Which Beatle came from the poorest background?

The Everton area of Liverpool, 1960

All four Beatles had what Mark Lewisohn calls ‘unvarnished working-class roots in an industrial city that had seen better days.' They grew up in different areas of Liverpool, though Paul and George attended the same secondary school and John and George (briefly) went to the same primary school.sd

Paul and George

Paul and George spent their formative years living in council houses (social housing). The neighbourhoods they lived in were solidly proletarian but not particularly associated with high crime rates or other social issues. Neither considered themselves to be poor by the standards of their peers.

John Lennon

On paper, John Lennon's early childhood was a textbook example of the social deprivation often experienced by single parent families in the mid Twentieth century. Fred and Julia, his biological parents were legally married, but never lived together. They effectively separated soon after his birth.

John initially lived with is mother in precarious circumstances. Julia. Economic insecurity (she relied on bar work) poor accommodation shared with her then boyfriend and 'unsuitable relationships' all caused concern in her family.

Famously, Julia's sister, Mimi, reported Julia to Liverpool social services. This appears to have been motivated by a combination of moral disapproval and genuine anxiety for the welfare of her nephew. At the same time Mimi offered to take over the care of John, though this never amounted to formal adoption.

Eventually, Julia agreed to this proposal and her son went to live at Mendips, a large house in a prosperous suburb. From the age of four, John had a middle class upbringing. He attended one of the best secondary schools in the city and enjoyed a far higher standard of material comfort than the other Beatles.

John, Paul and George became friends and band mates in their mid-teens. They interacted as social equals but were aware of subtle class markers.

Paul, for example, was astonished by what he perceived to the the poshness of John's home. He marvelled that John called Mimi rather than the 'Auntie' he was used to.

From Aunt Mimi's perspective, George was very much from the wrong side of the tracks. She spoke disapprovingly of his strong accent ('he's very 'dose', John). By more objective measures, the Harrison family had modest means but were reasonably comfortable by local working class standards.


One future Beatles did experience a Dickensian childhood combining poverty, ill health and paternal abandonment. Richard Starkey grew up in an area of the city notorious for crime and poverty. But he would not meet the other Beatles until October, 1960.

Ringo Starr was not around to visit Mendips in the late 1950s. Had he done so Mimi would doubtless have hidden the spoons.

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