district and working as a house-painter. James’s son, Joseph, grew up to become a leaf-cutter at Cope’s tobacco factory and, in 1896, to marry a local fishmonger’s daughter, Florence Clegg. She bore nine children of whom two, Ann and Joseph junior, died in infancy (their names being re-assigned to another boy and girl who came later). Joseph and Florrie’s second surviving son and fifth child, born in 1902, was Paul’s father, James, ever afterwards known as Jim.

Home for Jim and his six siblings, Jack, Joe junior, Edith, Ann, Millie and Jane–nicknamed ‘Gin’–was a tiny terrace house in Solva Street, in the poorest part of Everton. Later in life, he would recall how the McCartney children possessed two pairs of shoes between them, one for the boys, one for the girls. As their school forbade its pupils to go unshod, they took turns to attend in the precious footwear, then came home at night and repeated the day’s lessons aloud to the others.

Despite the family’s extreme poverty, and the many dubious influences of the neighbourhood, Jim grew up to be honest, modest and punctiliously courteous, earning the nickname ‘Gentleman Jim’ even from his own brothers and sisters. When he left school aged 14, his headmaster’s report ‘[couldn’t] find a word to say against him’. His one childhood misadventure was falling off a wall at the age of ten and damaging his right eardrum, which left him permanently deaf on that side.

Since the eighteenth century, Liverpool’s prosperity had been largely founded on cotton, brought by ship from the Americas and Asia and sold on to textile mills and clothes manufacturers all over northern Britain. Jim joined one of the city’s oldest-established cotton brokers, A. Hannay & Son, as a ‘sample boy’, taking samples of newly-arrived cargoes around to prospective buyers. To supplement his six shilling (30p) per week wage, he sold programmes at Everton’s Theatre Royal and occasionally operated the limelight, the piercing beam reserved for top artistes at extra special moments.

For the son he was to have one day the world would pour out almost its whole stock of limelight. But a little fell on Jim, too. His father, Joseph, had been a keen amateur musician, playing the E-flat tuba in the Cope’s factory’s own brass band and organising concerts and sing-songs for neighbours. Despite Jim’s partial deafness, he proved to have a natural musical ear which allowed him to teach himself both the trumpet and the piano. Just after the Great War, in which he’d been too young to serve, he formed a semi-professional dance band that included his older brother, Jack, on trombone.

To begin with, they wore Zorro-style black masks and called themselves the Masked Music Makers, but the heat of performing made the dye in the masks trickle down their faces, so they hurriedly relaunched as the Jim Mac Jazz Band. They would perform at local dances and occasionally for silent movie shows, improvising tunes to fit the action on the screen. Jim’s father and brother Jack had good singing voices but he attempted no vocals, preferring to stick to his ‘horn’. A family photograph shows the Jim Mac Jazz Band sometime in the 1920s, wearing tuxedos and wing collars, with a group of their female followers around a bass drum very like the future Sgt. Pepper’s. The bandleader’s fragile face and wide-open eyes are a further portent of astonishing things to come.

By the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Jim was 37 and, despite the matchmaking efforts of his mother and five sisters, seemed happy to remain what used to be called, without any ulterior meaning, a ‘confirmed bachelor’. At Hannay’s, he had risen to the rank of cotton salesman, dividing his time between Liverpool’s Cotton Exchange in Old Street and the docks where consignments were unloaded, with interludes of visiting clients at mills in Manchester, 35 miles to the east. One of his jobs was checking the length of the cotton staple, or fibre, a longer staple being more suitable for spinning. Despite his hearing impairment, he became able to do this aurally. ‘He could fluff a bit of cotton against his good ear and instantly be able to grade it,’ his adopted daughter, Ruth McCartney, remembers.

As Britain’s principal port for Atlantic food convoys and a major armaments-manufacturing centre, Liverpool was a prime target for Hitler’s Luftwaffe, enduring a Blitz almost as ferocious as that visited on London. Jim was over the age for military service and further exempted by his partial deafness. When Hannay’s shut down for the duration, he operated a lathe in a munitions factory and did night shifts as a volunteer fireman.

One day, while visiting his widowed mother in Norris Green, he met a hospital nurse of similarly Irish origins named Mary Patricia Mohin, who was boarding with his sister Gin. Though the worst of Liverpool’s Blitz had passed by now, raids still continued intermittently. While Jim and Mary were getting acquainted, the sirens began to wail, forcing them to continue their conversation in the Anderson shelter in the garden. As they huddled together inside the Anderson’s flimsy corrugated-iron walls, ‘Gentleman Jim’ finally fell.

Mary’s father Owen, a coal deliveryman, had come over from County Monaghan at the turn of the century, changing his name from Mohan to Mohin to make it sound less Irish. In what was to prove an unhappy precedent, Mary’s mother died when she was ten, leaving her and two brothers, Wilfred and Bill (two sisters having not survived). Her father remarried and started a second family, but her stepmother cared little for Mary, finally freezing her out of home altogether.

After this, it was perhaps no surprise she should have felt a vocation to care for others. At the age of 14, she became a nursing trainee at Smithdown Road Hospital. She went on to a three-year course at Walton General Hospital in Rice Lane, qualifying as a state registered nurse and becoming a ward sister aged only 24.

When Mary met Jim McCartney, she was 31, an age when most women in those days resigned themselves to what used to be called spinsterhood. But to Jim, on the cusp of 40, she was a catch with her very Irish good looks–the kind suggesting forebears from Spain or Italy–and shy, gentle manner. Nonetheless, it was Mary who took the initiative in their courtship. ‘My dad said he had really fancied my mum and he took her out for a long time,’ Paul would remember. ‘Then he suddenly twigged that she’d been getting him to take her around to dances… She was going to joints and she wasn’t that kind of girl. It turned out to be where my father was playing. She was following him round as a fan. [Later] it made me think “God, that’s where I get it all from!”’

The romance might have ended as soon as it began, for Mary had been brought up as a Catholic while the McCartneys were Protestant. Among Liverpool’s Irish population, the sectarian divide was as fiery as back in the Old Country; Catholics and ‘Orangemen’ each held triumphalist parades and marches that usually ended in violence, and intermarriage was deplored by both communities. However, Mary had no close family on hand to make difficulties and Jim anyway declared himself agnostic: they were married at St Swithin’s Roman Catholic chapel in April 1941.

Their first child, a boy, was born on 18 June the following year at Walton General Hospital. Mary had once been sister in charge of the maternity unit there, so was given the luxury of a bed in a private ward. When the baby arrived, he was in a state of white asphyxia, caused by oxygen-deficiency in the brain, and appeared not to be breathing. The obstetrician was ready to pronounce him dead but the midwife, who knew Mary well and was also a Catholic, prayed fervently to God and after a few moments he revived.

Jim was on fire-watching duty and didn’t reach the hospital until some hours later, by which time the baby was definitely breathing and no longer deathly white. ‘He had one eye open and he squawked all the time,’ his father was to recall with true Liverpudlian candour. ‘They held him up and he looked like a horrible piece of red meat.’

Learning of the miracle that had occurred, Jim raised no objection when Mary wanted him baptised into the Catholic church. He was given his father’s and great-grandfather’s first name of James and the saintly middle name Paul, by which he would always be better known.

His first home was a set of furnished rooms at 10 Sunbury Road, Anfield, close to the cemetery where hundreds of Liverpool’s air-raid victims had been buried. Soon afterwards, Jim left the munitions factory and became an inspector with the Corporation’s Cleansing Department, checking that refuse-collectors did not skimp their rounds. In a city where 20,000 homes had been destroyed by bombs, accommodation was a continual problem. The McCartneys had four further temporary addresses on both sides of the River Mersey, never staying longer than a few months. The pressure increased in January 1944, when Mary returned to Walton General to have a second son, Peter Michael, always to be called Mike.

After the war, A. Hannay & Son reopened and Jim returned to his old job of cotton salesman. But five years of global conflict had left the cotton market severely depressed and he was lucky to bring home £6 per week. To augment his pay packet, Mary used her nursing experience to become a health visitor with the local authority, treating people for minor ailments in their own homes.

In 1947, when Paul wasn’t quite five, she became a domiciliary (i.e. resident) midwife on the new housing estate at Speke, some eight miles south-east of Liverpool’s city centre. The chief attraction of the job was that a rent-free council house went with it. When the McCartneys moved into their new home at 72 Western Avenue, the estate was still only half-constructed, a wilderness of muddy roads and roofless brick shells. His imagination already vivid, Paul felt they were ‘like a pioneer family in a covered wagon’.

One of his earliest memories was being cold–the icy winter winds off the Mersey, the burn of chapped lips, ears and knees exposed by the short trousers to which all small boys in those days were condemned.

Nineteen forty-seven was the hardest of Britain’s post-war austerity years, when a battle-exhausted, bankrupted nation seemed to have no warmth, no food, no fun, no colour but the bleary black and white of cinema newsreels. Liverpool felt like the austerity capital of the UK with its acres of shattered buildings and gaping craters. In common with most urban children, Paul and Mike’s main outdoor playgrounds were bomb sites, known in Scouse slang–which refuses to take anything too seriously–as ‘bombies’.

Inside 72 Western Avenue it was never cold, for Mary McCartney gave her two sons the loving, secure home she herself never had. Paul was to remember ‘lots of hugs and kisses’ from his mother, combined with a nurse’s brisk practicality that always knew just what to do if he or his brother fell and hurt themselves or developed a temperature. More comforting even than a hug was the brisk professional way she applied bandages or sticking-plaster, and shook the thermometer vigorously before popping it under his tongue.

Mary was tireless in caring for her maternity patients, a job which became ever more demanding as the new estate began to fill up. Paul always retained a vision of her going out to deliver a baby late one snowy winter’s night, pedalling off on her bicycle, with a basket in front for her birthing requisites and a little lamp glimmering above. Her aura to him seemed almost saintly, for grateful patients were always leaving gifts of flowers or hard-to-obtain sweets on the doorstep of number 72 like offerings at a shrine.

It was a curiosity of Britain’s class system in the 1940s and 1950s that nurses of whatever background became honorary members of the middle class and considered the acquisition of a genteel accent to be part of their training. Thus, despite being so integral to the Speke community, Mary was also somewhat apart from it, and Paul and Mike came to feel the same. Their mother’s particular concern was that they shouldn’t talk the same glottal Liverpudlian as other children on the estate, and should always be more polite and punctilious than was the general Merseyside way. After a couple of years in Western Avenue, the family were moved to another council house, 12 Ardwick Road, just a few streets away. It was no larger than their previous home, and still had only an outside toilet, but Mary considered the neighbourhood a better one.

Despite having come so late to parenthood, Jim turned out to be a dutiful and loving father. His manner was rather serious, befitting one who went off each day in a business suit to ‘the City’, but, according to Mike McCartney, ‘he had a subtle underground bubbling sort of fun which could explode at any minute’. The boys discovered early on, for instance, that it was no good competing to ‘pull tongues’ with Dad, as he had much the fattest tongue and could poke it out much farther.

Jim had had to give up the trumpet-playing when he lost his teeth, but the piano remained a passion with him. In pride of place in the living-room stood a sturdy upright model, bought on the instalment-plan from NEMS’ music store in Walton. Paul’s earliest inklings of melody were his father’s exuberant cross-handed versions of old standards like George Gershwin’s 1922 hit ‘Stairway to Paradise’.

Though the boys never knew either of their McCartney grandparents, they were well provided with aunts and uncles through Jim’s two brothers, Jack and Joe, and four sisters, Edie, Annie, Millie and Ginny. Tall, romantically handsome Uncle Jack, one-time trombonist in the Jim Mac Jazz Band, now a rent-collector for Liverpool Corporation, had been gassed in the Great War and ever afterwards was unable to speak above a whisper. Aunt Millie had married one of Jim’s Cotton Exchange colleagues, Albert Kendal, so Paul really did have the ‘Uncle Albert’ he would later put into a song. The family reprobate was Aunt Edie’s husband, Will Stapleton, a ship’s steward who–like most of that profession–pilfered extravagantly from the vessels on which he served and eventually served three years in jail for stealing £500 from a cargo of banknotes on route to West Africa. Not for half a century was another family member to experience life behind bars.

The most vivacious of the aunts was Ginny or Gin, Paul’s favourite from the beginning–and also destined to be named in one of his songs. She was the matriarch of the family, the one to whom all the others turned for advice. ‘Mam was a very wise woman,’ her son, Ian Harris, remembers, ‘and she always knew how to get what she wanted. Once she even persuaded Liverpool Corporation to change a bus-route, so that the bus would run down our street.’

The children of the family, Harris recalls, were ‘like nomads, because we were always staying at one another’s houses. I spent a lot of time at Paul’s and Mike’s. Their mum, Aunt Mary, was very strict–but a lovely, kind woman.’ There were frequent get-togethers in the Liverpool style, with lashings of drink and singing, dancing and laughing into the small hours. Uncle Jack would tell jokes in his intriguing whisper while Jim thumped away at the piano. When New Year’s Eve was celebrated at Uncle Joe’s house in Aintree, midnight would be signalled by the wheezy wail of a Scottish piper outside the front door. Gin’s voice would always be loudest in the answering chorus of ‘Let ’imin!’

Mary’s Catholicism would normally have meant her sons being brought up and educated ‘in the faith’. But here, as in all things, she deferred to her nominally agnostic but fundamentally Protestant husband. After their Catholic baptisms, and a few classes at Catholic Sunday school when they were very small, Paul and Mike had no further involvement with their mother’s church. Instead, they were sent to Stockton Road Infants School, a short walk from their home, where the religious instruction was exclusively Anglican. Infants from other settler families were being enrolled at such a rate at Stockton Road that it soon became Britain’s most overcrowded junior school, with 1500 pupils. Paul and Mike were among a contingent transferred to Joseph Williams Primary School in Gateacre, a half-hour bus ride away.

Paul had turned out to be left-handed, a fact that could easily have blighted his early education. Left-handed children used to be regarded as deliberately perverse, if not slightly sinister (the Latin word for left is ‘sinistra’), and would often be forced to use their right hand, even held up to ridicule with terms like ‘cack-handed’ and ‘leftie’. But at Joseph Williams, he was allowed to go on working with his left hand. As a result, his writing became meticulously neat–as his mother’s was–and he showed a marked talent for drawing and painting.

From the start, he found his lessons easy and was popular with his teachers, thanks both to his impish good looks and the politeness and decorum Mary had instilled. The only criticism made of him then was one that would recur throughout his life–being too much reliant on his facility and charm and so never quite achieving the results he was capable of. One of his school reports described him as ‘a very intelligent boy who, with a little more care and application, could easily be first’.

Among his classmates at Joseph Williams Primary was a tall, flaxen-haired girl named Bernice Stenson whose mother knew Mary McCartney and sometimes helped her with her midwifery duties. On one occasion, they had to deliver a baby whose mother was deaf. Mary showed her usual calm and patience, delegating Mrs Stenson to handle the paperwork while she ‘got on down below’.

Bernice remembers how, by the age of six or seven, Paul was already known for his ‘strong, clear’ singing voice, and would always be given the lead role in school shows and pantomimes and the Christmas carol service. He had inherited his father’s passion for music, instinctively singing the harmony line with songs he heard on the radio. When he turned 11, Jim hoped he might get into the choir at Liverpool Cathedral, the great sandstone edifice towering over the city that had somehow escaped Hitler’s bombs. He was one of 90 boys who auditioned for the cathedral’s director of music, Ronald Woan, by performing the Christmas carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’. When his turn came, something made him deliberately fluff a high note he was perfectly capable of reaching and he was turned down; it would be almost another 40 years before the cathedral opened its doors to him.

Meanwhile, he had to settle for the choir of St Barnabas’ Church, known as ‘Barney’s’, in Mossley Hill, near Penny Lane. The services implanted a deep love of Anglican hymns with their sonorous organ chords and often high poetic words. Years later, when he began writing songs that echoed all round the world, people would often say the more serious ones ‘sounded like hymns’. But at the time, Barney’s main attraction was that choristers received payment for singing at weddings and funerals. ‘If you did a wedding, it was 10 shillings [50p],’ he would recall. ‘I waited weeks–months–but I never got a wedding.’

Jim McCartney was understandably keen for him to learn the piano–learn it ‘properly’ rather than picking it up by ear, as Jim himself had done. No music lessons being available at Joseph Williams Primary, Paul began having private piano tuition from an elderly woman teacher. He soon gave up, complaining that it just added to his homework and that his teacher’s house ‘smelt of old people’.

In the end, what little formal musical tuition he ever had came mainly from his father and the upright piano in their living-room. While playing ‘Stairway to Paradise’ or some other old favourite, Jim would shout out the names of the chords, show him their shapes on the ebony and ivory keys and commentate on their sequences. His dad also loved brass band music and would take Paul to recitals in Liverpool’s spacious parks, so passing on another deeply traditional taste that stuck.

But Jim always insisted he wasn’t a ‘real’ musician, having had no professional training. Occasionally, he’d depart from his beloved Gershwin and Irving Berlin standards to play something he’d written himself back in his Jim Mac Jazz Band days, a pensive little tune named ‘Eloise’. He refused to say he’d ‘written’ it, however: for him–as for the world in general–songwriters were a mystical freemasonry, found only in London or New York. All he’d done, he insisted with the modesty of another age, was ‘make it up’.

The McCartneys were far from affluent. Jim’s £6 per week from Hannay & Co. was unaugmented by commission or any other perks. Mary’s pay as a midwife was six shillings (30p) more–a source of some embarrassment to them both–but still little enough for the long hours she worked.

However, in north-west England, just after the Second World War, a family of four could live quite comfortably on their combined earnings. Meat was not expensive, and formed the basis of Mary’s catering: lamb, pork, steaks, liver and Sunday roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, which she also served in the northern manner as a dessert, spread with Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Paul ate every sort of meat with relish except tongue, which looked altogether too much like his own. Fruit came mainly from tins, peaches, pears and mandarin segments, drowned in custard or condensed milk, his special favourite. For years, the only orange juice he knew was a concentrate which the government had issued to children during the war in small, official-looking bottles, and was still widely available. ‘You were supposed to dilute it,’ he would remember. ‘But we liked swigging it straight from the bottle.’

The brothers were always immaculately dressed, and lacked for nothing their schoolmates had. Every summer, Mary and Jim took them away on holiday, either to nearby North Wales or one of Butlin’s seaside holiday camps. This being before Britain discovered leisure clothes, the boys wore their school shirts and short trousers to play on the beach while Jim sat in a deck-chair in his business suit.

Both of them joined Liverpool’s 19th City Scout troop, which meant another uniform on top of their school one, and regular trips away to camp. Paul proved adept in Scout activities like tying knots and lighting fires, and took pleasure in the accumulation of badges proclaiming his multifaceted competence.

A snapshot taken on a Welsh hillside shows a prototypical 1950s family–Jim wearing a tweed jacket and open-necked shirt, looking rather like a pipe-puffing Fred Astaire; Mary in the rather formal frock for which she’s exchanged her usual starched apron. Nine-year-old Paul sits up straight with arms akimbo, at ease with the camera even then. Mike has laughed as the shutter clicked, so is slightly out of focus.

Though their mother ran their lives, Jim was the head of the household whose every word was law. He insisted they should be polite in old-fashioned ways that even then were dying out, such as raising their school caps to ‘ladies’, even perfect strangers queuing at a bus-stop. ‘We’d say “Aw, Dad, why do we have to do this? None of the other boys do,”’ Paul would remember. ‘But we still did it.’ Total honesty over even the smallest things was another of Jim’s unbendable rules. ‘I once found a £1 note in the street and he made me hand it in at the police station.’

In even the best British homes of this era, children were subjected to corporal punishment without any interference from outsiders. The blameless Jim had received his share of ‘good hidings’ in his boyhood, and in turn did not scruple to wallop his sons hard on the bottom or bare legs when they seriously misbehaved–though Mary never did. Generally it would be Mike, the more uninhibited and impulsive of the two, who felt the flat of their father’s hand whereas Paul usually managed to talk his way out of trouble.

That ability helped him navigate his way through the rough and tumble of primary school largely unscathed. Mike was always getting into fights, but something about Paul made even the worst bullies hesitate to pick on him. It didn’t work every time. Near his home, a narrow path called Dungeon Lane ran down to a stretch of the Mersey known as the Cast Iron Shore, because it was littered with metal fragments from a nearby ship-breakers. Here one day when he was on his own, two bigger boys waylaid him and robbed him of his cherished wristwatch. Both boys lived near the McCartneys; there was a police prosecution and Paul had to identify them in open court. Even if he was no bruiser, he didn’t lack courage.

Mary McCartney continued to devote herself to her midwifery so selflessly that Jim worried her own health might suffer. Eventually, to his relief, she took a different job with the local health authority, accompanying school doctors on their rounds in the Walton and Allerton area. That meant a normal nine-to-five day rather than turning out on her bike at all hours and in all weathers.

At the clinic where she was now based, Mary made friends with Bella Johnson, a youthful widow whose teenage daughter, Olive, was a secretary at the Law Society in central Liverpool, working just around the corner from Jim at the Cotton Exchange. She was a sophisticated young woman who owned her own car and spoke with–to Mary–an impressively ‘posh’ accent. She became Paul and Mike’s unofficial big sister, joining in their games, taking them for trips in her car and rowing on the lake at Wilmslow.

Bella would often join them for high tea at 12 Ardwick Road, when Mary served a special treat: sandwiches filled with sugar-sprinkled sliced apple. Both boys clearly adored their mother, though it always seemed to Olive that Michael had greater need of her. ‘I remember Mike sitting at Mary’s feet. He was the one you always felt you wanted to love and protect. With Paul, you loved him but you knew you’d never have to protect him.’

In 1952, Paul faced the hurdle of the Eleven Plus examination which decided the educational future of all British children in the state system, sending bright 11-year-olds to grammar schools and consigning the others to ‘secondary modern’ ones or technical colleges where they learned trades like carpentry or plumbing.

For his final terms at Joseph Williams Primary, he had an inspirational teacher named F.G. Woolard, who got all but one of a 40-strong class through the Eleven Plus. Paul was one of only four out of 90 candidates from Joseph Williams to be awarded places at Liverpool Institute High School for Boys–actually a grammar school, the most prestigious in the city, though known with typical Scouse familiarity as ‘the Inny’. Later, Mike would scrape in there, too.

June 1953 brought the coronation of 26-year-old Queen Elizabeth II, the moment when austerity finally ended for Britain. Like thousands of other people, Jim and Mary bought their first television set to watch the (rain-soaked) Coronation procession through London and the crowning in Westminster Abbey on a minute black and white screen. Bella and Olive Johnson were among the crowd of friends and relatives invited to ‘look in’ (as TV-watching used to be known) in a cinema-like atmosphere with rows of chairs, every light extinguished and the curtains drawn.

Getting a place at the Inny had not been Paul’s only recent triumph. He was also one of 60 Liverpool children to win a prize in a Coronation essay competition and receive it in a ceremony at the city’s Picton Hall. He would remember how hearing his name called to go up onto the stage made him shake with fear–not a reaction he’d often have in similar situations thereafter.

The page-long essay ‘by Paul McCartney, age 10 years, 10 months’, already shows a talent for telling a story in a short space and is a model of neatness, its spelling and punctuation almost perfect:

On the Coronation Day of William the Conquerer, senseless Saxon folk gathered round Westminster Abbey to cheer their Norman king as he walked down the aisle. The Normans thinking this was an insult turned upon the Saxons killing nearly all of them. But on the Coronation of our lovely young queen, Queen Elizabeth II, no rioting nor killing will take place because present day royalty rule with affection rather than force. The crowds outside Buckingham Palace will be greater than they have been for any other Coronation, so will the processional route to the Abbey. Preparations are going on all over the world, even in Australia people are preparing to take that long voyage to England. In London, children, for a Coronation treat, are being given a free seat by the roadside. But the London children are not the only lucky children, for youngsters in other parts of Britain are receiving mugs with a portrait of the Queen engraved on the china. Souvenirs are being made ready for any tourists who come to see this marvellous spectacle, one of these being the Coronation Loving Cup which is designed to show both Queen Elizabeth the Second on the front and Queen Elizabeth the First on the back. Another is a goblet which is being made in Edinburgh and has a bubble enclosed in its stem, and the fancy letters, ER, is engraved in the glass. One alteration is that the diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires in the crown are being dismantled, polished and replaced by expert jewellers. But after all this bother, many people will agree with me that it was well worth it.

That ‘portrait of the Queen’ would reappear in another much-praised composition, 14 years later. And the whole thing might be paraphrased as ‘Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl’.